Genius and hopeless in equal measures.

It’s unusual for me to head to Elland Road early for a midweek match, but with a rare Wednesday off work I decided to soak up the atmosphere before kick-off. It proved to be a good call too, as I bumped into an Irish Leeds fan I’d met several years earlier in Spain for a Champions League game (Barcelona) and have ran into intermittently around Elland Road and at the occasional away game ever since.

When we first met this particular fan several years previous, we drunkenly dubbed him ‘Stats’ on account of his never-ending knowledge of all things Leeds United. Bumping into Stats always seems to be a timely reminder of how far we’ve fallen since our original meeting and tonight was no different with the opposition Hull City having graced the Premier League more recently than we did.

Nevertheless, Stats was his usual informative self dropping little bits of random trivia such as tonight was Becchio’s 100th start for Leeds United and reminding us we hadn’t won at home since the 28th of September. Ironically, the 28th of September was also the last time Hull had won a game anywhere and with Leeds not drawing a game in the last eight, the chances of those stats remaining after this fixture seemed pretty slim.

So, armed with a whole new array of informative trivia to pad this match report out with, I headed into Elland Road just in time to see the teams lining up. Hull had decided that strikers were overrated and chose not to field one, whilst Grayson stuck with the 4-5-1 formation that had won us the last two games. Kasper Schmeichel was back between the sticks after attending the birth of his baby boy Max and Bradley Johnson was also named in the starting XI.

On paper, this had a home win written all over it but a combination of our dreadful defensive record, constant inconsistency and dismal home form had me a little nervous. Johnson’s return to the starting line-up didn’t do much to lift my spirits either, and the fact that this was a derby game meant the form book and respective league positions meant absolutely nothing.

As the game got under way, it looked as though Hull City had come to park the bus and Leeds enjoyed the majority of possession early doors. Pearson had clearly done his homework and Jonny Howson had little freedom to maneuver with a Hull City player assigned to be his shadow. Meanwhile, Robert Snodgrass was having more luck and strove down the wing leaving two players for dead before firing a cross into the box which was cleared by the defense but showed a real statement of intent from the Whites.

Within minutes of Snoddy’s run, Hull went up the other end and won a freekick courtesy of a clumsy challenge from Bradley Johnson. Hull were causing Leeds no real problems at the time, but Bradley Johnson decided to dive at one of their players anyway and was extremely fortunate not to get booked for what was an extremely poor and careless challenge.

On-loan Spurs youngster, Bostok stood over the ball but with a distance of 35 yards between him and the goal it seemed inconceivable that he’d shoot. The Leeds defense clearly agreed and decided a two man wall would be sufficient, choosing to pack the box with bodies instead. What followed was an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from Bostok, straight into the top corner leaving Kasper Schmeichel helpless and the Leeds United fans shell-shocked. Goal of the month written all over it.

Leeds struggled to regain composure thereafter and there was a period in which possession was wasted and balls hoofed long before anyone took control of the game once more. When Leeds did get moving again, Snodgrass was once again the inspiration providing a great pass to which created room for a cross. The cross landed just behind Becchio who couldn’t turn and shoot so laid it off to Howson instead, but Jonny fired the chance wide of goal.

Spurred on by the opportunity Leeds once again went in search of an equalizer with Kilkenny forgetting he can’t shoot once again and Bradley Johnson hitting a tame shot at goal which the Hull keeper had no problems collecting.

Just after the half hour mark, Johnson redeemed himself though thanks in no small part to a defensive error from Hull. Luciano Becchio capitalised on the mistake, laying it off for Johnson who smashed it into the bottom corner to restore parity and net his third of the season. 1-1.

Leeds rode their luck a little after the restart with Alex Bruce clearing a Bostok effort off the line. Kevin Kilbane also wasted a free header for Hull, but Leeds were also searching for another and Hull’s desperation to keep us out led to the referee dishing out several yellow cards in the visitors direction. The scores remained level at the break though, as the fans poured into the tunnel to escape the bitterly cold autumn weather at Elland Road.

Suitably warmed up by what I can only describe as sugary and coloured boiling water (I think they just boil the lager and add sugar?) the opening stages of the second half saw Becchio denied by the crossbar before heading wide from a Snodgrass shot.

By now, Leeds clearly had the edge and when Snodgrass crossed it in for O’Brien, the on-loan centre back made no mistake and sent Leeds United in front with a header. 2-1

The game remained scrappy and when Becchio went down in Hull’s half, few people paid much attention to his complaints (he does tend to roll around a fair bit) but the replay showed the Argentinian had taken a completely unprovoked elbow to the head from a Hull defender. Jonny Howson seemed to be the only person on the pitch that had noticed it, and in is role as captain complained to the referee who in fairness, couldn”t have seen it either. Howson’s protests proved unsuccessful and as the Leeds fans figured out what had happened we decided we weren’t impressed with the incident either.

Hull escaped with all eleven men on the pitch though and both teams continued to scrap away. Leeds had the best chance when Johnson headed wide from a Kilkenny free-kick. The midfielder should have done much better and was noticeably annoyed with his own effort.

It didn’t matter though as Leeds were in front and the referee was about to make our job easier by reducing Hull to ten men. It was the goalscorer, Bostok who went from hero to villain as he was sent walking for a second bookable offense. Bit of a soft sending off in fairness to the lad, but poetic justice for the elbow Becchio took earlier.

At this point, I joked that Leeds would probably blow it with such an advantage but even in my most pessimistic of moods I could never have believed we actually would. Hull had no striker on the pitch and aside from the little first half flurry following the goals, Kasper Schmeichel had been a spectator. It was damage limitation for Hull at best… or so I thought!

But then, you always have to account for Leeds’ self-destructive nature and our insistence on making life hard for ourselves. Moreover, you also have to remember we have the rarely consistent Bradley Johnson on the pitch who must have sensed a small amount of praise heading his way, so decided to cancel it out by throwing two points down the drain.

The equalizer itself is destined for The Best Blunders 2010-11 DVD and deservedly so. Credit to Hull, they’d somehow managed to get a late corner and despite their numerical disadvantage threw everyone forward in an attempt to level the game. They needn’t have bothered though as the ball looped off Johnson straight beyond an angry Kasper Schmeichel. 2-2

Even with Lloyd Sam, Davide Somma and Billy Paynter brought on to bolster the attack, it was too late for Leeds to restore their lead and Hull were left to celebrate an unlikely, and extremely fortuitous point at Elland Road as the Leeds fans went home cursing the never predictable Bradley Johnson.

TSS man of the match

For the second game running it has to be Robert Snodgrass. He was beating players down the wing, creating chances, putting crosses into the box and was definitely our biggest threat throughout. The difference he’s made since his return has been remarkable. Just like last season Snoddy has reestablished himself as the key man in the Leeds starting XI and it’s imperative that we keep him free of injury for the rest of the campaign.

At this point, I’d usually do the ‘ups and downs v Hull’ but the match report ran a little longer than usual (1500 words!) and there’s plenty of them so I’ll do that separately tomorrow.

  • Dje

    Well, no doubt two points dropped – but we have stopped the rot at home so there is some momentum being added I guess. A win against Bristol City and four points from six seems more reasonable.

    Unquestionably Johnson helped us self-destruct – but with 12 minutes played after the OG I really thought we’d get back ahead. Instead we fizzled out our chances when they came.

    Presumably Faye will be back against Bristol City too.

    • Dje

      Great match report too, TSS.

  • TSS

    @djedjedje

    Hull understandably parked the bus at that point, which always makes it difficult to score again.

    Incidentally, the picture of Bradley Johnson above has had more use than any other players I think? Seems to sum up a Johnson related saga every week.

  • l l l leeds

    Has Bradley Johnson slept with your bird or something?

    • TSS

      Maybe, but that’s besides the point. He can be the most infuriating player in a Leeds shirt and I still can’t get my head around his performance last night

  • Ron

    Not one to undermine the Manager after a better run of results, but playing a lone striker at home is garbage. Sure our midfield is helping a porous back four, but we should have been going for the kill against a Hull side low on confidence. I fear our only striker with the numbers this term in Somma may be warming the bench until Larry buys some defenders in January. Giving Paytner such a paltry amount of time is futile in my opinion. The minute Bostock was dismissed, Sam and Paytner should have been on. If we can’t be attack-minded at home, God help us away. Granted we needed a few solid results after a poor run, but we are Leeds and we should always want to win, not simply compete.

  • timm

    Bradley Johnsons left foot is a mystery wrapped in an enigma! When it comes into contact with a football, anything can happen! He scored 2 crackers tonight. I wouldn’t be losing any sleep over his refusal to sign that contract if i was SG!

  • Raph

    Agree with rongalea, what happened to the pre match YEP article about letting our lads go for it? 2-1 up, a man up, why didn’t we go for it rather than stay the same. P.s. i didnt think it was too cold at half time tss (ne corner)

  • Jon

    Did anyone else who was forced to follow the match on BBC notice that towards the end of the first half Leeds were showing as having 89% of the possession!

  • Matthew Crumpton

    Although Johnson is inevitably going to be the villain on every Leeds forum from now until Saturday, I think he had a much better game than Kilkenny, who was our worst player on the pitch today. His distribution was terrible, which is frustrating as on his day he’s a brilliant passer if the ball.

    As for our defence; a goal of the season contender for their first and the OG doesn’t leave much room for finger pointing, which was pleasing. Yes it’s another 2 conceded on paper, but nothing the defence could do. 3 points and saturday and I’d have more than taken 10 points from 12 before Scunthorpe.

  • henry vincent lewis

    Excellent report TSS!!
    We just have to put it behind us.
    Solid performance.
    If we had won 2-1 we would have been very satisfied.
    Simon said that he was disappointed we did not go at them and make the game secure.
    It just shows how little you can influence the game from the touchline.
    You’d think he could have got that message across though?
    At least through the subs when they came on?
    The luck was with Hull last night. It happens!

  • tim campbell

    If lloyd sam is fit he should be starting every gane, certainly ahead of the ‘brad’ man.

  • paulg

    What a great match report …. (sorry, sarcasm doesn’t work well here …..) There were 10 other players on the pitch, but everything’s Johnson’s fault, isn’t it? Unlike, say Kilkenny – who did b*gger all last night – or “local hero” Jonny Howson, who was yet again completely anonymous at ER.

    Oh, and the sugary boiled water must have gone to your eyesight. “The ball looped off Johnson’s head” ….. no, it was actually his left foot. But then that’s about as accurate as the rest of your rant …..

  • Clarkeonenil

    Our 2 goals a game conceding record continues. Perhaps we can all agree to leave moans about midfield and attack until Grayson comes up with a back 4 that gets that down to 1!

    • Dje

      @Clarkeonenil

      Whilst Hull created other chances last night, it is a bit hard to blame the defense for the two we conceded. A thirty yard free kick and your midfielder charitably coming to help out by scoring an OG is hardly the fault of Messrs. Connolly, Bruce, O’Brien & MacCartney.

      Besides, the defense scored half our goals at the other end, and if Bruce had not had his effort cleared of the line the two central defenders could have actually won it for us.

  • Bill Fox

    In a way the wonder strike free kick and the almost freakish OG make it slightly easier to take than when sides run through us. I feel we played okay/well on the whole.

    I thought Killa had a good match in fairness and whilst we should have won it 4 from 6 will be fine so it’s on to Saturday.

    Re TSS’s mate stats…on Saturday I was talking to someone at Coventry and mentioned my son’s first match was a 4-1 home win V Wimbledon. This bloke immediatley rattled of the scorers, sequence of goals and the EXACT date. Take a bow …..!!

  • Gryff

    TBH I don’t think 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 (or Becchio vs Somma) had any real affect on our performance. We looked about the same to me on both formations and Somma was so over-eager it was ridiculous. He must have been offside 4-5 times in about 10 minutes.

    It was, more or less, a solid performance like @henryv says. But i’m concerned about our midfield when we don’t play Faye. O’Brein’s only here for a month at the moment but he seems to have solved our mistake-riddled defence and is helping Conolly settle in quite well. Now when we don’t have Faye in it seems we leak goals again. It was two stupid mistakes from BJ which might not happen if we played the game another time, but it’s compounding the numerous (very different) mistakes we make when we lack a responsible head in a holding role in midfield.

    For all that, should have made it 3-1 at some point as we had enough chances. But sometimes matches don’t go our way. On goal-difference with the playoffs and only a month and a bit until the Transfer Window MOT! :-)

  • Dje

    Yeah, you have to say that whilst it was two points dropped, those points seem somewhat immaterial at the moment. If we were second bottom then those two points could already be seen as offering a lifeline to preservation of Championship status.

    Likewise, if we had half a dozen games to go and we were within two points then we would be absolutely kicking ourselves after last night.

    But after just over a third of the season now gone, and we are goal difference away from the playoffs, and having already amassed 26 points against the threat of relegation back to League One (got to be over half the points needed to stave off that, no?), the dropped points last night don’t seem half as important as maintaining a bit of momentum in our performances (still scoring for fun, better organisation and composure at the back) and building a steady unbeaten run.

    Without building up our momentum and strength of squad unity and organisation when playing, then I seriously doubt we will be in a position where with six games to go dropping two points will be crucial one way or the other.

  • saltburnwhite

    I see last nights result as progress . yes we conceded a stupid goal but thats just bradders not doing his job properly , no one elses fault but his , it was a very lazy swing of the boot , he should have been ‘on the ball’ concentrating to make sure he cleared it safely…its this seasons whole problem , league 1 minded players , not switching on for 90 mins and being proffessional , although it can happen to anyone , it was purely down to an unproffesional approach by johnson. Our players are young and have been in league 1 for 3 years now so , mistakes will happen and they will learn from them. Im happy with the teams current form …..unbeaten in three now , a draw at home is a good result ..it stops the rot , and gives us something to build on , how about going on a run of 8 or 9 unbeaten now?
    so to me it was a good result last night ,we needed to get some draws on the board and we needed to not get beat .
    Also a third of the way through the season now , and even if we play as inconsistently as we have been doing for the rest of the season and pick up 50 more points (weve already got 24 after 16 games) we are knocking on the door for a playoff spot !

  • saltburnwhite

    djedeje stole my thunder!!!!!!!! great minds eh!

    • Dje

      @saltburnwhite

      Lol. To be fair you got how many points (24 pts) we actually have correct – whereas I must have psychologically factored into my head that we were going to win and end up with the 26 points that I said we now have.

  • Mark R

    Infuriating and quite frankly unacceptable.

    Now conceded 30 goals – more than any other team in the Championship – almost 2 per game.
    If this continues it’s relegation form.

    We should have defended the set piece goal – with a capable defensive wall and a player to attack the ball once the whistle went for the freekick to be taken. Slack allround – wonderstrike or not.

    The OG – poor judgement from Bradley.

    The fact that we couldn’t take advantage of a poor Hull Team, reduced to 10 men, indicates the team weren’t set out effectively and then could not adapt tactically once Hull lost a man.

    How many games since we last won at home ?

    Inconsistency and as SG always says – stupid mistakes cost us. Enough now SG – sort it out.

    It’s a squad game and all teams face injuries, suspensions etc.so putting the same team out game after game is difficult for all teams. The core of our squad have had 16 games in which to step up.

    The inconsistency is down to tactics and weakness in the squad. Our current form will continue unless one or the other changes.

    Ever hopeful.

    MOT

  • Mark R

    Correction : Bottom 2 in the Championship – Preston & Palace have conceded 33 7 32 goasl. We are the 3rd worst in the divsion.

  • Mark R

    33 and 32 goals conceded….that is.

  • Mario Buttigieg

    Too many obvious issues that could be seen too. What is the use of having a big squad when most players are not being used? What is the point of sticking to players who often let you down by giving the ball away so often? Yesterday we suffered two goals due to Bradley Johnson. Had Schmeichel been in a better position the goal might not have went in. Why say that we will unleash the players and then adopt a 4-5-1 formation, crowding a midfield which is already crowded with the formation that Hull adopted? Why are we depending solely on Becchio when goals in at least the last four matches barely came from strikers and when we have so many good alternatives with Somma, Paynter and McCormack? What is exactly meant when it is said that it is good to have large squad as players have to be on their toes as other players are at your shoulder? What can one expect from players that are brought in on the 88th and 90th minute when the game is nearly over? Why field the same team on a Tuesday following a Saturday success when in all previous occassions this approach failed to bring a result? …as if some players needed a rest. One can go on and on. By not tackling/resolving these issues, we are not showing the right desire and ambition, and as a result I feel that come the end of the season Leeds will not make it to the first half of the table, even though we have an exceptional opportunity this season with a dozen clubs being at par and thus wins are cancelling each other week in week out. What we need is a string of victories, say five or six, that will push us up the table and giving us the right confidence and approach. I am not happy to hear others saying that if we beat Bristol City on Saturday it will be 4 points out of a possible six. With a crowd fighting for playoff positions, two points are crucial.

    • Dje

      @sunnyleeds

      I take it you mean “two wins are crucial”?

      The more points we gain and the closer we are to the playoffs as the season draws to an ever-nearing close, I can actually see a debate emerging amongst the fans as to whether or not the playoffs and promotion to the Premiership with the squad we have is actually that desirable right now.

      To question promotion might smack of total lack of ambition, but there is a pragmatic consideration here too. How many of our current squad would actually be able to hold their own in the Premiership?

      On a good day I might consider Schmeichel, Howson and Snodgrass about good enough, on a bad day I could see a valid argument in the entire 1st XI needing replacing if we are to survive in the Premiership.

      But either is so far from where we would want to be – ie. a squad of 30+ needing mostly to be shipped out, and a massive amount of money spent on replacements for what still might only be one season in the Premiership and a few turns on the parachute payments as we try and pay Premiership wages in the Championship. This is how so many newly promoted teams to the Premiership have fallen on hard times. I’m not sure we need to throw ourselves so swiftly into that financial and downward spiral mire once more.

      You look at Cardiff and QPR and they have teams that look at least halfway their to being a starting Premiership XI. They are probably a couple of Championship seasons ahead of us in their preparedness for the Premiership. Understandably then they are in the top two positions.

      So the question is can we catch up on being so unprepared in the remaining 30 matches of this season? On current form and personnel I’d have to say no. Regardless of how close the playoffs might seem to be right now, we are a long, long way away from being ready for the Premiership.

      Now, if we remarkably turn around our form, skill levels and no doubt add new quality players in the January transfer window, then there could become a case for feeling about up to the Premiership task – and promotion comes into consideration then. In which case ‘being there or there abouts’ by April is what would constitute the ideal place, IMHO. Four points from every possible six would certainly take us there.

      Ultimately, we just need to match expectancies for this season with realistic ambitions for next season too. And not get carried away with promotion if we aren’t prepared for the consequences.

      But, knowing Leeds fans, I expect the usual accusations…

  • Mark R

    @ Sunny Leeds
    Good post.

    MOT

  • Christopher Gee

    How many times have you seen a professional football team totally dominate the opposition, take the lead, and then back off as if to say ‘ok it’s your turn to play now’? Is this instinctive or do they learn it at football school? Learning point from last night – Brad’s brain does not have 90 minutes worth of concentration in it.

  • les irwin

    cant blame the back 4 for this to be fair i thought connolly had his best game for us mcartney was ok obrien is fantastic and will get better ,that free kick went a long way and was still going when it hit the back of the net noyt in the top corner but it swereved @ the last min and did him with pace our 2 goals were reasonable but what was bradders doing ,i suppose thats why he can leave for me he is average and living the footballers dream but he will never be a prem player ..
    why do we play the ball around the back 4 oley football it maybe but its does my head in it has come back to haunt us many,many many times fotball is about scoring that should be the ultimate thing to do when you get 2 get 3 then 4 pasiing back to the goaly should be banned .
    on the subject jonny howson is a lucky lad he should have been off
    that brings me on to killkenny .he asks for and gets the ball loads ,he is always there in the decision making on the pitch etc etc etc .so why does he always pick the wrong pass he should get something for his avertion to pasing wide he always wants to give it through the middle
    that said when the wide boys get it they don’t skin people anymore why ????
    finally would like to say i thought grayson after the match on yorkshire radio with eddie gray was honest about the teams performance

  • Clarkeonenil

    people defending the back 4 need to wake up and smell the coffee, since Sheffield United we have conceded 21 goals, that is an avaeage of 3 a game, that isn’t just bad its lethal, its L1 knocking. Grayson was a defender, thank god he wasn’t a striker…..

    • Dje

      Sure, if every game was like the anomaly of the Preston bizarre-ity (4-6), or was against a team as clinical as Cardiff (0-4) then we would be in serious trouble. But take out those two results and take our recent form back to our 0-0 draw against Doncaster and we have conceded 10 goals in 8 games. Still not great, but more than manageable with the amount of goals we like to score.

      As to relegation form. Really? Last year 48 points would have kept us up. We already have half of those points with 30 games to play and a string of results that suggests we are going forwards, not backwards. So another 24 points then …. say, 6 wins, 6 draws, and 12 defeats. Terrible form, but enough and very manageable, even with our defense.

      • les irwin

        i think like you 5-6 wins and similar amount of draws job done .i know we all want to go up ??? well not me really i hate the premier league but its the goose with many an egg !!!!!!!!!!! look leeds fans are fantastic i should know iam one if theres a poll we will win it .same with a vote etc etc etc .80%of people who voted on sky said we would beat cardiff .as much as we are fantsatic we are at the same time ridiculous we shouldn’t go up .we don’t need to go up ,and we won’t go up ,all those who think that we will are wrong .i know there is a lot of back slapping etc but we do need to get real

        who would of taken us stopping up this year in a good midtable position ?? ME
        cardiff ,forest,sheff utd?? qpr.swansea ,and 1 or 2 others are in front of us in being ready to go up before us .they have been in and around for 2-3 seasons we did need to consolidate and kick on next season in my opinion we didn’t do that in terms of personnel so we are lagging behind where we should be lets be happy for once

    • les irwin

      so what could the back 4 do last night NOWT the coffee is on the columbian is filling the air with that distictive pungent aroma ahh yes i smell .a team that has an objective to stay in this league this year alright we are shipping some goals .but scoring them too we are a third of the way through the season half the points scored we need .we won’t go down alright we won’t go up fotball is played through a team of 11 blaming a back 4 all the time isn’t always the real picture i thought last night they played alright it has to be defended from striker to defender as far as iam aware bradders is a midfileder .what we do need is a real beast of a captain who has been there to stop it being played round the back four thats not graysons fault, although against cardiff i did over hear him say i think i will set my team up to get beat tonight !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      i do think we genuinely could do with some back room changes some new impotess. but at some point he will have to pick an 18 thats settled and stick with em andy obrien would be part of that for me

  • paulg

    @ djedjedje

    You make some very good points, particularly wrt QPR and Cardiff. Cardiff have been kncoking on the door of the Prem for 2-3 seasons, they’ve spent a lot of money (much of which, thanks to Ridsdale, they didn’t have) – and they’ve blown it a couple of times. They also have four (I think?) Prem players on loan – according to an article I read, Cardiff are being subsidised to the tune of nearly £5m a year by the parent clubs …..

    QPR have had the wealthiest owners in Div 2 for 3 or 4 years now; it’s taken all that time – plus about 5 different managers – to get them where they are today. (Which, as an aside, says to me that Cuddly Ken splashing a bit of cash around wouldn’t guarantee anything ….. but that’s another argument!)

    All of this suggests that a bit of patient buidling is required. I believe that a lot of our problems would be solved if we could find a real LEADER on the pitch – the sort of player who would have picked the team up by the scruff of the neck in the last 15 minutes last night, got them organised, and basically told them what to do. The sort of player we haven’t had at Leeds for many, many years ……

  • Joey

    The game last night was a cracking derby, the banter from where i was in the south stand vs the hull fans was great atmosphere, as for how Leeds played i think we did well, Leeds dominated, it is just a shame a bit of bad luck sent us home disappointed. Larry got his tactics right, any other night it would have been 2-0 but 2 unlucky goals mean every player is under the cosh :/ Johnson was the culprit for the free kick but redeemed himself with a crackin’ strike, and you can’t blame the second one on him, it was his own goal ye but he obviously didnt get a shout from the keeper n its always risky business tryin to head it away from goal at that angle.

    good read tho on the post tss

  • henry vincent lewis

    I am pleasantly surprised at how well we have done this season.
    It is not as daunting as I was expecting.
    If we can keep O’Brien and add a couple more (and i think we will) we should do just fine!
    The start of the season has been unknown territory and maybe we were wise not to spend too soon.
    Players will be moving out as well.
    If we can get promoted this season we will take it.
    I am sure Simon and Ken are looking to do just that.
    Sod consolidation. Onward and upward.
    With Sky’s & BBC’s & ESPN’s millions and parachute payments if we go back down we must push on.
    even if we do come down we will have a stronger squad to return again.

  • Gryff

    I, too, think O’Brein could be an important player for us.

    It’s all very well for @clarkeonenil to go on about our poor defensive record since Sheff Utd., And he has a point, but since O’Brein has arrived we’ve played relatively well as a defence and it’s the central midfielders who have made defensive mistakes – no matter how good they are going forward.
    O’Brein saved a clone of the first Cardiff goal vs. Scunthorpe and apart from that the defence looked okay, and against Coventry we had a couple of shakey moments but again the defence played quite well. Against Hull the defence (wasn’t really called upon but) played fine; it was two Bradley Johnson mistakes and a great free kick that pulled us back.
    We’ve now got McCartney and O’Brein in our defence who have both played premiership football last season while Collins/Bruce have the odd problem but seem to be looked after well by O’Brein. As for Connolly, I was one of those raising concerns about him earlier in the season but he’s settled down fine.
    O’Brein & McCartney are only temporary measures but at this juncture we only really need one more central defender to improve the defence and it’s going to be adequate for a mid-table finish even if the forwards drop in form a bit.
    Compare that with our midfielders. Every match without Faye we start leaking goals again and that’s no coincidence. Faye gets too tired to play match after match and so some of his bad performances have exacerbated our problems, but this isn’t his fault but Grayson’s for not signing another holding midfielder as well as Faye (who was a last minute addition as it was). Faye is leaving in January unless we re-sign him and that will leave our central midfield as vulnerable as our defensive line is without McCartney & O’Brein.

    On the up side, if we could get McCartney and O’Brein for the rest of the season we’re only a little way off getting some respect and revenue from competing in the playoffs. Then I don’t think we’ll see the Eustace & co. Sagas from last summer.

    On promotion, I agree with @henryv – i’d take it every time. Think of the £16million (PER SEASON FOR FOUR YEARS!) we would be artificially bolstered with should we play in the Premiership for even one season. With those funds we really could sign 3-4 definite Premiership class players and when you consider that our much improved squad this season faced 4 top-6 Premiership teams last season and won 4 points from those matches (albeit with a weakened Man Utd squad), I don’t think we would be as battered as many worry we would. Just like we’re not in the relegation zone this season despite what some people thought.

    I’m still not 100% convinced of Grayson, but the team he is building is certainly good enough for a top-6 finish this year (with some January improvements) in my view, and he’s shown time and again that although we struggle against teams we should be slaughtering, against some of the bigger teams we can pull off big upsets – and that is what keeps teams like Blackpool and Wigan in the Premiership.

  • Jim Barnett

    At the risk of sounding controversial, let’s look at the positives:

    – first point gained at home in four games
    – three unbeaten
    – Andy O’Brien stabilising the defence
    – Snodgrass returning to his brilliant best
    – 8th in the Championship with a third of the season gone

    Don’t get me wrong, I was gutted that we didn’t hold out last night – even more gutted that once again, stupid individual errors have cost us dearly. That said, I think everybody would have taken 7 out of 9 points after the Cardiff game debacle.