Poor defending and another criminal referee once again saw Leeds United surrender a two goal lead and throw away two points for the second time in three days.

Leeds got off to the ideal start in front of the bumper 31,500 Elland Road crowd with Max Gradel extending his fine run of goalscoring form to knock in from close range after Billy Paynter headed the ball down to gift him the opener. 1-0

Just three minutes later and the captain Jonny Howson doubled Leeds United’s lead by netting his eighth of the season. Only ten minutes gone at Elland Road and Leeds were making light-work of the formerly Premier League Portsmouth. 2-0

As the Pompey fans started to wonder why they’d bothered making the long journey North, Leeds took their foot off the gas a bit and started to allow Portsmouth a little too much time on the ball. Rather than continuing to press, Leeds invited the visitors to attack and waited for opportunities to catch them on the break.

A risky and unnecessary approach from Leeds but there was some motive to the madness. On the wing, Robert Snodgrass was making Liam Dickinson look like a Sunday League player as he cast him aside time and time again with absolute ease. Almost every attack Leeds forged went through Snodgrass and Dickinson was second best throughout.

Inviting the pressure on ultimately cost us though and Portsmouth got themselves back into the game just after the half hour mark when Nugent scored to make it 2-1. Had Leeds kept up the pressure of the first twenty minutes, I feel this game would have been out of sight before Pompey got anywhere near the scoresheet, but as things were, they were back in it as we headed towards half-time.

Not much in the way of clear cut chances early in the second half, but Pompey had a bit of swagger and belief about themselves now with the likes of Utaka, Halford and Nugent all giving Leeds United fans cause for concern.

There was a sense that whoever scored next would likely win this one, so when Bradley Johnson netted with a great finish just after the half hour mark there was a noticeable sense of relief amongst the celebrations inside Elland Road. With just half an hour remaining and the two goal lead restored it should have been game over. 3-1

Before I’d had chance to catch my breath however, Pompey had pulled one back straight from the restart. Former Arsenal striker, Kanu cut the ball across the box into the path of Hughes, whose shot took a massive deflection off the helpless Andy O’Brien to make it 3-2. One thing about following Leeds United this year – It’s never boring.

Leeds kept their heads up and responded well and there were celebrations once more as Ross McCormack netted Leeds’ fourth just minutes later, only to be denied by the referee for an earlier foul.

Just five or so minutes after the goal was ruled out, Ross McCormack was brought down in the box for an absolutely clear-cut penalty by Ibrahima Sonko. Unfortunately, the hopeless referee saw things differently, much to the anger and frustration of Leeds United players and the Kop who were more than a little vocal in making their feelings known.

Robert Snodgrass once again made Liam Dickinson and the Portsmouth defense look like statues as he twist and turned his way into a good shooting position, only to see his shot sail over the crossbar. Pompey were forging a few attacks of their own too, but Schmeichel was dealing with both Pompey’s attempts and Bradley Johnson’s dodgy back-passes competently.

All the attacks were heading towards the wrong end of the pitch as we entered the hefty five minutes of added time desperately trying to cling on to our slender 3-2 lead, and once again we were left cursing the defense as a lack of communication between Schmeichel and O’Brien gave the centre back his second (own) goal of the match and leveled things for Pompey in injury time.

A tragically disappointing way to end the game. To lose a two goal lead at any stage in the season is always cause for concern, but twice in a week is beyond the ridiculous. We will quite rightly point towards the referee’s failings as the penalty would have put the game totally out of reach, but as things were, two questionable decisions in the space of a few minutes turned the tables on us completely.

I’ve been arguing for the last couple of weeks that we shouldn’t be looking to alter the squad at all in January unless it’s to bring in a new centre-back. The priority of that signing has definitely increased after the last two games. Loanee stop-gaps and over-the-hill has-beens are not good enough either. We need someone young, strong and with enough pace to get back when we’re caught on the break .

It’s difficult to highlight positives when you’ve stood and watched your team throw away four points in three days, but eleven games undefeated and comfortably placed in the play-offs is a situation we’d have bitten people’s hands off for. The fact that we’re a little disgruntled with the last two games is testament to how well we’re doing really.

TSS man of the match

Aside from a careless back-pass late on, I have to say that Bradley Johnson was once again excellent in midfield and did well to get on the scoresheet. Both Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter gave a good account of themselves with the rare opportunity to start a match. Max Gradel continues to frustrate and amaze in equal measures and did well once again to open the scoring and it was also nice to see Howson add to his tally of goals this season. Only one contender for man of the match though and it’s Robert Snodgrass – I mentioned it a couple of times above, but he made Dickinson look like a statue and didn’t struggle too much taking the rest of the team on either.

  • Andybarx

    Not to try and make you feel worse, but we have lost a two goal lead 3 times this week, not twice.

    Are we Newcastle (a la Keegan) in disguise at the moment. Well they went up so lets hope so for the next 6 months at least

  • TSS

    You mean, in that we led by two goals twice in the same game I take it? I was talking separate games but know what you mean…

  • Punter

    ‘Carl’ dickinson ill think is who you’ll find Snoddy was waltzing past, he was top draw when he was on loan for us, maybe that just cos it was league one and there were no snoddy’s to deal with!… Liam is the big donkey we also had on loan up front that couldnt hit the broad side of a barn door if he tried

  • Woody

    With hindsight I think Grayson will have realised that it was asking too much of O’Brien to play two matches in 48 hours after not having played for about 3 weeks through injury. He must have been dead on his feet by the end of yesterday’s match. It also goes to show that the 4-4-2 system still leaves our defence woefully exposed. Looking on the bright side, we’re still unbeaten since the end of October and in a great position to push on ahead of the pack in January. I’m praying for a very truncated cup run :0)

  • Andy Flynn

    Good assessment TSS. Two two-goal leads and two shocking penalty decisions against us!

    How the linesman didn’t see the penalty is beyond me. He was literally 6 yards away and doesn’t warrant the assistant referee title. Shocking!!!

    Our defence still leaves a lot to be desired when we play 4-4-2. Perhaps Grayson should have brought on Kilkenny for McCormack at 3-1, but that’s easy to say with hindsight. Better still would have been to keep out foot on the gas at 2-0 as we definitely invited their first goal. Was a great finish by Nugent, but he had so much time to pick his spot.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more of McCormack. Looks like he could be a class act – just need to find him a position in the team and keep him off the pop if his reputation is to be believed.

    Roll on 2011 and more “up the football league we go” chants. I still think we can compete for top two if we can add a bit more steel to the side. We are as good as anyone in the league going forward and always look like we can score – especially with Howson playing in the attacking role.

  • lufcboy

    Only Leeds can score 5 at home and draw 3-3 lol

  • kev

    got to rest andy O’brien for next game he was off the pace abit yesterday,thought larry might have give bromby another shout but wasn’t even on bench,but Leeds looked tired second half anyway

    • stotty

      I am going to give SG the benefit of the doubt and suggest Leigh Bromby was not available? If this is not the case, then again I take issue with SG on selection. Bromby played virtually 90 minutes against QPR and didn’t put a foot wrong. He should therefore in my opinion have been in against both Leicester and Pompey. After all it was only a few days ago that O’Brian was sent back to Bolton for injury assessment – so what happened there so miraculously?
      Is O’Brian what we really need on a permanent basis? We have the unimpressive Collins who I personally would never pick in front of Bromby and Bruce is just a ‘nearly but not quite’ player. We must get this defence sorted out once and for all in January please.

  • Old Billy White

    We seem to suffer quite often from Refs who appear determined to show that they won’t be influenced by a big home crowd. They then seem to go so far the other way, and give us nothing. I know that everyone makes mistakes, but yesterdays officals were very,very poor. With 15 mins gone you could tell that we wouldn’t get a thing.
    Not just the ref, incidents right infront of the linesmen going unseen. We should still have won the game, but the officials were rubbish.
    Still on the bright side, if we draw, I’d rather see 3-3 than 0-0, but it does feel like a defeat with the late goal.
    Their fans summed it up “2-0 and we f*cked it up”. (again)
    but we’re not dull to watch!

  • Kaiser Chief

    So bitterly disappointed with the last two results the extra 4 points would have done wonders for the position and confidence going in to the new year. But we can’t deny that defensive frailties aside were 11 unbeaten and doing far better than most of us hoped at the start if the season. So I for one am happy overall and just hope for more of the same in the second half. Maybe this year could be a lucky year in the playoffs instead of the dyer affairs of previous seasons.

  • Jim Barnett

    Hoping for a big reaction against Middlesborough…let’s go for the jugular and send a message out…

    Once again it’s gotta be said, 11 games unbeaten…what a run. I remember being on here after the despair of the Cardiff game and there were some questioning whether Grayson was good enough to manage us in this league. They were legitimate questions too, especially as our defence was a mess.

    Let’s not get short memories and write O’Brien off…he has been the mainstay of the early part of this run.

  • Jim Barnett

    Just to add to what i’ve just put…would like to see O’Brien and Bruce back for the next game, because it was their partnership that was blossomjng. Yes, Bromby has a great game against QPR, but it was only one game. Still not keen on Collins, he’s just a bit too cumbersome for my liking…

  • Irving08

    To the old adage,’never change a winning team’ should be added, ‘never change a winning formation’. SG said he rested Kilkenny – thus eschewing the formation that has brought us so much recent success – because he was one yellow card away from a red card. I believe this to be flawed reasoning: yesterday the priortiy to get three points (not thinking of jam tomorrow), but it was obvious as soon as they had recovered from the shock of going two down so early that we were short in midfield, and were thus defending too deep. Furthermore we lost the benefit of Howson playing just behind a front man – his second goal showed exactly what he can do in that position. McCormack and Paynter were both OK (the former again impressed), but together they are less than the sum of their parts. Snoddy was of course at his his magnificent best, though his some of shooting, had it been Johnson’s, would by now have earned him some derision. And talking of Johnson, the editor is right, he had another excellent game and must now be causing perceptive Leeds fans to worry how we would cope without his presence in deep midfield. Last year, after a few lively performances, Leeds fans were chanting ‘sign him up’. After yesterday’s performance (and goal), if they were fair-minded, they should be calling on Bates ‘to pay Johnson up’.

  • Bill

    Johnson has played 2 or 3 belters of late and the deeper, more central position certainly seems to suit him. Would be happier now to see him stay than I was a couple of weeks back for sure and he must take credit for his attitude over that time.

    Our centre half pairing is the reason why we are not up in 2nd place but in reality we are in a great position and far better than most of thought possible. We need Grayson to show real judgenmet if we bring in another centre half as recent recruits have failed to really nail the job. O’Brien deserves to keep his place in my view but with who…..Bruce probaly the best bet for my money. Woodgate still out there but Cardiff and Boro are sniffing, would be a big call but perhaps worth the gamble.

  • Old Billy White

    Snoddy was excellent, turned the fullback inside out, and was a threat start to finish.
    Gradel usual enthusiasm, scored a goal, on the down side was greedy several times also repeatedly ignored McCartney on the overlap. This is fine so long as he doesn’t lose the ball.
    Collins still not happy when in possession.
    McCormack showed some good touches and looked lively.
    Painter o.k. but still early days for him.
    Johnson looks better at centre mid.
    Howson good going forward,4,5,1 suits him (and the team) better.
    Connoly good understanding with Snoddy.
    O’Brien o.k. but tired towards the end.
    Scheichel great save late in the game.

    All in all we are far better off than I could have dared hope for, I think two more wins and we won’t go down! Would have snapped up mid table when we started, now who knows?

  • West Stand Rebel

    Disappointing yesterday? Well yes but no reason to panic, and certainly not boring. I must admit that I thought we would struggle in this league and even thought we would more than likely be in a relegation battle. To say we are second equal going into the new year is more than I could have hoped for and playing a style of football that is certainly exciting if not suicidal at times.
    Feeling a little smug though as I told you so about Bradley Johnson. There is huge potential in this young player which I feel we are destined to lose. He needs guidance to fulfill his potential but he has a good engine,is highly committed and not without skill.
    M.O.T for 2011

  • Mark R

    Stotty & Irving make good points.

    A defence that concedes almost 2 goals per game is not a successful one. Enough is enough. No matter what combination has been used of the current squad – it needs some serious changes. We cannot wait for Kisonorbo to return, we need SG to take decisive action now.

    O’Brien is coming back from injury and Bromby was steady in his performances. If the players available for the defence aren’t the first choice, then they need effective defensive midfield protection.

    Which comes to the change in formation SG made for Portsmth, it left us open to their counter attacks.

    AND why are we not drilled in managing a game, keeping posession & taking the sting out of it – when we are 2 up ?

    Over the last 2 games we have given winning positions away too easily, often self infilcted. Tierd players lose concentration & make errors.We have quite a large squad and need to use it over the Christmas period to keep the team fresh. SG needs to be braver and rotate the players to keep the team fresh.

    January window I’m hoping for 2 defenders & perhaps 2 experienced midfielders. We are sitting in a great position and need to push on.

    MOT

  • Mark R

    Stotty & Irving make good points.

    A defence that concedes almost 2 goals per game is not a successful one. Enough is enough. No matter what combination has been used of the current squad – it needs some serious changes. We cannot wait for Kisonorbo to return, we need SG to take decisive action now.

    O’Brien is coming back from injury and Bromby was steady in his performances. If the players available for the defence aren’t the first choice, then they need effective defensive midfield protection.

    Which comes to the change in formation SG made for Portsmth, it left us open to their counter attacks.

    AND why are we not drilled in managing a game, keeping posession & taking the sting out of it – when we are 2 up ?

    Over the last 2 games we have given winning positions away too easily, often self infilcted. Tierd players lose concentration & make errors.We have quite a large squad and need to use it over the Christmas period to keep the team fresh. SG needs to be braver and rotate the players to keep the team fresh.

    January window I’m hoping for 2 defenders & perhaps 2 experienced midfielders. We are sitting in a great position and need to push on.

    MOT