Part 1 End of the honeymoon - Results
and table - printer
The appointment of Simon Grayson as new Leeds United manager
just before Christmas 2008 revived spirits at Elland Road after
a lengthy losing run.
The new man was delighted with the opportunity: "What I couldn't
turn down was the chance to test myself ... The attraction for
me is that I want to be the one who makes this club successful
again ... Managers have come and gone and not been able to do
that. I think I can.
"This Leeds team are outside the Play Off positions and I'm not
saying that we're going to win 10 on the trot like Blackpool did,
but it's always a possibility. That's why I'm not prepared to
concede that automatic promotion has got away from us.
"I told Karl (Oyston) straight away that I wanted to come. I
think he knew that I'd give him that answer and so did everyone
at Blackpool. From there it was down to the two clubs to sort
things out, but there was no way I was going to let this opportunity
pass me by ... I do wish it had been sorted in the manner I would
have wanted after six good years there and that I'd walked away
without any of this legal stuff going on above me, but these things
happen in football.
"The expectancy level at Leeds is higher than it is at a dozen
clubs in the Championship and certainly every club in this division
... I don't want to be making wild statements about what I'm going
to achieve as manager and it would be foolish to say that within
three years we'll be back in the Premiership or that within five
we'll be back in the Champions League ... The only thing that
matters at this moment is getting out of League One."
The New Year brought inevitable speculation about Grayson's plans
for the transfer window, but there was more interest in whether
he could hang on to his most valuable assets.
Ever since the emergence of 19-year-old midfielder Fabian Delph
in the autumn, there had been rumours of a multi-million deal.
The Daily Mail reported that Manchester United were readying a
£10m package, while Fulham had already tabled a £6m cash bid.
So intense was the speculation that when Delph's name was missing
from the squad listing on the club website
it was assumed that he had departed. The explanation was mundane:
an error in a computer data feed.
Ken Bates derided the speculation, confirming that United had
turned down two offers, and added that he had told the bidders,
"We don't deal in petty cash."
Bates kept his promise and Delph was still a United player at
the end of January, along with top scorer Jermaine Beckford. Some
peripheral players departed: Malcolm Christie, defender Mansour
Assoumani, Ian Westlake, making a loan move to Cheltenham permanent,
and Scott Gardner, who joined Mansfield after his contract was
cancelled by mutual consent. Tom Elliott went out on loan to Macclesfield,
and when Tresor Kandol's loan spell at Millwall ended, he was
immediately on his way to Charlton Athletic in a similar arrangement.
Bradley Johnson returned from his loan period at Brighton intent
on making a new start under Grayson. Ipswich defender Richard
Naylor, Bristol City striker Lee Trundle and Carl Dickinson, a
left-back from Stoke City, all arrived on loans, with Naylor's
deal made permanent at the beginning of February.
United's first game of 2009 was due to be at Hereford on 3 January,
but was postponed because of a frozen pitch. They kicked off a
week later at home to Carlisle, but were beaten 2-0, with former
Leeds strikers Danny Graham and Michael Bridges getting the goals.
Naylor, Trundle and Dickinson were all given first starts at
Brighton on 17 January with Johnson also included. Trundle opened
the scoring and Delph added a second to secure an impressive 2-0
victory. It was the first clean sheet since 1 November and only
the second in 24 matches.
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The manager was impressed with Naylor and Dickinson, saying,
"Those two were outstanding and the other players in the back
four responded to them being in the team. It gave me an opportunity
to put a couple of leaders and ... hungry defenders in there.
I'm always trying to bring in quality players and hopefully I've
shown that with the three who have come here.
"We deserved a clean sheet and every one of the players put a
shift in ... It should boost the players' confidence because it's
been a long time coming. It shows the resilience of the players
that they recovered from the shock of missing a penalty. It could
have knocked us confidence-wise, but they showed the attitude
I want and the characteristics you need to win matches.
"The team are grasping what we're trying to do. They're playing
in the areas where we want them to play and they're using no risk
football in defensive positions … We do want to play football,
but defensively we have to take no prisoners."
The only bad news from the game was the thigh injury suffered
by Frazer Richardson, which was to keep him out for virtually
the rest of the season. Richard Naylor took on the role of captain
with effect from the home clash with promotion
rivals Peterborough United on 24 January.
Jermaine Beckford was fit again after a hamstring injury but
Grayson decided to leave him on the bench, giving Andy Robinson
his first start in a month, and moving Andy Hughes to cover for
Richardson at right-back.
Peterborough were in good form and sitting third in the table.
They lived up to their reputation with a disciplined display that
saw them shade the first half. Casper Ankergren twice had to react
smartly to deny George Boyd, the contest's outstanding performer.
The Posh's dominance continued in the second half and after 52
minutes Boyd lifted a shot clear of the bar before Aaron Mclean
fired over from a tight angle. It was then that Simon Grayson
decided to unleash his star striker, bringing Beckford on for
There was almost immediate reward, with Beckford drawing defender
Craig Morgan into a needless foul on the edge of the penalty area.
Johnson took the free kick and unleashed a shot so powerful that
England Under 21 keeper Joe Lewis could only parry it. Beckford
was on it in a flash to flick the loose ball home. Within ten
minutes, he repeated the dose, clipping a through ball from Trundle
Peterborough fought back to give Leeds some late jitters and
after 80 minutes Craig Mackail-Smith slipped home an easy chance
after Boyd's header came back off the bar.
There were anxious gasps when four minutes of injury time were
signalled, but the issue was settled within the first sixty seconds
when Beckford played in Jonny Howson, who made it 3-1.
Beckford's brace took him onto 21 goals for the season and he
thus became the fastest United man to achieve 20 in a campaign
since Peter Lorimer in 1967/68.
Simon Grayson was delighted, saying, "In the first half I felt
we were quite comfortable. We had opportunities and their keeper
made some good saves. They had a couple of long distance efforts,
but I thought we looked decent and lively. We passed it well and
you can see the confidence and belief coming back … When players
come off the bench you look for an impact and that happened …
Jermaine is a goalscorer, that's why he has got the goals he has."
Three days later, goals in the first eleven minutes from Rui
Marques and Richard Naylor secured a victory against Southend
that brought Leeds within three points of the Play Off positions.
January closed, however, with a disappointing single goal defeat
There was a flurry of comings and goings at the beginning of
February. Former United player Glynn Snodin was appointed assistant
manager, American youth international striker Mike Grella signed
an 18-month contract, while Paul Telfer and young keeper Jonathan
Lund departed after their contracts were cancelled by mutual consent.
One move that didn't go through was the planned loan signing
of Derby County striker Liam Dickinson. Terms were agreed between
the clubs and the player but the 5pm deadline for receipt of documentation
by the Football League was not met. The forms arrived at 5.14.
Chief Executive Shaun Harvey: "It is disappointing that the Football
League stuck rigidly to the 5pm deadline … The FA Premier League
made arrangements for their clubs to register players after the
deadline and if the Football League had adopted the same approach
then Liam Dickinson would be a Leeds player until the end of the
back to top
United returned to onfield action on 9 February with a tasty
looking Elland Road tussle with promotion rivals Millwall.
It was a competitive encounter, covered by Sky TV. Jermaine Beckford
scored two goals, one in each half, to earn the points, but Millwall
protested that he shouldn't have been around to add the second,
in injury time. The cameras captured the striker tangling with
Lions keeper David Forde at a corner and he clearly caught Forde
in the face with an elbow. Beckford
was booked by referee Alan Wiley, who hadn't seen the blow, but
should have been dismissed.
The FA found Beckford guilty of violent conduct and gave him
a three game ban. United lost the first two of those matches,
at Huddersfield and Hereford, without scoring. The travelling
supporters weren't happy, particularly with the Hereford performance,
which came to be seen as a water shed.
Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Simon Grayson's influence
on Leeds United was once limited to shouts from the terraces and,
in his capacity as the club's manager, he knows better than to
turn a deaf ear to the thoughts of the masses ... A chant of 'we're
s*** and we're sick of it' echoed around Edgar Street in the few
remaining minutes of a game that humiliated Leeds in a way which
would surely have hurt Grayson in his days as a fan. It visibly
pained him as he faced up to the media after full time.
"The cutting criticism was sounded for the benefit of Grayson
and his players, and it can be assumed ... that United's players
feel as severe a wound as their manager seemed to when he aired
his thoughts on an unacceptably bad night. It may not have helped
the atmosphere in Leeds' dressing room to hear such open abuse
- the berating of Carl Dickinson by one fan at the end of his
last performance for United was uncalled for and ill-deserved
- but the squad at large cannot feel mistreated.
"The crowd's opinion was brutally honest and in tune with many
of Grayson's own comments. The irony of United's fan base is that
their enduring loyalty does not need to be earned. It is apparently
permanent and almost unequivocal, particularly away from home.
"The sickness the supporters spoke of last night indicated the
length of time they have been asked by the club to bear and tolerate
disappointment. Grayson, for his part, has not seen a performance
as inept as that produced by his players at Edgar Street ... Until
a week ago, the progress made under Grayson had been deliberate
and positive. Sixteen points accrued from his first eight matches
as manager was essentially Play Off form, but he was thrust into
the job in December with ground to make up and must always have
known that defeats like that sustained at Hereford would be the
biggest threat to his priority of qualifying for League One's
"The fixture at Edgar Street pivoted on Lee Trundle's missed
penalty after 37 minutes, coming two minutes before Hereford opened
the scoring, but Leeds did not play well enough before or after
that moment to use it as a valid excuse for their defeat.
"Grayson was yearning for the type of opening which presented
itself when Andy Robinson's run into the box was ended unceremoniously
by a sliding tackle from Kris Taylor … Trundle took hold of the
ball but saw his effort parried with a save of exceptional instinct
by Gulacsi, low to his left.
"Within two minutes, a surging Hereford attack saw Sam Hewson
combine with Myrie-Williams to find the winger inside United's
box. Myrie-Williams brought the ball under control and drilled
a low shot past Ankergren and into the far corner of Leeds' net.
Grayson's players looked understandably bewildered as they traipsed
back towards the halfway
"Although Mike Grella and Bradley Johnson were called up from
the bench, neither player had touched the ball before Hereford
scored again in the 63rd minute. Myrie-Williams' free kick dropped
to Antwi at the far post, and his header back across goal gave
Febian Brandy a simple chance which the striker converted with
an appreciative flick.
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"When Becchio was finally played through with 11 minutes remaining,
he slipped his shot wide of a post. The chance was United's one
and only moment to drive Hereford out of their comfort zone but
a solitary goal in the closing stages could scarcely have improved
Grayson's evening. Proud after Saturday's defeat, his mood last
night edged towards disgust after a result and a performance which
he would not have stomached as a player or a supporter, and cannot
accept as United's manager."
Victory in the two games would have left United in third place,
but as it was they were 8th, a massive twelve points off automatic
Grayson: "When you hear your own fans singing things like that
at the end of the game then the players should be hurting ...
We've got to use this result as an example or an inspiration between
now and the end of the season ... We didn't play with any quality
and our decision making was poor, and that's from a team who played
very well at the weekend and been on a decent run. I'm not going
to criticise individual players because that's not my style but
we've had words in there ... One or two might not play for the
Months later, Grayson recalled, "There are defining moments in
any season and that was certainly one for us. The criticism they
got from the fans was justified. The meeting that we had afterwards
as a group ... really focused us on what we needed to do. We knew
that after that game the players could either sink or swim...
It was a big game in our season.
"There were the 16 players, plus three who travelled, me and
the staff ... it wasn't the biggest of dressing rooms, but it
got everybody together. There was no hiding place. In big dressing
rooms you could perhaps look away but there everyone was tightly
squeezed in and very focused on the conversation that we were
having ... There was no tea cup throwing. It was all calculated
and sensible conversation."
Happily, fortunes improved after that and two goals from Jonny
Howson earned a 2-0 victory against Cheltenham on 21 February.
When Beckford returned from suspension with two goals in a 3-2
defeat of Scunthorpe a week later, United were back up to sixth
Grayson asked Jonathan Douglas to take over at right-back with
both Frazer Richardson and Andy Hughes out injured, a position
he was to retain for the rest of the season.
The manager was delighted with the victory: "Jermaine will get
all the credit due to the goals he's scored, but to have a good
season you have to have a good, close bunch of players, a tight
unit and a good team spirit and that's what it's all about. The
players have dug in there. They recovered from letting a 2-0 lead
slip away and from being down to 10 men. We were throwing bodies
all over the 18-yard box and you have to grind out results throughout
the course of the season ... Individuals can win you the game
in parts of it, but it's more about collective units and players
who have not been in the 16 coming in and taking their chances.
We've had players playing with injuries, players playing out of
position and that's what will get us through from now until the
end of the season."
Howson was sent off for two bookable offences, but the manager
refused to complain, continuing, "The players have dug in with
10 men, had to defend with their lives again, we saw Richard Naylor
coming off with blood all over his head and it typified the type
of performance needed to see the game through and win it."
Two days later, United were featured in another televised clash
against promotion rivals, away to
Oldham, who sported an all-pink strip to support a fundraising
campaign for the Victoria Breast Unit at the nearby Royal Oldham
Lee Hughes gave the Latics the lead in the 51st minute with an
opportunist effort, but within a minute United were back on terms
when Luciano Becchio headed home powerfully from a corner. The
game finished 1-1, moving United up to fifth.
Grayson: "Everyone talks about Leeds having a big budget, a big
squad and everything else but we had 17 players available and
that does limit your options. We tried to get a couple of loan
signings on Sunday but that was almost impossible to do. A lot
of players were injured or suspended and it's credit to the other
players that they've worked really hard."
Talk of promotion rang hollow on 7 March when Joe Kuffour snatched
a last minute equaliser for Bristol Rovers. A 2-2 draw saw Leeds
slip to seventh. Grayson admitted to being "hugely frustrated
and disappointed" by the last gasp equaliser. "When you concede
an equaliser that late it feels like a defeat. We had enough chances
in the second half to make the game safe and didn't show the ruthless
streak you need ... As a team, we didn't have a killer instinct."
back to top
There were no complaints when Beckford's hat trick plus another
from Neil Kilkenny brought a 4-0 victory against Yeovil. With
Oldham not playing and Scunthorpe losing at Peterborough, United
moved up to fifth.
Days later Lee Trundle's loan spell ended and he returned to
Bristol City. After a bright opening for United, he had lost his
way and made precious little impact. His place in the squad was
filed by Derby County's Liam Dickinson, who finally completed
a long awaited loan move, signing until the end of the season.
The striker made his debut, coming on as late substitute, against
Swindon on 14 March, but it was Beckford, with the only goal three
minutes from time, who secured the win. It was a seventh successive
home victory, something that United had last achieved in 1999.
But the day ended in frustration with Beckford dismissed in injury
time for a second bookable offence, petulantly showing his dissent
after being flagged offside.
A one game suspension followed, which was discharged at Crewe
on 21 March. It didn't look like there would be any lasting damage
as goals from Kilkenny, Becchio and Snodgrass brought United a
3-0 lead within 32 minutes. But
then the struggling home side, down to ten men since the 18th
minute, threw caution to the wind and Tom Pope pulled two goals
back in the second half. Leeds looked anxious, but held on for
all three points.
Simon Grayson: "We were outstanding in the first half. We scored
three good goals, passed the ball around and were cruising ...
When they went down to 10 men we used the spare man well and it
was a polished performance. We have a group of talented footballers
and we played really well during the first half. We moved it quickly
and that was really pleasing.
"We became a different team in the second half, we stopped doing
the things we had been doing, and people thought they could win
it on their own. At half time, we said to keep working and they
could have enjoyed themselves and got four or five goals, but
for some reason we stopped doing that. In the second half we looked
like a team of eight or nine men playing against 11.
"I've had to change things round as a manager, get the team playing
in a different way, bring one or two players into the club and
get the players playing better because they have under-achieved.
They had a good squad on paper, now they are showing some sort
of consistency with five wins and two draws in their last seven
Grayson moved to bolster the defence on March 26, loan deadline
day, signing Reading's Nigerian international centre-back Sam
Sodje and Crystal Palace keeper Darryl Flahavan. The custodian
was recovering from a broken nose, but Sodje came in for his debut
in the Elland Road clash with promotion rivals MK Dons on 28 March.
Jermaine Beckford returned from suspension to score both goals
in a 2-0 victory, taking his season's total to 31; he was the
top scorer in the country and the first United man to
break the 30-goal barrier since Lee Chapman in 1991.
Beckford's strike partner, Luciano Becchio, scored the only goal
at Colchester on 4 April, consolidating United's fifth place position.
A place in the Play Offs looked a formality now, while Grayson
continued to hope for automatic promotion. A nine-game undefeated
run, including seven victories, was certainly promotion form.
A major blight on those aspirations was the consistency of second-placed
Peterborough United. They had won seven games on the bounce, all
bar one by a single goal, and remained ten points clear of Leeds.
United had a game in hand, but were running out of matches.
When two strikes from Rob Snodgrass brought a two-goal cushion
at Leyton Orient on 7 April, the winning run seemed set to continue,
but the Londoners came storming back over the last half hour,
despite being down to ten men. Sean Thornton pulled one back five
minutes after Snodgrass' second and Simon Church earned a draw
with an equaliser five minutes from time.
Before United were in action again, the dispute over the recruitment
of Simon Grayson came to a head with a Football League panel convening
to hear the case in Manchester on 9 April.
back to top
The affair was concluded before the panel could adjudicate, with
the clubs settling matters amicably. It was thought that Blackpool
had sought £200,000 in compensation, but no details were released.
Jonny Howson's goal after nine minutes against Stockport on 11
April secured a ninth successive home win. The gap to Peterborough
was down to seven points, after the Posh had drawn at home to
struggling Cheltenham the previous day.
United thus went into an early Easter Monday clash at table-topping
Leicester City in great spirits.
It was a terrific clash, with little to choose between the sides,
though City had much of the possession. A goalless draw seemed
more and more likely to be the outcome until Leicester were awarded
a corner in the second minute of stoppage time. Striker Steve
Howard bulleted home a header from close in to end United's eleven-game
When Peterborough lost 2-0 at Millwall later in the day it only
rubbed salt into the wound.
Simon Grayson was clearly disappointed, saying, "We looked like
we were the team who were going to go on and win it. We at least
deserved a draw, but full credit to Leicester ... We have to use
the party afterwards as inspiration for what we want in May."
United were close to guaranteeing a Play Off berth and now faced
one of the two teams that could still deny them, Tranmere Rovers,
coming up on the rails with a late run.
Fabian Delph was suspended for his second spell of the campaign,
but United welcomed back Jermaine Beckford after three games out
with a thigh injury - the striker put Leeds ahead after 15 minutes.
Howson had already slammed a volley against an upright, but Beckford
was more successful. Snodgrass made the opening, feeding the striker
with a beautifully weighted pass beyond the defence. Beckford's
chip over the keeper was deft perfection.
11 minutes later, United were two up. Douglas launched the ball
forward from deep
and Beckford touched it on for Kilkenny to slip the ball home
from a narrow angle.
That should have knocked the stuffing out of the Merseysiders,
but within a minute they had been gifted a goal, Sodje nodding
a bouncing ball over the advancing Ankergren and into his own
Tranmere were revived by the goal and they nearly equalised before
the break. It was United, though, who went further ahead after
56 minutes. A Snodgrass free kick flicked off Beckford and then
cannoned home off Becchio's shins, a scrappy goal but enough to
secure the points.
Ten successive home victories represented the club's best run
since Don Revie's men managed
12 in a row in their 1968/69 championship
Peterborough's defeat of Stockport formally ended any hopes of
automatic promotion, but three days later, Scunthorpe's failure
to win at Northampton confirmed United's place in the Play Offs.
A Beckford goal earned victory at Hartlepool on 25 April. He
scored again in a 3-0 defeat of Northampton on 2 May, which ended
United's League One campaign. The other goals came from Becchio
and Snodgrass with a tremendous airborne scissors kick. Leeds
thus finished the season fourth, confirming a Play Off semi final
back to top
The first leg was at the New Den on 9 May, in a 12.45 kick off
designed to lessen the chances of crowd problems. Rory Smith in
the Telegraph: "Supporters bussed in under police escort, a tense,
fractious game played in something approaching a state of war
and horses drafted on to the pitch at the final whistle to keep
the peace. The 991 Leeds fans who braved the New Den may have
been reminded of football's dark past, but they will be much more
concerned with the present, which threatens to be even worse.
"There was spite in the stands but no blood on the streets, the
easy prediction of doom-mongers when football's two great pariahs
found themselves paired in a sudden-death tie ... Jermaine Beckford's
every touch was jeered, Jason Price limped off after barely quarter
of an hour after one heavy tackle too many. Robert Snodgrass and
David Martin butted heads, the otherwise subdued Fabian Delph
was cautioned for a wild swipe at Graham Alexander. Amid the snarling
aggression, the din of the Millwall roar and a litany of fouls,
there was little time for anything resembling football. Grace
was sacrificed for tenacity, silk for steel."
United's disciplined display served them well in the first period,
with Sam Sodje a rock at the heart
of a steadfast defence. The Nigerian's brave heroics continued
in the second half - he even managed to restore his own dislocated
shoulder in one particularly stomach turning incident. Becchio
twice went close just before and just after the break and nearly
set Beckford up with a neat back heel.
They could not keep Millwall completely at bay, and with eighteen
minutes remaining Leeds were torn apart by a right wing move.
Gary Alexander was released on the flank by Jimmy Abdou. United
skipper Richard Naylor, who had given a tremendous display, misjudged
the bounce as he dived to head clear the low cross. It looped
on to Neil Harris, who controlled it and evaded the challenge
of Jonathan Douglas, firing past Casper Ankergren into the bottom
That was the cue for a pitch invasion, with one home supporter
gleefully jostling and shoving Ankergren, as others threw missiles
Simon Grayson brought on Johnson and then Robinson for Howson
and Snodgrass in an effort to snatch an equaliser, but the changes
were in vain and there were no further goals.
Grayson began the second leg in Leeds with the same eleven, but
after 35 minutes was forced into a change when midfielder Neil
Kilkenny had to be replaced by Andy Robinson after suffering a
foot injury as he blocked a shot.
There was inevitably a passionate mood around Elland Road, inspiring
United into lengthy periods of heavy pressure, though they struggled
to make their possession tell in front of goal. 24 minutes had
gone before Beckford got in the first shot of any note, forcing
keeper Forde into a save and there were few real opportunities
in the first period.
Three minutes into the second half, however, Leeds had the perfect
opportunity to bring themselves level on aggregate. Referee Mark
Halsey adjudged that Millwall's Andy Frampton had pulled Sodje's
shirt in the area and he awarded United a penalty.
Beckford took the spot kick, but his shot was poorly struck and
Forde parried it wide of the post.
The visitors had little time to enjoy their reprieve, and in
the 53rd minute United opened the scoring. Ben Parker set off
on a storming run down the left, advancing to the byline before
drilling across a hard, low centre which Becchio slid home to
trigger excited celebrations.
Bolstered by the breakthrough, Leeds poured forward, but were
caught by a sucker punch with 17 minutes remaining. Millwall sprang
a rare breakaway and winger David Martin found space wide on the
left to loft a cross beyond the back post. Lewis Grabban cut it
back to the centre of the six yard area and Abdou scored from
close in to silence the home support. It was Millwall's only attack
of the night.
The move was incisive and one sensed that Leeds would not have
the resilience to come again. They had neither the craft nor the
cutting edge to pierce a heroic Millwall rearguard and had to
resign themselves to a third season of League One football.
Simon Grayson refused to criticise his men: "It's a bitter pill
to swallow. The players were outstanding tonight, we gave it a
right go. We limited Millwall to very few chances and had the
momentum, but probably just lacked a bit of quality in the final
third to really test the goalkeeper. We're hugely disappointed.
It was a great atmosphere and the fans deserve to go up, but the
can be proud of what they've achieved.
"The support was unbelievable yet again and I can't thank them
enough. The reception at the end meant a lot. Since the day I
walked through the door in December the fans have been with us
every step of the way. I think the fans appreciate what we've
done as a group, and that's how we will do it next year by all
sticking together as a group. The fans knew we'd had a go at it
... I'm more disappointed that we couldn't reward them, but we'll
all come back stronger."
United chairman Ken Bates was also quick to praise "the best
fans I've ever seen ... The players were given a standing ovation
... There were no pitch invasions, it was simply great support
... I have to say these fans are the best I've ever seen in football.
They've had nothing to celebrate, but they've been fantastic."
Another season had ended in anti climax, but there was a genuine
feeling among the Elland Road faithful that United finally had
the right man in the manager's chair and that Simon Grayson would
deliver Championship football without the need to suffer the nerve
jangling lottery of the Play Offs.
Part 1 End of the honeymoon - Results
and table - printer
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