Two of the worst defences ever seen in professional football faced off in a battle to claim the ‘honour’ of the most abject defensive display in living memory.

In stark contrast to the bore draw last time Doncaster and Leeds met, this game had seven goals, and it could (and probably should) have been much more.

Leeds dominated pretty much the entire match and the final scoreline of 5-2 was no less than they deserved. However, in the style that has become so typical of Leeds United this season, they insisted on doing things the hard-way and despite countless chances in the first half, The Whites only managed to make one of them count.

The one that did count came from the in-form Max Gradel with an excellent strike from the edge of the box. Twelve minutes gone, and with the chances that followed, this should have been over by half-time.

However, as the first half drew to a close, Billy Sharp – who had been no more than a spectator for much of the opening 45 – managed to get two strikes away at Kasper Schmeichel without any real interference from the Leeds United defence. 1-1 in a game where Donny had seen little of the ball and had no real attacking opportunities to speak of.

Leeds started the brighter again in the second half with Robert Snodgrass striking an early chance wide of the post. But Donny had taken encouragement from their unlikely first-half equaliser and when Franck Moussa found himself clear in the Leeds United penalty area, he had no problems beating a furious Kasper Schmeichel. This was starting to feel like de ja vu of the 3-3 v Norwich City.

But as the Doncaster Rovers fans celebrated, Leeds responded straight from the restart with an excellent solo effort from captain, Jonny Howson who managed to make his way into a striking position thanks in small part to the absence of any real defending from Donny. 2-2.

In an almost totally one-sided game, Leeds had somehow managed to be drawing 2-2 against a crocked Doncaster Rovers side that had a defence made of playdough. However poor their defence may have been though, Leeds’ wasn’t much better and Donny sensed an opportunity to steal some points from a tie that should have already been done and dusted.

The game opened up and both sides had their chances. Kasper Schmeichel was called upon to make a couple of quality saves for The Whites as Donny rolled the dice and joined Leeds in a game of all-or-nothing.

But Leeds redeemed themselves with quarter of an hour to go when Robert Snodgrass’ cross fell kindly for Luciano Becchio who had been very unconvincing for the majority of the game, but couldn’t fail to put Leeds in front from close range.

3-2 and things still didn’t feel comfortable. For once though, and however late it may have been, Leeds thankfully managed to kill the game off by opening up a two goal cushion. Billy Paynter’s shot deflected into the path of Max Gradel who bagged his second of the game to spread a sigh of relief around Elland Road.

There was still time for Leeds to rub salt into the wounds of Donny’s fragile defence too as Jonny Howson added his second and Leeds United’s fifth in injury time.

Sulking on in victory…

Regardless of the result, once again we were subjected to some very uncomfortable viewing at Elland Road by gifting the opposition chances with our total lack of defensive ability.

Luckily, in Donny Rovers, we may have found the only team in the division that has a more pathetic defence than that of our own and ultimately our attacking quality was the only difference – especially in the second half when Donny sensed a chance to capitalise on our failure to convert the several trillion chances that said ‘attacking quality’ had squandered.

It’s a truly bizarre game to summarise because the result suggests an absolute hammering and the amount of possession and chances would testify to that. But this wasn’t as one-sided as it really ought to have been. Instead, what we had was Leeds United’s Strengths versus Leeds United’s Weaknesses displayed beautifully over the course of 90 minutes.

Donny were no more a part of this game than the irritating stewards who like to think Leeds United AFC simply couldn’t function without their jobsworth antics. It was basically a display of Leeds United furiously trying to get the better of their inner Demon – the guy who distracts the men in white whenever the opposition have the ball in a dangerous position. “Look Neil, he’s got a skateboard…” screamed a giddy Bradley Johnson.

Ultimately, we won the battle against our inner Demon and got the result we so desperately needed. But the victory can’t be used to defend the same issues we’ve had all season.

Next up is bottom of the table Preston, who know better than most how Leeds like to hit the self-destruct button. They’ll take a lot of encouragement from the horror show that our last meeting became and the worrying thing is, that we’ve not adapted or learnt anything since that 4-6 humiliation. I still can’t escape this nagging voice telling me the next embarrassment isn’t too far away.

The problem is, that Simon Grayson has stubbornly defended his tactics and approach all week in the press and today’s victory is only going to reaffirm that stance. I fear there’s more chance of me unlocking the key to perpetual motion than there is of Leeds’ defensive issues being resolved in time for the play-offs (should we make them that is).

Picture courtesy of MAMF. View more here.

  • Mike

    Great post TSS and a title to match, gotta read it in more detail when I am not drinking :-)

  • sveifors

    Tuesday game is evening kick off, where we have had only 2 draws and the rest losses.

    Spot on, article by the way. I fear the result cover our bad defence and things stay the same.

  • henryv

    Great post TSS.
    It was a welcome victory, but we still needed to score 3 goals to win so nothing has changed.
    It was a good day all round with the other results going in our favour!!
    Onward and upward!

  • gav

    since we beat our yorkshire ‘rivals’ at home 5-2, when will the t-shirts et al be available?

  • number1inyorkshire

    we should have been out of sight by half time more than a handful of missed chances were squandered ,gradel ,becchio and snodders all should have done better with chances .
    Then from out of nowhere Kasper kicks it out too quick and billy sharp bags a goal 1-1 , at that point i was thinking here we go again will those missed chances haunt us again .
    well they did nothing to help my nerves when early doors 2nd half a well taken goal puts em in front .killkenny did plenty of finger pointing????.
    Kasper redeemed himself with a great save from sharp and howson restored parity .
    how after that gradel didn’t go on to score a hatrick is beyond me although 1 great save from Donny keeper was it gonna be another game where our dominance only got us a draw .
    5 goals didn’t flatter us but we again conceded 2 at what could have been vital times ,we were lucky they were rubbish with a worse back 4 than ours .
    122 goals have gone in 1 end or the other in leeds games now this season if we could concede fewer goals we would be on our way up without the playoffs .

    Great entertainment but need to take a beater blocker just before kick off nowadays, but a good result 10-10 for entertainment .

  • Gryff

    Sometimes teams will defend stubbornly. To beat these teams is an art – completely different to say pacey wide forwards on counter attacks. Arsenal’s continued failure to win anything is an example of this since they try to pass the ball into the back of the net even against a 10-man defence. In fact Cesc Fabregas’ remarks on Ipswich’s goal not coming from ‘proper football’ because it was a long ball is pretty telling!

    When things go wrong we know whose heads go down. Howson has shown once again that he’s invaluable since he’s possibly the only player in the team who can inspire the game to change completely. His screamers come once in a blue moon – invariably at the most important moments.

  • tim campbell

    We won yes, but again we see larrys favorites selected, interesting to see ‘hard as nails’ richard back on the bench – as dr smith used to say in ‘Lost in Space’….’The pain – O the pain!’ lol

  • Ron

    Another 5hitshow, but at least all our rivals dropped their bundles to keep us in the hunt.

  • EYLEEDS

    I’ve decided that our best defender is Becchio. Yesterday he was getting treatment on the sidelines for a cut head and then sprinted to get back into position to defend a corner and won a clearing header. The guy is our best defender at set pieces – perhaps Grayson should try him at centre back!!
    Joking of course but if a striker’s defending abilities stand out so much that must say something about the players around him.

  • Andy Flynn

    What is wrong with you lot!!! You can’t please some people. Just chill out and enjoy it.

    We are 6th in the table and probably have the best front 6 in the league. Yes we need a new defence, but if someone said you can support a team that are crap at the back, but are always likely to score more than their opponents or you can support a team that are solid at the back, but grind out wins, I’d take option one every time.

    I thought we were quality yesterday – could have been 8 or 9 goals to the good. 5-2 was not flattering at all.

    Max Gradel. What a performance again!!

    • TSS

      The problem is Andy, that we don’t always out-score the opposition.

      The last three games were seven points dropped because the attack simply couldn’t compensate for the defence. Yet SG stubbornly stuck by his tactics and refused to yield and adapt. It’s been the same all season, and the fact we’ve made no progress whatsoever since the 6-4 horrow show v Preston and 5-2 battering v Barnsley is a concern we shouldn’t be faced with heading into the business end of the season.

      • ANDY GREEN

        great match and result ,despite being poor when we dont have the ball . all these Grayson knockers do my head in though ! we are sixth in the league with a squad that cost very little.fans still keep saying SG as taken us as far as he can go.what rubbish !!! he has shown already against the likes of Spurs , Arsenal & Man utd his tactical nous. no doubt some fans will be calling for the axe in the summer and want some manager who as been on the managerial merry go round or some unrealistic international manager. be gratefull that we have one of the best young managers in the current game and there are plenty of other clubs out there that would jump at the chance of having him. SG WILL TAKE US TO THE PROMISED LAND !

        • TSS

          I don’t think anyone will be taking it quite that far. I have no doubts in my mind that Grayson will get us promoted eventually, but fear his stubbornness and failure to plug the defensive leak may mean it’s a season later than it could/should have been.

          Leeds United are not a team that should be in the Championship in the first place. Getting promotion always has and always will be the ultimate goal, and that’s what SG will be judged upon. As things stand, we’ve made things a lot harder on ourselves than was perhaps necessary. Just like he takes the praise when things are going well, he must also accept the blame when things go wrong – especially when he’s the only one that could have changed the style of play we’ve adapted and players that are on the pitch.

          Joys of being a manager I suppose.

          • Gryff

            He hasn’t helped his own cause, here, either.

            He’s proven himself (and his team) so capable that they give Liverpool & Spurs a run for their money, they can beat Man Utd, and almost do the same against Arsenal.

            When he’s proven that the players are that good, it can be hard to comprehend a 6-4 or 5-2 defeat to bottom-feeders!

  • Matt BB

    this is doing my nervous health no good, have to say i was gobsmacked when i saw the lineup appear on my mobile phone – Kilkenny!! McCartney!! and again throwing a lead away, but thank the lord for our forwards.

    Still think we need to rethink how we organise our midfield, and would love to see Clayton given a chance, or even a place on the bench.

  • henryv

    I agree with you Andy that it was excellent.
    The problem is the pressure on our forwards to score 3 or 4 goals every game.
    How long can we keep it up?
    Our rivals can have an off day and win 1-0.
    This is not possible for us, even against the weak teams.
    At Swansea our attackers were not in the mood, and we crumbled.
    It has been a great season but, if we let it slip now, due to ignoring the obvious (We need top players NOW as our defense is crap) we will fade away.
    it may be years (remember the 1st Div’?) before we get as good an opportunity.
    Our only aim is promotion firs,t before entertainment.

  • Andy Flynn

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t strengthen the defence or get some cover in for Johnson, but what’s annoying me is people questioning our strategy and tactics.

    With 11 games to go we shouldn’t change the way we play – the system and players we have got are I’m 6th place on merit – the recent draws have been down to stupid mistakes

    We haven’t got the players to do it any other way and should stick to what we are good at.

    You can’t cite the Swansea game because that proves my point. We tried a more rigid 4-4-2 – it just doesn’t suit out squad. We are no more solid at the back and don’t look as good going forward so it doesn’t strengthen our weaknesses and it weakens our strengths!

    We need Johnson and Kilkenny in the team to give Snodgrass, Gradel, Howson the freedom to get the goals.

    4-2-3-1 attacking football is the way to go.

    I’m totally on board with people that are frustrated with the lack of midfield cover – johnson’s suspension last we cost us dearly. I also sympathise with Somma, but we can’t accommodate individuals – it’s about picking the 11 best players and strategy to beat the opposition and Larry got it spot on yesterday – we should have scored more.

    • number1inyorkshire

      Simon grayson has consistently said “we have a big enough squad and quality to cover if we need “that’s clearly not true as he plays the same 11 every week when some need a rest .
      Aside from last week when he had no like for like cover when Johnson was missing .

      it is true that we have a big squad but we don’t have the same quality or near in replacements should things go wrong ,injuries ,suspensions etc ,we have had all season to know this and now at the 11th hour he is trying to bring in loans.

      fair play it was a good win yesterday .But in the last 4 games we have had to score 10 goals and concede 10 to get a win that 5 yesterday should have increased our g/d by a good margin instead we are on 10+.

      we all like the goals scored what we don’t like is the ones conceded our strikers must be giving defenders some stick .

  • Irving08

    It looks like a fiendish SG/KB strategy to keep Snoddy, Howson and Max at Leeds for one more year, at least. Where else would they get the adrenalin rush of so many goals and non-stop attacking, the glory feeling, the idolising fans ? We get to keep them for another season; splash out to strengthen the defensive capability in the summer; Aidy White (potentially the best player on our books bar only Snoddy) steps up to the plate and, hey, we walk away with next season’s championhsip, scoring a ton and conceding no more than one a game. Simple. Looking forward to the Reading game.

  • Andrew

    I think we have a generous schedule the rest of the way – 4 bottom third teams, 4 mid-table teams, 1 top third team in the next 9 games, then Burnley (h) and QPR (a) to finish the year.

    12 points in March has to be the goal though.

  • Dje

    Positives:
    Great three points.

    Great points dropped by those above and below us.

    Negatives:
    Should have had the game sown up at half time and been able to rest Becchio, Snodgrass, Gradel for Tuesday night. It would have been a good opportunity for Paynter, McCormack and Watt/Somma get good match time. Alternatively you might have used it as a luxury to bring on Bruce and test him as a defensive midfielder, or given Naylor longer to prove his fitness/ worth.

    We now have the worst defensive home record in the ENTIRE division; a shame as our remaining home games are our only chance of being in the playoffs, or better.

    Conclusion:
    Eleven games left to work out how to defend / offer our defense some cover from midfield. Without it I can’t see us getting anywhere in the playoffs as we wont score three+ consistently past Cardiff/ Forest/ Swansea/or Norwich ~ and on top of that our history in playoffs is woeful. Second place or bust, IMHO.

  • Colin

    How on earth we still have a chance of auto promotion is beyond me.

    But we’re still in it. I think a lot of our finishing position will go down to how the other teams perform.

    The opposition just can’t seem to nail the poorer teams (apart from QPR). We seem to be slightly better against the poorer teams with our ‘we’ll score more than you’ philosophy. But we’re very poor against similar top 6 opposition.

    We’re still in it. Somehow!

  • Colin

    Re: knocking Grayson –

    I’ve given Grayson some stick in the past, but only for his mistakes.

    And I think that’s okay, because if we can give Howson or Johnson or any other player some stick, we can give it to Grayson too.

    But, it doesn’t mean that we don’t like Grayson or Howson.

    The big positive for Grayson, is that he is SG & he will make mistakes and learn (hopefully) from them.

    Let’s say QPR, Cardiff, Forest got promoted. Would you give them a chance of staying up with Warnock, Dave Jones or Billy Davies? I wouldn’t.

    If Leeds got promoted and we had any of those managers in charge, I would say we’re screwed. We’d get relegated.

    But with Grayson in charge, I think we would survive and I’d take SG any day over those 3 losers.

    SG is like the Leeds team – fallible but ultimately 100% committed and they’re a team.

    If Warnock, Jones, Davies got even half a sniff of a gig at a slightly better (and better £££) PL team, they’d be off. If Grayson got an offer from that PL team, he’d think about it for all of 30 seconds and say No Thanks.

    And to be fair to Bates, it wouldn’t even get to Grayson. Bates would tell the PL team to F’ off and put the phone down on them.

    • Dje

      I have to disagree, Colin. [Which is rare]

      I think if we got promoted then we’d be absolutely murdered in the Premiership. We can’t defend at this level so what hope would there be at the level above?

      Sure, we’d bring in new players, but we have a suspect transfer policy currently – especially in defense – so what is to say it would change and we were suddenly able to defend? Maybe next time we get it right? Well, pick random players and you will eventually get lucky.

      We continue to play the same way of letting in two and needing to score three, and for some reason we are told this is desirably so by an unrepentant Grayson. You would have thought letting in none and scoring three would be more desirable and more ambitious, and something to work towards, but hey-ho. Of which, I imagine Warnock and his QPR, Rodgers and his Swindon, and to some extent Davies and his Forest are very proud of being able to boast continual successful clean sheets and still winning handsomely in most games.

      For two years I’ve constantly been told that Grayson is a young manager and is learning from his mistakes. Do we have to wait a third year before such questions as to whether he has actually learnt enough begin to be asked?

      Don’t get me wrong, of course we are doing well at the moment, ‘exceeding expectations’, and Grayson has taken us far, but we must not lose sight of our ambitions because of it. It has been, yet again, a roller-coaster, topsy-turvy season, which suggests we are as dynamic as we are ludicrously self-destructive. I’d prefer stability and a progression of steady, good performances that suggest that we are learning and building upon our errors rather than winning one week and all ‘Marching On Together’, and getting annihilated the next week and being all doom-and-gloom. For this it is better to question where we are and where we are going in the medium term rather than to stick our head in the sand to get us past the latest short-term mishap.

      Finally, one of the few things Grayson has going for him is that he is untested in the Premier League. But that can as much be a reason for concern as an accolade. Still, in Grayson we trust, and I’d bite anyone’s hand off – and possibly my own – to have a Grayson/Leeds season in the Premiership next year, even if we came back down.

      • Colin

        DJE – “Davies and his Forest are very proud of being able to boast continual successful clean sheets and still winning handsomely in most games.”

        Forest 0 Hull 1

        Will Leeds get murdered in the PL?
        Let’s find out next season!!
        :)

    • Gryff

      I agree. I give the team stick frequently but that’s because they’re shocking in the areas I give them stick on.

      In terms of Grayson’s managerial abilities, I’d probably put our recent managers like so:

      Poyet > Gray > Grayson > Reid > Wise > My great-auntie > Venables > Blackwell

      • Colin

        Gryff – I can’t remember you’re great auntie. Was her full name David O’Leary?

        • Colin

          i should have said is rather than was. i hope it is is.

          • Gryff

            How embarrassing is that? I forgot about O’Leary!

            He’s probably on a par with my great auntie, because he built a good team (though with bags of cash) but then virtually assassinated us with his book…

      • Dje

        I’m surprised that Grey figures so highly, Gryff. Whilst admittedly he was left a completely screwed-up mission impossible with the Leeds squad at that time, but he always struck me as a bit out of his depth and powerless to influence a match once his players had had their pep talk and gone out on to the pitch.

        I’d have loved to have seen Poyet stay for a longer influence – especially once Wise had f***** off to Newcastle. One of those, ‘what if’s’.

        • Gryff

          I agree with you on Grey. That said, over half of our players didn’t want to be at the club, and there was a deep rot which I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere in the world since.

          Going back to the 80’s, which is a pretty different era of football, he took young players at newly demoted Leeds, gave the squad stability and slowly built a promotion team. The team improved steadily until after three years they missed out by the skin of their teeth on promotion.

          He had a mammoth task at Leeds, and I was impressed by how he handled himself. Walking purposefuly into Elland Road on his first day in a smart but not posey suit, giving an air of authority, and bringing Viduka back into the fold. Just think what dross Reid had brought in with our tiny transfer budget – that’s what Gray had to work with. It’s not easy to affect the play of a match from the touchline when 4-5 players in your squad don’t even understand English!

  • Colin

    And I did say after the last match, that if we stood any chance of getting back into getting promoted, we needed something special from Howson. And he didn’t disappoint.

    Just watched the LUTV highlights and he looked like the man of the match to me.

    His first goal to make it 2-2, he beat 2 midfielders then moved between 2 defenders and smacked it in.

    He was on fire. And he was vintage angry Howson. The Leeds players were playing well, but Jonny just did his stuff and stepped up to the plate and delivered.

    There’s times when Howson just becomes unplayable and hulk-like, and he did it and we need some more of that. He was celebrating with the scorer after each goal, talking to players and making great passes and tackles.

    He is so underrated. We really have to keep this guy. He’s very good already and he really could be very very fantastic.

    For me, probably the most key player in Leeds’ possibilities of getting promoted.

    And a big shout out to Gradel, who just looks like a man possessed.

    • Gryff

      Is Road Wallace coming back from beyond the grave, or is he just having a lot of outer-body experiences, dreaming that he’s a tiny Ivorian? :D

      • Gryff

        *For Road read Rod

        lol

  • AcresLeeds

    TSS: Great article and especially the opening line – I couldn’t help but laugh although,the serious side of the obvious defensive frailties are no real laughing matter especially as this nonsensical kamikaze defending has been going on since the second half of last season.

    Two hopeful lofted balls over and we can’t cope and goals result.

    No way was Grayson ever a defender unless of course he’s now suffering from permanent amnesia.

  • DAVE

    The one thing I think Leeds have in their favour is last years promotion, they have tasted success and the pressure of last years promotion and learnt from it, I think that experience will be invaluable in the next month or so.
    MOT.

  • Colin

    We’ve got PL players already:

    Kasper Schmeichel
    Jonathan Howson
    Max-Alain Gradel
    Robert Snodgrass
    Lucchiano Becchio
    Davide Somma
    Bradley Johnson

    and I’d expect something from Adam Clayton next season also.

    I’m expecting some stick for this, so go ahead!!

    • Colin

      and if we were promoted and could experiment in the loan/transfer market next season, then we could get:

      Michael Johnson
      Jermaine Beckford
      Alan Smith
      Fabian Delph
      Jonathan Woodgate
      Lee Bowyer

      Woodgate/Kisnorbo in central defence
      Beckford/Somma/Becchio up-front
      Smith/B Johnson/M Johnson/Bowyer in midfield
      Gradel/Howson/Snodgrass/Delph in attacking midfield

      etc. etc. lots of options there.

      Then you just need a LB & RB. We’ve already got the manager in SG and the chairman in KB.

      It could happen. And that’s a Europa league qualification team right there.

    • Dje

      I wouldn’t argue with any of them being able to handle the Premiership. But considering Johnson will presumably be gone. We essentially have a keeper, two wingers, and attacking midfielder and some strikers. So no defenders and no central midfield, or: half the team.

      The other worry, as you have pointed out before, is how few of the above are on contracts beyond the 2011-12 season. That’s an extra pressure/headache to need to get promoted in order to keep the only quality in our squad.

      Like Nunez, I couldn’t comment about Clayton – which tells its own tale.

  • captaincrash

    Actually thought yesterday we looked really, really good in large parts going forward. All zippy and one touch stuff – impressive. Howson and Mad Max superb.

    Enjoyed watching the Liverpool game on the telly today too!

  • Jonathan Oldroyd

    This is the reason I like this site so much – great commentaries. So glad to see Venables so far down the list and what was his worst move as a manager?…. removing Dacourt from the starting side. What has changed. Managers and fans do not respect hard tacklers.

    He who gives the ball away bloody well gets it back! The number one commandment.
    The reason guys like Becchio are worth their weight in gold is that goals are scored by the counter attack and it is hard forechecking which forces the ball free and allows the skillfull counter attack to pierce the opponent’s defence.

    And why is it that some fans believe that we are being too hard on our team. Life is about getting better, challenging ourselves to improve. It isn’t that we haven’t done well, it is about being better. Competition is with ourselves. It isn’t about the others. Concentrate on ourselves and we will win promotion.

  • Matt BB

    apparently its both on twitter and facebook that Barry Bannan will be joining us today for a months loan.

    • Dje

      Slovakian trialist Dezco Gerenscles on our reserves sub bench this afternoon too.

      Never heard of him, and according to Google he doesn’t exist.

      Maybe they got dyslexically tongue-tied and meant Aston Villa’s striker Delfouneso instead?!

  • Matt BB

    another attacking midfielder! one wonders.

  • henryv

    Barry Bannan just signed until the end of the season!!
    At last!
    I have never seen him play!

    • Dje

      Excellent. I presume he is defensive midfielder?

      He’s played about 20 games this season already – so he should be match fit and ready to go.

      Got to be more use to us than Kilkenny, surely?!