I’ve left this match report a little longer than usual as I felt writing it yesterday whilst I was still fuming from the worst display I’ve seen at Elland Road this season wouldn’t have made for good reading. I could see so few positives yesterday that it would have simply been a list of our faults. The only problem is that time hasn’t changed my opinion of the match and I’m still at a loss to find anything good to say about the Leeds team of Tuesday night.

Whilst I wanted to avoid a simple list of faults, there’s little else to focus on, so here goes;

1) The defence: Starting at the back and working my way forward then, I’ll start with the defence. Never has a team been so reliant on one player as we seem to be Patrick Kisnorbo. There’s no organisation without him, the closing down is slow and we look nervous under pressure.

I’ve always liked Richard Naylor, but I think this probably stems from his performances last season and the fact he’s a Leeds United fan. Being our captain, he’s unlikely to ever be replaced from the team and being a Leeds United fan, the fans are more tolerant of his poor displays than they would be Rui Marquis’ or Lubomir Michalik’s. The fact is however, age has caught up with him and he can no longer keep with the pace of League One. How he’d cope in the Championship is anyones guess, but I’m not too optimistic.

Clearly Kis has made the difference all season and that’s become blatently obvious by his absence. I’ve lost count of the amount of man of the match awards I’ve given him and I know others have always been of the same opinion. What I’d not realised was how much he was carrying Richard Naylor though. Looking back now, the best defensive pairing I’ve seen for Leeds this season was Rui and Kis early on. Ended by injury and the return of Naylor, but something I’d like to see reinstated as soon as possible.

It’s been too easy to make Lubo a scapegoat lately and we’ve all been guilty of it, but when the defence looks disorganised, sluggish and slow to close down, you can only turn to the captain to get it sorted and get them in gear. Nayls is failing miserably on that front at the minute.

The midfield: In an attacking sense we sometimes look OK. I’m willing to accept the new additions will take time to gel, but those thats been around longer don’t seem to be doing any better. Howson and Doyle have taken a lot of criticism from fans this season as they don’t play the pretty, attacking football like Snoddy and Johnson, but in their absence, it’s clear to see what they did do and that’s sure up the defence.

Doyle is an experienced player with a good head on his shoulders and is always there to get stuck in and win the ball before it becomes a defensive issue. He’s always back helping the defence when they are in danger too and the same can be said of Howson, which is why I’ve always been reluctant to criticise either players attacking play.

It’s all well and good having four attack minded players on the pitch when we’re in possession and moving forward, but as soon as the tables turn we’re looking weaker than ever and short on numbers as the opposition breaks. Whilst it’s good to see Simon using the squad more, I can’t help but feel he’s changing the dynamic of the squad with his changes, rather than the players for fresher ones.

Let’s take the introduction of Gradel as an example. Whilst I know the lads giving everything for Leeds and provides something different going forward, he isn’t Micky Doyle or Jonny Howson, who are both more defensive minded players in my mind. As a man for man replacement, we’re adding more players to one end of the park and losing them from the other changing the balance of the team entirely.

Now, I aren’t one of Andy Robinson’s biggest fans. It’s nothing personal, but I think the Leeds fans overrate him massively because ‘he tries’. However, the lad can mix it with the best of them, has a much more defensive nature to his game when needed and would be a much more suitable replacement when Doyle needs to be rested.

My other problem with the midfield is the final ball, or lack thereof. For the overwhelming amount of attacking players we have on the pitch, we’re producing very few clear cut chances in the oppositions half at the minute. Johnson resorted to shooting from anywhere and seemed to have brought his rugby boots with him and we never really looked all that much of a threat, despite dominating much of the game.

The attack: Finally we come to the attack, who can’t be blamed for anything as it all comes down to mismanagement for me. Luci gave everything but was replaced at half-time in favour of Grella, who also tried to get stuck in but the midfield created so few real chances that neither of them were ever likely to score.

Then there’s Beckford, and as much as we’ve missed him and need him back in the starting XI, he clearly wasn’t 100%. He just seemed a yard behind all the game and I was convinced he’d be replaced at half-time or around the sixty minute mark, but Luci was brought off instead.

So, do we no longer trust Grayson? I’ll support whoever Leeds’ manager is whilever they’re in the job and do believe Grayson will get it right again. Hopefully, he’ll do it sooner rather than later as failure to secure promotion will likely cost him his job. He’s a young manager whose team have hit a bad run and he needs to find a way to get them out of the rut. It’s that simple really and however much I criticise his decisions I still have faith in him and hope he can get us back on track.

…and that goal? The goal that didn’t look like a goal is irrelevant for me. Had Leeds performed well and lost to a dodgy decision I’d be calling for the linesman and referees head, but in truth it was no less than we deserved after failing to do anything with all the possession we had.

My biggest problem with it now is Casper is using it as an excuse for the defeat, as others in the team are no doubt doing too. It gives them an easy scapegoat to pin the blame on, but each and every one of them need to wake up and see the reality that they only have themselves to blame. Bemoaning your luck will get you nowhere. Getting your heads down, getting stuck in and giving the same kind of effort that we have for much of this season wins points, not pointing the finger and looking for someone else to blame.

  • A good assessment and well thought through. In the first half of the season we conceded something like 13 goals in 28 matches – we’ve already conceded almost the same since the beginning of Jan. It’s so often the case that a successful team is built on a rock solid defence – gives everyone the confidence to keep trying and be patient until we score. And of course it takes more than the back four to create that sense of invulnerability – midfielders must track back and reinforce when needed. If we are to push on and keep a gap between us and the chasing pack, we need Kis back ….. and quickly and we need a better balance of attack/defence in midfield.

  • Raph

    Great read once again (if you can call it great). Nayls and paddy certainly looked like a brick wall at the back, unfo
    Unfortunatley it has become quite clear recently which one was the cement holding it together! Im delighted simon has rubbished the talk of kis being out for rest of season, just hope its not just a ploy to keep us all optimisti when we are in trouble. Looking forward to seeing beckford back to full match fitness, oh how we missed him at the weekend. Anyway, keeping the faith with mr.grayson, surely a manager cant go from amazing to really bad…can they? Come on lads lets get back going on the way mot

  • Choppers

    Fair assessment TSS

    My main issue was the long ball. they had a 6’6″ 16st giant in the back four who loved the ball coming over the top. he was sluggish and slow so why we didnt try and get the ball round him I will never know.

    Beckford was feeding on scraps nothing dropped for him and his reaction to the fans was dissapointing but he must be frustrated, everyone on his back and he was not doing much wrong.

    What do you do? Put the team back to how it was before Christmas, take out Crowe for Hughes? I am at a loss, but playing 4 strikers is not working, Snoddy McSheff Luc and Beckford is too much going forward, you need someone in the middle mixing it up with Kilkenny to play the ball.

    I trust Grayson, but this result and the performance is going to lead to the aquisition of Dickov!! Bad decision is you ask me.

    I just looked back at the last 4 league goals. Colchester -Penalty and goal line tap in…Orient -94 min OG and Walsall – Sliced cross.

    We need our goal threat back!

  • Craig

    Is it really fair to cite Casper’s reply to a straight question as looking for excuses for a defeat?

    Is there a prize for reaching the big 100 posts?

    • Choppers

      haha I think the prize should be a job, as it appears you have far too much time on your hands

    • Craig

      LOL! You guessed right, 17 years employment in the same place came to an end at the turn of the year. I’m looking hard!

  • paul

    Spot on TSS.

    At the start of the season (inc the pre season matches) we looked like a top 6 championship side, now we look like a mid table league 1 side….why? We were running teams ragged ie tranmere.

    We always (no matter which manager we have) seem to back off teams and let them play, therefore giving them confidence to pass the ball around, leeds players need to watch the recent video of bristol rovers v charlton and understand the importance of ‘closing down’ and not letting the other side play. GET IN THEIR FACES!

    We need 6 points from nx 2 games because on this form we won’t get owt at Hudd, wouldn’t it be nice if we ‘raised our game’ in a local derby match.

  • kev cressey

    i live next to paul huntingdon (remember him)i had spoke to him at xmas while he was still at leeds and said anybody can play along side kisnorbo cause he is so good!i think you might be right in saying that kis has been carring naylor abit,the best midfield in my eyes is snodgrass,doyle kilkenny and howson,leave grella,gradel and johnson on the bench keep the faith !!

  • MikeLufc

    Naylor should be dropped and Howson reinstalled as Skipper if only because we were brilliant for the first half of the season.
    However Snoddy or Paddy would possibly be better.
    I just feel we should revert back to what we aere doing when we were good.
    Sort it for fux sake Larry if only to make sure you still have a job at the end of the season.

    • Craig

      If only life were that easy – turn the clock back and act as if the last month hadn’t happened. It ain’t that easy.

  • Timmo

    Will never understand “the need for fresh faces” We’re running away with the title, bring in said new faces, and what? Totally unsettled what appeared to be a winning formula.Sounds like we need to sit a little deeper, Becks could use the extra space.Gonna be a long coupla months.

  • Henry V

    Midfield is the key to both attack and defence.
    We need a really strong character to get a grip, and pull everything together.
    During this slump it is midfield that has been overrun, putting extra pressure on the back four.
    Our passing from midfield has been dire (to use the bosses word).
    Our free kicks and corners have been diabolical. We hit the first man most times, and the defenders who have gone up have to rush back to defend!!
    The forwards have no service to speak of, and the ‘up and under’ is no good for Becks, or anyone else for that matter.
    Lets us get back to 2 upfront and four midfielders who are prepared to fight for every ball!
    While Mr Bromby is at center back, bring in Hughes at right back.
    It may be worth considering Hughes in his proper position in midfield alongside Robert Snodgrass, Mr Dyson and Jonny Howson.
    Becks and Luciano up front.
    I know Mr McSheffery needs games, and it is probable that we got him because we promised he would play. I would keep him on the bench and bring him on to replace either Robert or the two front men IF necessary.
    I do not mind if we sign Dickov. He is a battler – something we are in desperate need of just now.
    I am sure he has a season in Div 1 in him, coming of the bench, or even starting if he earns it.
    Simon must be wondering what he can do.
    The best answer is back to basics!!
    Clean sheets.
    Battle for EVERY ball.
    Excite the crowd!!
    We don’t ask for much! Right now we are not getting much!!!

    Henry.

    • Craig

      Mr Dyson?

      • Leeds through & through

        who is mr dyson?

        • Dje

          He goes by the nickname “the hoover”.

  • Henry V

    Hi Craig.
    I am hoping that if I call all the players Mr….. they will feel more appreciated.
    This way they could play better?
    What do you think?
    A tad desperate?
    I will try anything!
    I received a DVD today from my nephew – “the Second Coming”.
    It covers our 1989/90 2nd Div Championship.
    His note said “This may be the only Leeds United promotion you watch this year!” Cheek!
    It is hard to imagine how fast fortunes change, with fans now doubting MR Grayson!
    Calling for his head will not help.
    “Wobbling on together….”

    Henry.

    • Craig

      Desperate indeed. Try it by all means but make sure you’re alone if front of the TV!

    • Craig

      Some fair points made though.

  • Henry V

    Craig,
    I have just realised Mr Dyson is Mr Doyle!!!
    I am losing my marbles!!

    Henry.

    • Craig

      Ah – you would have felt very isolated at ER if that’d been your chant! Everyone would’ve thought you were in the market for a hoover.

  • West Stand Rebel

    I’m not panicking yet but the signs don’t look good and clearly shuffling the pack has a tinkerman feel about it. The atmosphere on Tuesday was also dire and a sense of foreboding took hold early on as the crowd quickly realised that the players certainly lacked passion for the challenge. Only when they scored did we appear motivated but by then there was a feel of disorganised headless chickens.
    Glyn Snodin who sits near me looked glum throughout as he could see no doubt what we could all see i.e.a third division team going nowhere.
    It has been said that we didn’t spend in the January window because we knew the big bucks will be needed for the Championship. I have never believed that as I believe the “owners” are conducting a shoestring approach to transfers as the money is no doubt being siphoned offshore.
    January was a time to bring in a couple of quality players (not Max Gradel)to guarantee promotion.
    I hope we haven’t missed the boat!

  • TheReaper08

    HHmmm, a lot of this seems to sound a like what I said about big Lubo the other day, how I felt that he was being made a scapegoat whilst other more so-called Leeds orientated players were getting away with it.

    Of course on that day we were all prepared to have Lubo publically flogged for all his failings, what a difference a weekend game against Walsall can make.

    As for Paddy well in my humble opinion he is light years ahead of what we have and has been organising everything from day one. Come back soon Paddy, we need you now.

  • Arniemar

    Nayls looks like he is doing a Lubo, great first year. Nowt like as good the next. He reminds me a bit of Paul Butler (anyone remember him?) I agree we need Paddy back, but don’t forget he was in the team when we got turned over by Exeter and Swindon so the problem is more than one player.
    Grayson needs to sit the whole squad down and remind them just how important it is we get out of this league. Play every remaining game as if its a cup final (isn’t that what the other teams do to us?)
    Get Hughesy back instead of Crowe and rescue Rui from wherever he has disappeared to and we might be able to return to the defensive shut outs we saw at the start of the year.
    Also get Tres back in there – he scares league one defences – and Robbo too. Why not play Grella in the ‘hole’ too behind a main striker – just an idea. He is a good link-up player, has quick feet and could offer us something new in that position.

    • TheReaper08

      I didn’t go to the Swindon game as I was away on business but I do live in the Town. Inbetween taking the mickey my Swindon loving friends said the only one of our team they were even remotely impressed with was Paddy.

  • Benjamin Bunny

    Where is Rui?

    • Dje

      Probably still bagging up the spare balls in Angola after the African Cup of Nations. I wonder if anyone at Thorp Arch has even noticed his absence?

  • Colin

    Whichever team goes out for the next game – it really has to be a win. We’ve got some tough away ties in the run in – Away to Norwich, Southampton, Charlton & Huddersfield and throw in home games against Millwall, Swindon and MK Dons into the mix as well.

    Not a good run in at all. I think we need to get some points asap!

    • Dje

      I wouldn’t be surprised if we gained full points against those difficult ties; it’d be completely against the form book, but football’s funny like that.

  • Henry V

    I think Rui is injured.

    Henry.

    • Dje

      Last I saw he was fully fit when the final whistle went in the quarter-final of Angola’s 1-0 defeat to Ghana. I think he played in all four of Angola’s games too – so he can’t be that unfit.

      Of course he might have gone over his ankle the second he landed back and Leeds/Bradford Airport, but it does seem odd that he’s entirely fit for a major international tournament but we all presume he’s injured or unfit for Leeds against the likes of Walsall.

      Mind, no doubt I am just categorically wrong and he’s struggling with a career-ending injury right now.

  • Benjamin Bunny

    Does anyone actually genuinely know where he is? No guesses just a solid fact?