Defeated, but for a nice change of pace, Leeds United weren’t outplayed during yesterday’s trip to the DW Stadium.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a largely insignificant match for Leeds, the result of which was completely overshadowed by the outcome of Massimo Cellino’s appeal against The Football League, but it was good to see a bit of fighting spirit returned to the squad.

With only a handful of games remaining and nothing left to play for, no one was expecting a great deal from this match. The expectations were that Wigan would effortlessly cement their play-off position while Leeds would go through the motions, ticking off another fixture as this dismal season draws to a close.

But to their credit, The Whites put up a fight deserving of a better result. McDermott returned to the 3-5-2 formation he’d used earlier in the season, deploying Sam Byram and Stephen Warnock as wing-backs with Ross McCormack playing behind a front two of Noel Hunt and Matt Smith.

The most significant change however came in central midfield where Michael Brown was returned to the starting line-up to play alongside Michael Tonge, forming an experienced midfield partnership which proved to be very effective.

Leeds’ experienced central pairing (Michael Brown alone has over 500 appearances to his name) made this much more of a contest than anyone was expecting it to be. With so many calls for youth to be given a chance, it’s easy to overlook how vital experienced pros can be to overcoming a poor run of form.

From the very off, Michael Brown made a nuisance of himself, tackling hard, working the referee and really getting under-the-skin of the opposition. This brought the fighting spirit out of those around him and the noise in the away end hit some impressive decibel-levels as the team fed the crowd and vice versa.

Tonge meanwhile adds the composure – well-measured passes and a calm under pressure Luke Murphy and Rodolph Austin can’t compare to, what he lacks for in pace and defence-splitting runs, he more than compensates for with an ability to tie things together, set the pace and keep Leeds United in possession. He also makes better decisions when in possession which helps to keep pressure off the defence.

One of the most telling stats is the overall possession, which was split 50/50 between the two sides. It’s a stat that’s improved considerably in our last three games following the reintroduction of Michael Tonge, previous to which we managed just 42% of the possession at home to a Millwall side in the relegation zone.

The only goal of the game was an unfortunate one to concede. The ball fell nicely for Waghorn to try his luck after a bit of a scramble outside the area, Butland got a hand to it diving to his right but the ball curved off him and into the bottom corner.

Chances were few and far between for both sides, but Leeds had a couple of opportunities to level things, one falling to Ross McCormack who tried to chip the keeper but missed the target and the other falling to Matt Smith whose poor headed attempt from inside the six yard box went over the bar.

On balance, Leeds can take a lot of positives from this. We were much better in possession, fought hard off the ball to keep pressure on Wigan throughout and really managed to get under the oppositions’ skin. There was a certain “Leeds-ness” to the performance we’ve lacked recently, a glimpse of the fighting spirit we used to rely on when our backs are to the wall and everything is falling down around us.

Six more to go. On and on…

Stray observations

– 3-5-2? 3-4-3? 3-4-1-2? Whatever you’d describe the formation as, it’s a tough nut to crack and easily exposed if either of the wing-backs are caught out-of-position. Warnock had a good game here, but he doesn’t have the pace (or youth) to perform both defensive and attacking duties in such a demanding position week-in, week-out.

– Michael Brown was man of the match for me, Wigan’s midfielders knew they’d been in a game thanks to his performance.

– How many goals does Ross McCormack have to score before Leeds United managers accept he’s a centre-forward and not a winger or an attacking midfielder?

– Credit to Wigan Athletic for organising a minute’s applause in memory of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight during the 14th minute of the game and absolute respect to their fans for joining in.

– Dom Poleon looked a little rusty but he added some much needed pace to the front-line when brought on as a sub in the second half.

– As ever, our away support was outstanding. The Football League (and Sky Sports) probably wish we’d keep the noise down a little though…

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  • Irving08

    Brown was the half-time substitution McDermott should have made against Charlton. It would have prevented the young Poyet from running the second half. It was the only change that needed making.
    Brian seems to require too much evidence to make up his mind.

  • PAUL W

    A slightly better performance, but not many chances created and no goals scored once again, for the third game in a row.
    If Cellino does not sack McDermott straight away, McDermott has to get the team winning immediately, otherwise he must be sacked.
    I could not believe that the goal shy Hunt was playing against Wigan, when Poleon is a much better player and McCormack had to suffer by playing in a midfield role.
    Now that Cellino is finally in, McDermott and his so called players finally have their chance to concentrate on football and can no longer hide behind the same lame excuses of the past 4 months.

  • Gaz

    Poor performances from both sides and a largely forgettable game.

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