The mounting pressure on Leeds United’s defence was relieved a little following the first clean sheet of the season at home to Portsmouth.

Leeds enjoyed the best of the early exchanges with Ross McCormack unfortunate not to net 7 in 7 after Robert Snodgrass’ run gifted him a great opportunity inside the 16 yard box that was deflected clear by a Pompey defender.

The only goal in this encounter came inside the first 15 minutes from Danny Pugh who powered home an excellent headed goal from Robert Snodgrass’ corner.

Robert Snodgrass was Leeds’ brightest spark throughout the course of the fixture, and seemed to be key to almost every Whites attack. After some criticism from fans who felt he’d looked a little disinterested and some way off his best in recent fixtures, this was the kind of game changing performance that Snoddy built his reputation on.

The return of Paul Connolly in a reshuffled Leeds United back line was no doubt key to Robert Snodgrass’ return to form. It was a right-sided setup that worked superbly in an attacking sense last season, but one which also worked well defensively with one holding back to cover runs forward by the other.

This understanding the two seem to share may go some way to explaining Leeds’ first clean sheet. A lot of the criticism Leeds United have taken has been aimed at the cover – or lack thereof – provided by the midfield as much as the defence itself.

With a more defensively capable midfielder (Danny Pugh) helping out young attack-minded Aidy White on the left, and the excellent partnership of Connolly and Snodgrass on the right, the team looks a lot more balanced – if a little less creative – than it previously did.

Tom Lees was switched to a centre back position where he didn’t disappoint anybody, and with the centre midfield partnership of Adam Clayton and Jonny Howson offering support to the centre of our defence we also look more balanced here too.

This is what I’ve been failing to get across over the last few weeks; that the defence isn’t nearly as bad as some claim, but that we were just working out the little kinks and suffering from a few lapses in concentration. We’ve also been prone to game-changing red cards that have cost us dearly.

We’re not entirely there yet, Leeds United’s defence is still a work in progress and there will be further set-backs before clean sheets become a regular feature of these match reports, but this was the kind of morale boosting display our confidence-lacking defenders (and fans) needed.

And it wasn’t just the clean sheet that gave us all reason to be positive. After a worrying run of red cards, Leeds United finished the game without a single yellow for only the second time this season – the first being our 3-2 League Cup victory over Bradford City.

The lack of depth doesn’t concern me quite so much any more either. The signing of utility man Danny Pugh was a great move from Grayson, whilst Forssell and Vayrynen will offer us suitable cover this season based on the limited evidence I’ve seen so far. The fact Ramon Nunez has almost been forgotten about already and Luciano Becchio isn’t being rushed back into the team following injury says it all really.

You don’t need me to tell you that 10 points from the last 12 is an excellent return. The team is starting to look a lot more balanced, the long awaited clean sheet has arrived, Snoddy is back on form and our lack of depth doesn’t seem that much of an issue any more. What were we all complaining about again? On and on…

  • Camaac

    Any comments on the Sun reporting that Bradley Johnson had been in the provisional England squad for the Montenegro game and is likely to be included in the squad for the France friendly in November?

    • TSS

      Not massively surprised. He improved a lot last season, started to make much better decisions than he had previously when he was firing 10 shots a game onto the Leeds ring road. Doubt he’ll ever be a permanent fixture, but you have to give these players a chance as they sometimes improve alongside better players. 

      • mattbb 1

        I couldnt quite believe that, johnson getting into the england squad says more about the general lack of quality english midfielders after years of relying on french and spanish ones, than it does about how brilliant bradley johnson is. I’m not being bitter, but he is a terrible passer of the ball, shoots on sight, and while he is a powerful player he has little technical know how. I’d rate Howson as better and Clayton, and would question why they arent on the fringes of the England team. Capello is a first rate idiot, and wont consider players outside the premiership.

        • LeedsForLife

          And thank god for that. Do we want our lads being dragged away to ponce around with the overpaid poseurs in the England squad and hearing all the bragging about how much they get paid and laid, stirring up interest from the greedy predators in the Premiership, and getting extra injuries?

          Sod the internationals. The only games that matter a damn are those played by Leeds Utd.

          As for Johnson, good luck to him. But we know he wasn’t worth a big payrise, he’s not a player of any great quality, and losing him is worth at least half a dozen extra goals a season because he kept on blasting the ball out of play when we had possession in good attacking situations. A lot of running around and the goal against Arsenal do not make him a good player. Yes, his inclusion says a lot about the standard of English midfielders in the Premiership.

          • Alcol1

            just heard they are leaving  the kop for members only , so old graybeard can trace the BATES OUT brigade…..
            you have been warned

          • Anonymous

            Adam Clayton is the best, central English midfielder in the country at the moment….just don’t tell anyone !

          • LeedsForLife

            And if SG hadn’t let Johnson walk, we wouldn’t be seeing Clayton show his quality. Good decision.

        • Leedstheway

          Johnson was everything that was bad about Leeds that kept us in the 3 rd division for 3 seasons in the first place. He had no football brain, liked passing to opposition shirts and cost us countless goals against with stupid mistakes. Lambert has made a huge error signing him. Our ‘great’ Prem league is full of garbage like him near the bottom.

          Now look at his replacement…Clayton, who should Lambert have gone for? A true footballer, Clayton is in a different class, that’s why we let him go Shakamoto; Johnson got better every year because he started as a pub player and now is 3/4th division quality, other than that great write up TSS, mostly agree.

      • Shakamoto International

        Johnson is underrated (see below). As you say TSS, he got better every season. In addition he’s tough in the tackles, a great header of the ball and ball winner in the middle of the park, had a shot on him and rarely got injured. A lot of fans forget that, because he did the ugly stuff.

        He could play left back, left mid, central mid – just like Pugh apart from not costing £500,000 and almost certainly could have been signed on less than Pugh’s current wages. And he still had time to develop and showed signs of improvement. We should have kept him. Grayson knows it. And that’s why he’s signed a like for like replacement in Pugh, or to put it another way, a poor man’s Jason Puncheon.

        Lambert made an absolute cracker of a signing when he got Bradley Johnson on a free. Another one that got away.

        • mattbb 1

          a like for like replacement in pugh? i think youre flattering bradders. Pugh’s a disciplined professional, who tends to ensure the ball is likely to end up between the posts when either heading or shooting it. Pugh isnt a tough tackling central midfielder, more of a utility left wing / left back type player, johnsons specialist position was headless chicken.

          • Shakamoto International

            I don’t think I’m flattering Bradders vs Pugh.

            One of them’s a Premier League player. The other’s Danny Pugh.

          • Matthew

            Danny Pugh is a premier league quality player, and has proven it in the past before he came here, during his stay here years back and by his performances at other clubs, he’s just had an unlucky patch in his career, which is lucky for us as he came back.

            I would take Danny Pugh over BJ anyday of the week, as he IS a loyal player, and will play for the kind of wages we offer. Unlike a certain other guy who thought too highly of himself to sign a new contract.

            I don’t think I’m wrong in my opinion of some of the squad players, back when most people were saying get rid of McCormack, I was like keep him, he’l come good for us, and he did.

          • Mattbb 1

            so by that reckoning craig bellamy wasny as good a player as michael owen last season?… because he played in the championship and owen in the EPL? really? or indeed shola ameobi, theres plenty of sh1te in the PL teams so give it up Shakamoto-san.  I wish Johnson well at Norwich but dont give a hoot that he left, i’ve missed kilkenny more. We need disciplined committed players, who dont score by accident. We’ve got better players now in midfield, albeit our defence remains suspect despite saturdays clean sheet, and we need to chop out a few of the `surplus’ members of the squad and replace them with some fresh faces.

  • Anonymous

    Great result. Great clean sheet, and the fact we had to defend the best part of the second half is a major boost for defensive morale that they can pass that kind of test. 

    I am however still worried more than you are TSS about our lack of depth as now we have finally got it fixed we remain vulnerable in key positions: such as Snodgrass on the right, Connolly at right-back (Bromby and Snodgrass never really worked) and if Lees or O’Dea got injured will Kisnorbo be able to step up and fill their boots? Pugh is a great utility option, true, but with Sam out and White not quite the real left-wing deal, there’s an attacking dearth still left by Gradel. Time will also tell if Vavayananana is anywhere near as good as Clayton currently is (not the biggest slur). But … one step at a time and as long as we keep winning and all that, and fingers crossed that said injuries or suspensions are kept at bay. MOT

    • TSS

      I’m not saying depth doesn’t concern me at all – just not as much. Think people have been harsh on Paddy, he was still putting in the kind of tackles we all loved him for when he came back, but the team around him left him a lot more exposed.  

      8 games in 23 days following the international break will put our depth to the test. Some extremely tough fixtures in that list too.

      • Matthew

        Now I think if anything Grayson needs to pick a back 4 and keep that same back 4 and give them the chance to gel together, swapping and changing players does nothing for the teams defensive failings, we need 4 guys that are playing with one another week in and week out that know each others strengths and weaknesses and can work well as a unit alongside the goalkeeper.

    • Anonymous

      depth, according to lazza we are full no room at the inn some will have to go before anyone can come in i think he was hoping certainly paynter and at least 1 other were going

  • Mattk

    Assuming we don’t completely screw the pooch against a slightly resurgent Donny I think we’re looking pretty reasonable at the moment. We’ve played most of the ‘top’ teams, and generally done OK, barring the Saints game.

    The teams in the top 4 haven’t really been tested against many of their fellow front runners yet  (eg saints have not picked up any points against anyone higher than 9th- 2 losses; Boro, Derby and West Ham have not played a single game vs other top 6 teams yet either etc etc) so I think there’s room for those guys to have a rough patch when they finally start having to face the better teams and take points off each other. I reckon Derby especially may have been found out a bit last weekend.

    On the other hand, looking at the form of the likes of Blackpool and Leicester (and even Ipswich and Cardiff, he says thru gritted teeth), those guys seem to be able to party with the best of them and I’ve a feeling they may be up there when the music stops (apologies for drifting into a random metaphor…)

    Let’s hope that we’re still in a positive mood once we’ve got the Brums, Leicesters and Cardiffs out the way over the next few weeks!

    MOT

    • LeedsForLife

      Screw the pooch???!!!

      I’d ask what that ugly and tasteless expression means or how the metaphor works, but I really don’t want to know.

      Wherever you got that one from, perhaps you could put it back and stay away from there in future.

      • Mattk

        Yeah figured that might get a response ha ha. Is an Americanism that somehow seemed to just fit the bill. Sorry if I upset your delicate sensibilities my good man

        • LeedsForLife

          Apology accepted. Yes, it quite put me off my supper, and the dog was looking uneasy all evening.

          Ah – Americanism – ugly and tasteless – yes, that figures.

          One of the worst things ever to happen to the world was when we let them win the War of Independence.

          • Mattk

            It’s definitely ugly but originates (I think) in the US test pilot fraternity, as told in the awesome book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Best book I read all last year. Read it and let sleeping dogs lie ;-)

          • LeedsForLife

            Tom Wolfe is to literature as Warhol was to art, as Captain Beefheart was to music, as Wise was to football, as Pakistan was to cricket, as Balls is to integrity – making names for themselves by not keeping to the rules, some because of too little competence, others because of too much.

            Tom Wolfe’s one of the latter, of course, and a very entertaining and insightful writer. Bonfire of the Vanities was one of those rare books that was as good a film. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test opened my teenage eyes in a big way.

            But I never sought to emulate his diction, and your example strongly validates my judgement, I feel!

            My dog can’t read, which is fortunate else she would never sleep easily again after your disturbing posting.

            As it happens, I know something of test pilots. British ones are highly trained, highly skilled, and rather weird. American ones are less so, less so and much more so, in my opinion (which is sometimes free of bias). I may read The Right Stuff.

            This is better than working, but it’s not really about football. Sorry.

  • LeedsForLife

    Great match report. Made me feel quite chirpy. No… very chirpy. Thank you.

    You know, if you go shouting about how good Clayton is some greedy undeservedly wealthy Premiership club will start taking an interest, his agent will destabilised him, and we’ll end up losing him as we did with Delph. Shh!

  • Bubionwhite

    Good result … well played CB’s and I hope you continue the partnership. Still like to see Vayrynen play alongside Adam Clayton in front of the defence … international midfielder able to play a defensive role sitting on the bench? 

  • Anonymous

    now you can check if you want and i am sure some will but that side that played so finely on Saturday and kept a clean sheet was the very same team that ,I say the very same team that i picked and named on a post some time between now and Pugh signing only difference was i had pugh at left back and white left mid ..
    this management is easy lol

    Connolly is better than lees at right back lees is better than most at centre half
    Connolly made the difference to snodders going forward and indeed it was all round a better effort not perfect but a clean sheet ,,round holes with round pegs in for a change now before we start moaning at me i am not picking on the gaffer but he does pick the team .

    Eddie gray seems to think that white will be a left back he should know but me i think he would be better further up the pitch and ultimately thats where he will go a replacement for gradel

  • irving08

    Quite an absorbing game on Saturday. Simon, in my view, playing his best X1 and in the right positions for his chosen formation. When Keogh came off, followed by McCormack I thought we looked both slower and more ponderous in thought upfront. The midfield Finn looked a useful sub. and someone we might play from the off should tactics (or injuries) demand a 4-5-1. Pace (or lack of) both upfront and in central defence remains a possible obstacle to us going all the way with this team; but on Saturday I thought we showed good promise. Please God, we do go up this year, for surely (and rightly) Snoddy will be off if we don’t: in the first 45 minutes he was simply brilliant, and worked his socks off. His interview on Ken’s radio tonight showed well the mettle of the man. 

  • Matthew

    Hate to be the negative one but I wasn’t best impressed by Saturday, although I’m happy we got a cleansheet, I’m more dissapointed because for one Portsmouth are a weaker team, and for two they had us on the backfoot at times, and three that we only put one goal past them. If were playing against someone like Leicester, or Derby with that performance I don’t expect us to win at all.

    We should of, in my opinion put more than 1 goal past portsmouth. Although I think we did good defensively the forwards let the team down by their lack of goals against a weaker Championship outfit.

    • Matthew

      By the way, just saw the news that Bristol City have sacked their manager, not the dream move Kilkenny was hoping for I imagine, I have to wonder if Kilkenny is thinking a couple of extra grand is worth losing every week to him, they if anything need a completely new team if they want to progress in this league and they need to get rid of David James who is past his prime imo.

      • Anonymous

        killkenny bless him thought he was going to prem when he left us ,reality is that Bristol were the only ones that came in for him 

        • Matthew

          Personally I think Kilkenny will be playing league 1 football next season with Bristol City, I think along with Millwall they are good relegation candidates.

          • Mattbb 1

            he must have known how poor bristol city were when he went there? or he really hadnt done his homework? integrity? I dont think so, a few more thousand ££ a week seemed to be the more important factor in joining them.. saying that if kilkenny had stuck around there would be no clayton, nunez, varynen getting a look at the first team. So good riddance in the end.

          • Matthew

            You got it in one, as with BJ the only thing stopping Kilkenny signing a new contract with us if anything was Kilkenny himself.

            I’m not sad to see either player go, players should want to play for the shirt, for the club, not because they’re on the money they want, or demand. Neither player has shown loyality to the club, although one(BJ) has moved up a league and i respect that, the other(Kilkenny) is a disloyal little man playing in the kind of football team and soon league(Next season league 1 anyone?) that suits his skill level.

            I think with Clayton emerging, Kilkenny would be benched more anyway, even if he did stay.

  • Gryff

    Couldn’t argue.

    Nunez looks like he could be very handy but not the way the team plays. When Snoddy dictates our attacking play (and Gradel used to) from the wings, Howson & Clayton seem better bets in the centre of the park compared to Nunez who’s v.good going forward but not back (like Snoddy, and Gradel used to be).

  • Ron Galea

    Well said TSS, but I’m not getting carried away. We will need to be winning these games 3 nil going forward if we are to represent a team capable of promotion. Letting teams back into matches at home is worrying and the 2nd half looked like a different match altogether. Thank you Andy Lonergan for another string of fine saves to keep us in front. Anyone else feel Howson’s contract negotiations are weighing on his form? With a busy schedule coming up, I’m hopeful SG will rotate and give Vayrynen and Nunez ample match time. All in all, a win and 3 points. Roll on Donny.

    • irving08

      Hmm rotation, beginning with Pompey at home, last year saw us lose momentum. The X1 that played on Saturday need as much playing together as possible in order properly to gel. Perhaps playing Keogh does put pressure on others to score the goals, but his link-up play and ability quickly to turn and go forward with the ball (which is the weak part of Becchio’s game) more than justifies his continuing selection in Simon’s first X1. Personally I thought Howson did OK on Saturday ( though he will never be as effective in a 4-4-2 as in a 4-5-1.). My only thought on Pompey is that, while they were not an especially weak side, their lack of elan shows the folly of recruiting players who ‘have been there and done it’ – Simon take note.

      • Matthew

        Personally I would be happy if we can be good in both halfs instead of crap in the 1st or 2nd half and throwing the game away, or having to start the 2nd half on the back foot due to a weak performance in the first.

        If this one issue is sorted and we can be good in both halfs for a change, we’l easily walk this league.

  • Mattbb 1

    one swallow does not a summer make, we relied heavily on lonergan to keep that clean sheet. We need to get the underperformers moved out & invest in fresh faces in defence particularly. For me the Brown experiment has not worked, nor has though I hate to say it Ben Parker, Alex Bruce, Billy Paynter, and if hes never going to play Lloyd Sam he needs to go too. THat gives us room to balance the squad with decent cover at right back, and at least one more experienced centre back. I thought we had excellemtn solidity on both wings, and portsmouths chief route of attach was long range, so was disappointed to see them not closed down faster by messrs howson and clayton, other than that, great result.