Robert Snodgrass’ second half goal put an end to Cardiff’s run of consecutive wins against Leeds United, but The Whites will feel unlucky to have finished with only a draw.

A closely matched first half saw the teams separated by some ghoulish Darren O’Dea defending, which gifted Joe Mason an easy opener. It looked as though O’Dea had been pushed off balance by the Cardiff youngster as he tried to take the ball around him, but the on-loan centre back had no complaints.

The real problem was O’Dea’s failure to do the elementary. First to the ball and under intense pressure from Mason, he should have hoofed it clear immediately. Instead, he tried to take control and paid dearly as a consequence.

That left Leeds United with an uphill battle to climb, in a half-empty Elland Road that was completely void of atmosphere against a side we hadn’t beaten for 27 years. The Whites seemed intent on bypassing the midfield – our biggest asset – completely, instead opting to hoof the ball clear for Ross McCormack and Andy Keogh to chase. Paul Rachubka was the biggest culprit of our hoofing, but on the rare occasion he did play it short, the defenders seemed to be following a similar game plan.

Fortunately, the second half saw everything change. Leeds passed the ball around better and with the midfield no longer bypassed, started dominating proceedings with Cardiff barely getting a touch of the ball. Unsurprisingly, this approach saw Leeds create more chances, which in turn, gave Leeds fans something to cheer about and the atmosphere a desperately needed lift.

As the atmosphere intensified so too did the pressure Leeds were putting on Cardiff City. David Marshall, undoubtedly Cardiff City’s man of the match, made several top class saves to deny Leeds a deserved equaliser.

But Marshall couldn’t keep Leeds at bay forever, and when the equaliser came it was no surprise to see Tom Lees – our man of the match for his work at both end of the pitch – involved with a header on to Robert Snodgrass, who turned the ball beyond Cardiff City’s impressive goalkeeper.

The second half was littered with good chances for Leeds to score more, but some excellent blocks from Cardiff City’s captain and goalkeeper kept the honours even. Leeds United will feel they deserved to win, but the heroics of a couple of City’s players earned the visitors a draw.

Ups and downs…

Failure to win means Leeds fans will undoubtedly be playing the blame game. Jonny Howson was no doubt anonymous, Robert Snodgrass will be getting criticised for a lack of first half creativity and Paul Rachubka will be the worst thing to happen to Leeds United since Tomas Brolin.

The truth is, the midfield was bypassed in the first half meaning it was hard for any of them to get into the game. When the ball was hit long and high to Snodgrass, he did well to pluck it out of the air multiple times, showing good control and forcing free-kicks, corners and throws – something he does every game when lacking support, but sometimes it doesn’t pan out and the rest it goes unnoticed.

Howson and Clayton meanwhile couldn’t help but spectate first half as Rachubka continued to hoof it long, cutting them out of the game almost entirely. Still, when they did get the ball they at least attempted to pass it around a bit and maintain possession – something that no one else seemed to be interested in.

As for the second half, Howson seemed to spend much of it playing deeper, offering an alternative to the hoof ball system they’d decided on and linking passes together as Leeds gained momentum. Whether it was a tactical change or simply a reaction to the first half madness, he appeared to be standing behind the attacking line as we applied pressure, picking up the loose balls as Cardiff cleared and keeping composure to distribute for another attacking move – basically what Neil Kilkenny used to do, but with a tackle or two thrown in for good measure.

Clayton meanwhile pushed on, trying to get his name on the score sheet and offered a real attacking threat to Leeds with his powerful shooting ability. He made a couple of careless challenges, but I’d rather him pick up the odd booking than let our opposition break too easily.

As I said above, Tom Lees was the clear man of the match. He seemed to be on the end of every free-kick and corner, heading on for Robert Snodgrass to snatch the equaliser. The young centre back was unlucky not to score himself too, but it was his defensive display that most impressed me, never really losing his man and responsible for almost every clearance we made under pressure. I was also impressed with the two full-backs attacking displays, particularly Aidy White who Cardiff couldn’t deal with when he broke forward at pace.

Whilst still not convincing dealing with high balls, Paul Rachubka is a good enough shot stopper and was unlucky not to get a clean sheet when you consider the circumstances of Cardiff City’s only goal. It’ll be a day worth celebrating when Andy Lonergan returns, but you can only put today’s error down to Darren O’Dea.

Finally, the forwards. There was little Ross McCormack or Andy Keogh could do with the service first half and it didn’t surprise anyone when Luciano Becchio was brought on early in the second for Keogh. However, the change was perhaps a little premature, as we were keeping the ball down in the second half and that would have suited the Keogh-McCormack partnership more than it did the Becchio-McCormack one. The hoofball football we played for the entire duration of the first half was where we needed Luci.

No complaints overall. Sloppy defending and a masterclass in shot stopping from Cardiff’s goalkeeper coupled with the last ditch blocks from their captain cost us the win, but we responded well to a poor first half showing and have to give credit to Cardiff for their resolve.  A draw against fellow play-off contenders is never a bad result.

  • normangunston

    How did Kisnorbo go? Any sign of his pace returning?

    • TSS

      Pretty solid actually, forgot to mention him above. Was a bit careless with a couple of tackles, but I’m sure the pre-injury Kis is fighting to get out.

    • Irving08

      His pace was not tested. All he had to deal with was fairly easy balls in the air. Pace, once gone, rarely, if ever, returns….sadly. Kis has a kind of totemic status for Leeds fans, but I cannot see him dispacing O’Dea who, with Lees, is beginniig to form the best defensive pairing we have enjoyed for some while.

  • Tyler75

    Fair report. First half I thought we looked very lacklustre, showing no urgency and passing it around in front of the Cardiff defence – the exception being Paul Connolly who consistently put quality balls in to the box and who is starting to look like a very decent player. On the second-half performance, which was everything the first-half wasn’t, its 2 points dropped as we completely dominated and should have put Cardiff away. However, as you say, full credit to for an outstanding goalkeeping display from Marshall. If we start as we left off against Blackpool on wednesday we should be back to winning ways. MOT

  • Henry

    I think it may be time for Lucciano to start a game. He looked more like his old self, and the Cardiff centre-backs were immediately on the back foot.
    They had used their physical power to subdue Andy & Ross, but that does not work with Lucciano!
    Tom Lees was tremendous.
    Apart from the goal, we looked strong at the back.
    Rachubka is a bit of a flapper, but he had a decent game overall.
    Paddy did well too!
    Cardiff were BIG!!
    They seem to be trying to play like Watford, and had little flare in there team.
    We must control games at home from the kick-off, or we will fail again this season.

    • Eli Ooomp

      Ali oop! Time to tootie the nongo! Luciano, Luciano-o-o thinks yoor a twonkie and a dildydo!

  • Jmo

    Couldn’t agree more myself.. Still not sure about keeper though. Reminds me of Ankergren.

  • PeterV

    Whilst not commenting on Howson the player, what Leeds have lacked for some years is a leader, someone who can cudgel and encourage in equal measure, someone who can dictate tactics on the pitch.

  • number1inyorkshire

    firstly the keeper is at best a second choice maybe a third with a team with more money ..

    Odea has been fantastic since he came he is due an error but that was kids stuff ,whats this about concussion ????

    as i said in previous post about this game the win would be fantastic the draw not so bad ..

    the 1st half was a bit long ball for me the second was better .Key for me getting the keeper back ..

  • Patrick

    ‘Lee’ Mason? It’s Joe!
    Thankfully we weren’t unlucky enough for a referee to score against us.

    • TSS

      Close enough lol – both three letters.

      Incidentally, I thought the referee today was solid. Played advantage, pulled play back when there wasn’t one to be had and he didn’t get card happy. Controlled what could have been a pretty feisty counter very well. Refreshing after some of the dismal refereeing displays we’ve seen in recent weeks.

      • Colin

        Completely agree on the ref. I know he’s had some problems in the prem, but you hardly noticed him (a good thing). You could tell the difference between him and the usual Champ standard.

  • oldschoolbaby

    Well we went from complete despair at the defensive shambles to the promised land of two clean sheets. The truth always had to lie in the middle.

    After the most inauspicious start, granted out of position, O`Dea has started to impress me. He`s certainly calm and does seem to project that calmenss. There is absolutely no way the quality of the SPL exceeds the quality of the Championship. I cannot fathom why he`s on loan so consistently and for such extended periods.

  • Colin

    For me, Leeds shot themselves in the foot again. Cardiff weren’t very good at all. O’Dea made an absolute mess of that goal. He’s good in the air and at hoof-ball (normally), but he’s got an awful touch. It was exactly the same when he messed up against Bristol City when his mistake resulted in Kisnorbo getting sent off.

    Grayson talked about O’Dea possibly having concussion. Rubbish. If you’ve got concussion, you go down on the ground and don’t get up until the doctor checks you out. The ref won’t complain about that. Grayson took him off because he made a howler. That was punishment.

    If Leeds keep playing like they are then playoffs are a distinct possibility, but if we want to do better then we either need a change in formation/tactics or a new player. Jonny Howson caused all sorts of problems when he was attacking, but as TSS says, he was deep in midfield most of the time and just sitting in front of the back 4. Complete waste of a good player.

    Midfields win or lose games. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is good for us. I’m thinking we should go with 1 up front and pass through midfield, with an attacking mid behind the front man – Howson, Clayton or Nunez.

    And by the way, Rachubka could have saved O’Dea’s skin. When Mason beat O’Dea, Lonergan would have been straight in at Mason’s feet and taken him out. It might have led to a penalty, but I reckon that ref would have not given a penalty. Rachubka just fell on the floor and did nothing. I’d be half tempted to give Alex Cairns a go in goal.

    • Eli Ooomp

      Don’t talk such a load of tottle trap!

      • Colin

        I’m always up for a debate. Please enlighten me with your wisdom…

        • oldschoolbaby

          I don`t think it can be emphasised enough that Howson is playing out of position, essentaially sacrificing himself for the team, and getting a lot of flak for doing a job which isn`t his forte. Unfortunate as the flak he gets will hold some degree of influence when it comes to contract negotiations. Whether you change formation to accommodate and promote his strengths is a debate for a long evening in the pub. I think Clayton is rather well suited to a 442

          • chareose

            Our leading goal scorer would be defunct if you went one up front…. We no longer have the goal scoring impact of max gradel so cant really justify going 5 midfeilders.
            The difference is the left side….. The midfeild we started the season with – Gradel – Howson – Clayton – Snodgrass, was for me the best in the division but we now need to replace Gradel if we are to have a chance at automatic promotion.

  • Colin

    And a mention for Cardiff’s horrendous kit, which looks especially bad compared to our White kit.

    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Football/Clubs/Club_Home/2011/10/30/1319989232533/Robert-Snodgrass-scores-t-005.jpg

    • TSS

      We’re in no position to comment on horrendous kits this season I’m afraid.

      • Colin

        Good point :(

  • halifax white

    good game which we totally dominated, fair play to cardiffs keeper he kept them in it. some good all round performances. anyway very disappointed with the crowd today, 20000! for a sunday afternoon game the fans are voting with thier feet, can bates not get it into his head gods ground is now too expensive for the mear mortal,can he not get it into his head make it cheaper get more on and increase revenue!! what do we know!! ahh well MOT!

  • Jammywhite

    Deserved more than a point against a team that came looking for one. Not enough play coming through the middle; most of the attacks were started out wide with Cons and Aidy, who both had good games. People say the ref had a good game, but no one has mentioned the shocker of a game one of the lino’s had. The guy on the east side stopped our play wrongly at least three times, Snoddy was in his own half for one, and the one at the end when Ross was clean through from Luc’s header was awful, he ran past a defender to get to the ball and was flagged. When will they start to employ officials who have actually been to Specsavers?!

  • Colin

    oldschoolbaby – it’s an interesting discussion – I think 4-4-2 is good, but my issue is this – even when we’re setup for 442, we seem to play in a way that doesn’t suit 442. Like Cardiff, as TSS said, too much long ball in the first half, and it recently seems to be the case that 2 of our best players – Clayton and Howson, just stand around watching, chipping in occasionally.

    It seems that we play long ball, we concede, and then we think, come on now let’s get at ‘em. I say we should get at ‘em from the start. If we can get Clayton and Howson to have more shots, then we’re on for goals. Clayton’s got a great right foot on him and Jonny’s 2 footed. Cardiff were all over the place when Clayton was smashing balls in – it was last ditch stuff from Cardiff. But to be fair, they were good at it.

    Finally, we don’t half miss Gradel – how we could do with him now. On the positive, Snodgrass is back on form and his corners are excellent.

    • Gryff

      I agree with your point in general. But I did notice the attacking play was working to a plan before Cardiff scored, and afterwards although we looked a better team the actuall attacking play looked bereft of ideas without an individual player using his individual skills to get past the opposition. From about 50mins on I thought we highlighted why we could be the best team in the league (with the attacking skills of Clayton, White, Howson, etc.) and why we’re still not reflecting that in the tables (absolutely no proper tactically aware buildup play between the team)

  • Colin

    One other point I wanted to raise – the teams in this league aren’t really err, very good are they?

    I was concerned about Leeds getting into the playoffs but there’s no a huge amount of competition out there.

    I’ve had a look at the rest of the games this year:

    Blackpool, Leicester, Burnley, Barnsley (twice), Forest, Millwall, Watford, Reading, Derby.

    Only one of those, Derby, is above us at the moment. To me, those games look quite good for Leeds. I’m not saying we’ll win them all, but we’d be disappointed if we lost any of them.

  • Irving08

    Good game played by two good teams. I wouldn’t be too harsh on O’Dea; the nudge put him out of his stride. As I see it, the single biggest factor in preventing us from becomeinga domainant force is the absence of a strong creative force in midfield, someone like Hoolihan of Norwich from last season or Lallana of Southampton this. Clayton and Howson are both good players, but neither will ever destroy teams, or set everyone else alight. Snoddy is, of course, a cut above, and was yesterday again, but he needs an accomplice. In the absence of the type of player I have in mind on our books, or the likelihood of one now coming available, or if he does that our scouts would spot him, all I can think of is promoting White to left midfield and playing Pugh at left back, which I know could be a defensive risk, but it would give us more zip and dynamism where it counts for most, going forward. It would take some of the creative pressure off Snoddy, and also make better use of Pugh who, for all his neatness and quiet efficiency, is a too self-effacing a footballer for my liking. Is the boy Taylor ready yet for the left back role, I wonder ? Finally, I concur with the editor on Keogh’s substitution: it was both untimely and unnecessary. The only agument I can think of for putting Becchio on was that his greater bulk could make the defenders feel a bit uncomfortable. Personally I prefer Keogh’s greater control and mobility….

  • oldschoolbaby

    Colin, I accept your points entirely. Howson would be well suited to an alternative system. White is another obvious candidate.

    My fundamental point, however, is that I`ve always thought you need players of a particular intelligence, discipline and perhaps quality to play more complex systems. 442 is easy to understand, it lends itself to command and control and teams have done incredibly well deploying it effectively ( I know Barca have raised the bar but combatting them is not our concern at the moment )

    I am a touch ambivalent about SG but I have to give him good marks for his boldness in terms of changing things. I suspect he bought Brown as a holding player with an idea to a different formation. Which brings me neatly back to my point about discipline and intelligence, or lack thereof.

    O`Dea is uncompromising, which was needed. If you have a grafter like Keogh with aerial ability and McCormack willing in the channels then hoofball will be an easy trap to fall into. Like you I`m not a fan.

    Perhaps the plan is to sell Howson and replace him with someone to complement Clayton. Mr. Howson is no Captain but I want him to stay. What are football clubs for if they can`t realise the boyhood dreams of a couple of local lads ?

  • Gryff

    I think Howson’s a great midfielder with a lot of potential. That said, like Bradley Johnson, I don’t think he’s good enough for the defensive midfield position.

    He tries, and he adds the option of the defensive midfielder attacking well on breaks, but he just leaves too many gaps in terms of marking over 90mins.

    It’s a strange scenario given Howson & Clayton are both very good in their preferred positions, but if we signed a good, responsible, midfielder I’d be interested to see which lad would win

    • Irving08

      Clayton.