"But boss, we usually just hit it up there..."

“But boss, we usually just hit it up there…”

A Luke Varney brace ended Leeds United’s run of seven games without victory as the Whites battled back from a goal down to claim all three points in the Yorkshire derby.

Brian McDermott took charge of his first game as the new Leeds United boss and was greeted warmly by the Whites faithful. A worrying looking defensive line-up featuring three full-backs did little to dampen the mood in and around Elland Road, for this was the dawn of a new era, whether victorious today or not, McDermott’s press conference the day before this tie had won the fans over.

For the first time in months, Leeds had cause for optimism.

The first half was a poor one. Steve Morison fluffed an early chance for The Whites before the referee took control and ensured the game wouldn’t flow long enough for many more chances to be created. While Leeds probably got the better of the referees incessant need to blow his whistle, the constant stoppages made for poor viewing and did little to help either side apply pressure.

Down on the touchline, Brian McDermott was incredibly animated. At no point during the game did Leeds United’s new manager stop passing instructions and encouragement on to players while furiously taking notes on the team he’d inherited.

For all McDermott’s encouragement and guidance however, Leeds United soon fell behind. A long hoof up-field from Chris Kirkland was headed onto Jermaine Johnson who chipped Paddy Kenny to give Sheffield Wednesday the lead. If McDermott was taking notes at this stage, they probably questioned the existence of a Leeds United defence.

A scrappy half drew to a close with Leeds unlucky to be behind. Aside from Sheffield Wednesday’s goal, the only real chance of the half was a Football Bloopers-worthy fluff from Steve Morison. “Fine lines” as Neil Warnock would say, but they’re the same fine lines that have existed all season long – no width and little creativity.

My half time tweet (above) may look a little insane with the benefit of hindsight, but the problem McDermott needed to address is contained within it. Luke Varney was the most useless player on the pitch for the first 45 minutes, clumsily bumping into people, lacking the ability to take anyone on and failing to deliver anything that resembled a decent cross. He’s NOT a winger.

But Luke Varney has been played in this position for half of the season for one reason – because Warnock insisted he had the qualities to replace Robert Snodgrass before the season began and has stubbornly stuck to that ridiculous opinion ever since.

I’ve maintained throughout the season that our squad is nowhere near as bad as Warnock was making them look, his biggest failing as a Leeds United manager was an inability to get the best out of the eleven men he fielded. Remember Lee Peltier at full-back for example? Warnock persisted with him in that position for months, despite the glaringly obvious fact he was useless there. When he was eventually forced to change things around and Peltier was switched to central defence, the result was astonishing. Peltier has been our best defender ever since.

Ross McCormack is another example, probably the best player in the team but criminally under-utilised by Neil Warnock.

But this was a new era. A new manager with fresh ideas, his eyes open to the problems we have. Dismiss it as the “new manager effect” if you please, these are after all, early days, but the substitution made by Brian McDermott at half-time changed everything. El Hadji-Diouf came on to replace David Norris.

Leeds re-emerged a different team, one steadied by El-Hadji Diouf’s calm passing and composure, now visibly full of self-belief and looking to apply immediate pressure. Had it not been for another fluffed opportunity from Steve Morison, you’d have found it very easy to believe that McDermott had changed all eleven players. Unfortunately, no half-time words of wisdom were going to improve Steve Morison’s day.

McDermott wasn’t to be beaten that easily though. Recognising the torrid time of things Morison is having, the new Leeds United manager made his second substitution, replacing Steve Morison with Aidy White and switching Luke Varney to centre forward. This turned out to be another stroke of genius.

Within minutes of the formation change, El-Hadji Diouf linked up with Ross McCormack who delivered a cross from which Luke Varney headed home a brilliantly taken equaliser. He may be less of a winger than I am an astronaut, but Alan Shearer would have been impressed by his centre-forward play.

Leeds had no intention of settling for a point and within six minutes of the first goal, the Whites took the lead. Once again Ross McCormack was to be the provider after Sheffield Wednesday failed to deal with his run and another cross was provided for Luke Varney to head home. 2-1 with both goals from Luke Varney. However optimistic we may have been before kick-off, no one saw this coming.

In front with 20 minutes remaining, Leeds took their foot off the gas, seemingly happy to absorb pressure and allow Sheffield Wednesday to go in search of an equaliser. With what is a very dodgy defence at the best of times, one that today contained only one recognised central defender, this seemed a little suicidal and things got even worse when Stephen Warnock was injured leaving Rodolph Austin to fill in at centre-back.

But despite a few nervy moments, Leeds held out. Rodolph Austin commanded the air like a World War 2 spitfire, heading clear several balls Sheffield Wednesday hit into the Leeds United penalty box searching for an equaliser. The third stroke of genius this afternoon you could argue.

Brian McDermott said after the game that he and his players all have a point to prove. I wouldn’t say job done, but it was a good start. Congratulations must also go out to Neil Redfearn who, once again, was thrown in at the deep end and rightly shared in McDermott’s final whistle celebrations.

Man of the match

You could make a case for a few players; Sam Byram was once again excellent, Ross McCormack created both of Luke Varney’s goals, Varney of course scored two, and while he’ll be criticised by some for a few wayward shots and passes, Rodolph Austin’s defensive contribution was vital to the three points. I mentioned his command of the air in the final 10 minutes of the game, but he made quite a few good challenges to break up play throughout the match.

However, none of the players mentioned had the same impact as El-Hadji Diouf. His substitution brought with it a composure which led to everything else, he made himself available to receive passes, held the ball while people created space for themselves, ran at people to create space when he didn’t have an option – he just tied everything else together. I had my reservations, but if Neil Warnock did one thing right while he was at Elland Road, it was signing Diouf.

On and on…

26 Responses

  1. The dame

    Amazing that macd can implement such effective changes in the team after only 24 hours. Granted we had a bit of luck their striker goin off (the fast lad) was very helpful, think it would have taken warnock about two seasons to come up with such imaginative and effective tactical changes.

  2. Garforth White

    After today I believe Warnock wasnt that far wrong in saying we need 2 or 3 more players, what he didnt realize is that it was his out of date tactics and his constant odd positioning of players that was the achilles heel in his thinking. I know sheff w weren’t the hardest opposition weve had but we played it out from the back, looked pretty comfortable on the ball and just lacked a good out n out striker. Morison isnt good enough, hopefully he can be replaced by Somma. I havnt seen us pass the ball around like this for a prolonged period of time in all the time Warnocks been in charge. I wanted wholesale changes but if Brian can get the majority of players we have playing better then good for us i say.

  3. Matthew

    When the final whistle went, I felt really, really, really happy. Strange but, this win felt so important. Although this season has been horrible, this win was just so fucking amazing and important.

    We live to fight another day.

  4. Marc Butterworth

    I think your title is a little premature TSS….with the other results today, i think anyone upto and including Middlesborough are still looking down instead of up….

    • TSS

      Six points clear with four games left. Half the teams above us won’t get six points out of next four games, never mind those below us. We’re safe. Easily.

  5. Alshy

    I don’t think we’re out the woods yet, with teams below us picking up points, but a huge step in the right direction.

    • Matthew

      WRONG. Barnsley have 49 points, We have 55 points and a better goal difference, we both have 4 games left. Barnsley would have to pick up 3 wins and a draw to pass us, Wolves need 4 wins. Assuming we don’t pick up any points, which is highly unlikely.

      We’re safe. We’re home free. We’re secured in the Championship for another season.

      • Matthew

        Typo, meant 2 wins and a draw for Barnsley to pass us, assuming we get no points from our remaining games. And considering Barnsleys form, we’re fine. Wolves I accurately assessed.

  6. Lee Walsh

    Morison is a waste of time ….. we have a right lemon there…………….we looked a lot better after his substitution……..can’t work out if he’s any good……

    • Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva

      I wouldn’t write him off just yet. when we bought him he hadn’t played for a while and had a serious injury and we kinda threw him in at the deep end “Hi Steve, you have just come back from a serious injury heres Luciano’s massive old boots please single handedly secure us promotion” It was never going to happen. Lets give the lad a bit of time get him super fit over pre-season and we can make a proper assesment next January. I also have a feeling the lack of crosses due to the lack of wingers might also have something as strikers are only as good as the service they get. I’m quite looking forward to seeing what Mcdermotts selection will be for Burnley i think we will probably agree that its unlikely that Morrison will be in the starting 11 unless he regains his sharpness in training. MOT

  7. Graham Byrnes

    Well what a great win go us 2day and what a difference when a manager has the know how and the balls to say I’ll try this and change the game, just think what will it be like on tues night with lees and hopefully pelts will make it back. 3 points and I hope we see others given a chance like hall,poleon and somma.
    How strange is it when I slag varney off twice in the last three games, McDermott comes in and puts him upfront 2nd he scores two. Also last week brought on and scored. Think ill have to do it every week lol!!

  8. jrs1983

    I actually lol’d at the bit about austin commanding the air life a ww2 spitfire. great stuff. need more leeds twitter followers so please help @JamieJrs1983 cheeky as it is to ask

    • TSS

      Haha, I forgot about Harvey Sharman’s race. That was the most entertaining event of the first half.

  9. Chris7286

    Well Maccy D has definately changed my mind about him after only 1 game. I thought it would be the same old hoof ball but he is determined to make them play football. And his subs were spot on, I take back and accept all criticism for my pesimistic posts about him before. But your only right when u win in football. Keep it up and I look forward to seeing Leeds play proper football for the first time in years

  10. Nick

    Well done Brian McDermott! I’m pretty confident Oliver’s worries about his desire are halfway answered. Intelligent, composed and thoughtful. What I find most likeable about him is together ethos within his philosophy. I really think this is a manager who knows how to take a team forwards

  11. spellz

    Mc D great start, some clever changes and turned the game on its head, for once the optimism is visable on my face.

  12. Graham Byrnes

    Lets hope us fans can give a little more till the end of the season and have er rocking with these last 3 home games. Don’t need to mention away games really as the support there is spot on really. With Elland road packed I’m sure we can get something from the games left. Remember mot follow Leeds fans

  13. JimTom

    …..McDermott will make this team competitive and has the ability to change patterns of play and formations….something that Warnock struggled with if his knarling football failed to eek out results. Will we be enjoying this time next year…I believe we will!

  14. NottsWhite

    Positive start for McD. There will be occasions when the substitutions will not pay off however I for one will never criticise using the bench to not only change the personnel on the park but the style of play. McD read the game, saw our failings and did something about it…. Morison being as useful as a fart in a hurricane was replaced, bringing Diouf on to ensure greater ball retention and use of the ball, moving Austin into the back four to defend the aeriel bombardment. The style of play was also much improved, a direct style but the ball being played on the floor with McCormack playing in the hole collecting the ball and causing havock to the opposition.

  15. Exiled White

    I hope we’re safe. BM needs to tell the players that we need to win the remaining games to be certain of safety. To be complacent is a dangerous tactic.


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