Brian McDermott marked a year in charge at Elland Road with a 2-0 win over relegation strugglers Blackpool, in a match where his biggest signing to date finally showed what he’s capable of.

Luke Murphy has formed part of the most pathetic midfield partnership in recent Leeds United history alongside Rodolph Austin this season, constantly overrun by the poor and average alike, but here he was relieved of defensive responsibilities and given license to attack while the experienced Tonge-Brown duo took care of the task he’s failed so badly at.

This was an admission of sorts on Brian McDermott’s part, an acknowledgement that Murphy can’t perform the box-to-box duties the Leeds United manager has been asking of him. When given freedom to roam and get forward however, Murphy can provide the missing link between strike-force and midfield Leeds United have been looking for.

In an attacking role, Murphy was exceptional, Leeds United’s man of the match without contest. His first goal looked to be an opportunity missed after he neglected to strike first time, but he got a second chance to get the shot right and executed perfectly. Taking the ball under control, Murphy turned, dummied the defender and keeper before firing home to give The Whites a 1-0 lead.

Murphy’s second goal came from a long punt down the wing from Tom Lees, headed on by Noel Hunt and into the path of Murphy who casually lifted the ball over an advancing Blackpool goalkeeper from a tight angle to seal victory for Leeds.

All of this has to be tempered by how poor Leeds United’s opposition were. The Whites played well and created the better chances, Murphy was a player transformed and we thoroughly deserved the three points, but Blackpool are an incredibly poor side and we’ve plummeted from a play-off position at Christmas to what almost felt like a “six-pointer” relegation battle with only a handful of games remaining for good reason – and Murphy’s situation sums it all up perfectly.

Here we had centre-back Scott Wootton on the right-wing (with “mixed” results) while left-back Stephen Warnock was on the opposite side (he did OK, but is still too slow for that role), meaning we fielded four central defenders in a 3-5-2 formation. McCormack returned to his favoured position of centre-forward (one of three positions he’s played this season) and Murphy was shunted forward into the advanced midfield role he prefers (from what could probably be described as a defensive midfield role previous to now).

There are four games remaining of this season and McDermott still doesn’t know what his best team is, where his players are best deployed or what line-up he wants to use. Boardroom chaos aside, that’s been the biggest problem in 2014, we haven’t played to our strengths because our manager still seems to be figuring out what they are.

Ross McCormack has scored 28 goals this season but was still played as an attacking midfielder last week. Noel Hunt was played as a winger a few weeks ago for reasons I can’t explain. We brought in an exceptionally talented striker in Connor Wickham, then stuck him on the wing to cross balls in for Matt Smith (with McCormack on the opposite flank). The list goes on and on. Our midfield has been overrun by relegation giants like Millwall and the defence doesn’t bear talking about.

I don’t wish to be negative following a 2-0 victory, but I don’t want to pretend we’ve suddenly turned a corner either. We corrected a few of the glaringly obvious problems with our line-up, but there are still major issues with this side.

The three points puts to bed any lingering fears of a relegation battle and allows us to draw a line under this tragedy of a season, but there’s a lot more areas Brian McDermott needs to address if he’s to start the 2014-15 season as Leeds United manager, starting with the wing-backs he keeps persisting with despite lacking players who can actually play there before moving swiftly on to our hopelessly inadequate defence.

But we won, so that’s something. Roll on the summer…

Ups and downs

– This game kicked off at 15:07 to mark 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster and was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence from both groups of fans.

– The negative reaction from fans as Noel Hunt came on was incredibly disappointing. It hasn’t worked out for him at Leeds and he’ll probably be gone in the summer, but we should at least let players kick the ball before booing them.

– Brian McDermott claimed he wore a tracksuit because his daughter had advised him too, but it symbolised the changing of his role from club manager to a first team coach working under Massimo Cellino (who’ll act as a Director of Football).

– McDermott also stayed on the bench, allowing Nigel Gibbs to shout at players from the technical area.

– Good luck to Blackpool in their relegation battle, they’ve also suffered from chaos at the boardroom level this season and of all the teams in the survival scrap, I’d rather they be the one who survives – mostly because I enjoy a night out at the seaside. And they did “give” us Simon Grayson.

  • RoystonLUFC

    it begs the question: what will our next line-up be? Apart from seemingly randomly finding the right formation occasionally, BM seems prone to changing it inexplicably for the following match, though presumably so he can squeeze a few more of his old mates in.

    And I’ve had enough of all the excuses about off-field problems. Off-field problems don’t cause the manager to play players out of position; they don’t cause the manager to choose Hunt over Poleon; they don’t cause the manager to play defensive tactics/personnel that clearly don’t work. I could go on but we all know the score. The point I’m making here is that the off-field problems are not the cause of our calamitous decline.

    What if we do give BM another chance? Is he suddenly going to become the tactical genius we all hoped he would be? Is he suddenly going to realise the role that Murphy should be playing regularly? or the roles of Lees, Warnock, etc? Of course not. Board-room stability has no influence on these glaringly obvious aspects. Let’s face it, we’re all infinitely more skint than BM but we all seem to spot the obvious, while it evades his gaze completely.

    Off-field problems are just an excuse. We were near the top at Christmas – what happened then? Did we suddenly develop off-field problems overnight? No we didn’t. I don’t want to hog this blog so I’ll leave it at that, and await comments and replies.

    • bllybllx

      you don’t appear able to understand players get injured nor noticed the takeiver farce thats been going in since xmas

      • Sir Oscar de Loides

        bllybllx – you’re missing the point. If your RB is injured you replace him with a RB, not a CB. The formation you play your team in doesn’t get changed by a takeover. Motivation has clearly been affected by the takeover but part of the reason BM gets the big money & we don’t, is that he’s supposed to be able to motivate. End of March was the first time the players didn’t get paid in full. What happened between Christmas & the end of March? They clearly could still play when they wanted (see Huddersfield at ER during Cellinogate), so why didn’t they want?

        • Wayne Wellwood

          Square pegs in round holes… Probably the best way to describe most of McDermott’s team selections, Injuries and takeovers have absolutely nothing to do with the fact Brian has spent on players and continues to constantly play players out of position, Roll on the end of the season. it’s nailed on Brian’s gone in the summer and I trust Mr Cellino will replace him with a guy capable of at least being able to tell the difference between a CB and an WB, Wipe all the recent shit from your memories… It’ll soon all seem like a massively bad recurring nightmare,

      • PMH

        Maybe what has happened is that BMcD got rattled by the off field shenanigans. The players are removed from all that nonsense, and I doubt that they cared much, until their pay was cut. Must have been a nightmare for the manager, but he clearly had a bad season on top of all the ownership hoopla. Everything he did turned to shit, and my judgement is that he made poor decisions and was unlucky as well.

  • Irving08

    Good report and assessment. I would add that when White came on, albeit in a right-sided position, he swiftly demonstrated what our team and squad desperately lacks – pace. Of the players who appeared on Saturday, I can envisage only McCormack, Murphy, Pearce, White and Lees figuring at all in a tight, promotion-winning squad. Warnock – who, by the way, had another good game – unfortunately will always be vulnerable when he is not first to the ball. But he obviously knows what he is about, which is more than I can say for Zaliukas, who is always going to play his fellow defenders into trouble. Among those not playing on Saturday, whom we have seen this season, I would add only Byram and possibly Mowatt to this list. Blackpool were woeful, by some way the worst side I have seen at Elland Road this season.

    • Charese

      I agree Irving, theres something about White that I think we have missed. I don’t think we have got the best out of him at all and hes worth keeping on, perhaps with another loaning out during the early stages of next season to see if it can coax him to move up a gear in his favoured full back position. I still suspect that with good defensive coaching (not from current staff) he could become a very good full back.
      I don’t know what will happen with McCormack………personally I don’t think we should sell him, he will score goals full stop and with a decent midfield would have a field day even if he wasn’t in form BUT he may want to leave in which case maybe we should let him go for a decent price and bring a few strikers in with potential. Ross has already shown a lot of loyalty and at 27 hes nearing his peak time as a player.

      • TSS

        Someone on Twitter brought up White and Lees, pointing out that both of them performed better under Larry and it’s true. Our players are getting worse.

        You could argue that McCormack has improved, but I always rated him and there was a lot more competition around in the attack back then so trying to get him in the side in other positions made more sense, but even if we accept that he’s improved since Larry was unjustifiably sacked, no one else has. I’m sure Tom Lees used to be a reasonably good defender for example, I watched him with my own eyes!

        Aidy White had his best season under Larry too. However limited he is (and he IS limited), Grayson played to his strengths. We can’t even manage that any more.

  • Matthew

    Let’s be blunt, we haven’t turned the corner, but we have ensured survival this season and the only certainty is that whoever is the manager come the end of the season(Or prior to the transfer window opening) has a hell of a job to do to turn us into a promotion capable side. We’re so far off being playoff capable at the moment that it’s not worth thinking about, one step at a time eh? While I strongly believe we need a new manager, I don’t want to focus on the negatives and am just happy we’re safe from relegation.

  • Michael Cain

    I think Wayne’s post sums the who farcical situation up here at ER ! For me this season has been like a very bad movie , and believe me I’ve seen my fair share of those to. I have to voice my sadness at the disgraceful treatment of Noel Hunt . He is after all a Leeds United player and to boo him when he comes on as a substitute beggars belief. Full credit to the young man for not letting it deter him from his duties. I worked in professional football for 16 years on the playing staff and can tell you most managers pre match team talk usually included the phrases , earn the right to play , let’s get the fullbacks turned and get in behind them and get the crowd on their backs ! Booing only helps one team .

    We are the best traveling support in the country for a reason , unity and a proudness few can match.

    MOT

  • oldschoolbaby

    Fans generally warm more quickly to combative players rather then the languid. Murphy has something of Sean Gregan about him, which is no great positive in my book. I also sensed he has been overly deferential towards Austin. However, there`s certainly some quality. At times the fans reaction to him reminds me of the arrival of Gary McAllister, who took a short while to settle and become fully appreciated ( not that I`m suggesting Murphy will be that good ) . It will be extremely interesting to see how he develops especially when, and if, he perceives himself to have some midfield seniority

    • Chareose

      Yes and you have perceived that but why hasn’t the manager…………….?? A man we are paying 1.6 million………………….

  • leeds 123

    booing hunt was disgraceful for a player who’s been in and out with injuries he’s been unlucky and when he has played he’s not looked as half as bad as some of the players out there.

    Disagree about warnock he was my man of the match saturday he was everywhere him brown and murphy all stepped up and showed their worth. warnock’s the experience at the back we need and should probably be captain.

    smith role in the team still confuses me he misses more ball jumping for them then what he gets he just looks like a loss puppy out there. All in all solid performance experience worked against a weak team and would probably work again saturday think hunt and mccormack would be the better option up front as mccormack just looks a cut above the rest up there.

    • Matthew

      People have the right to show dissatisfaction at a poor sub choice by McDermott, certainly there were 25 minutes left of normal time and we were only winning 1-0 at that point, had Blackpool levelled, we certainly wouldn’t be expect Noel Hunt to score his elusive first goal. It’s okay to feel sorry for him but I certainly don’t think he should be starting. And to clarify and not saying people were right to boo, I’m simply saying that people did not like one of many terrible choices made by McDermott this season.

      • king sniffer

        There’s a clue in the word “supporter”. Fair enough, if people want to complain then fine – do it later on a venue such as this, but to boo a player coming onto the pitch actually has a negative effect on the performance of the team. All those that insist on this would surely be patted on the back on entering pubs in Manchester, Chelsea, Millwall etc if the incumbents were aware of the net result of the actions of these so called “supporters” on Leeds United. Go. Leave. Support some other team and hopefully assist in worsening their results but never darken the door of Elland Road again.

        • Matthew

          Goals win football matches, not feelings. If you can’t score the goals, you can’t win games, and with our defence happy to leak a few goals a game if given the chance, we need every able bodied GOAL SCORER on the pitch, nothing more, nothing less. And what you’ve said is opinion, not a fact. I stand by my original statement, Noel Hunt has had enough chances and hasn’t produced, and with the money he gets per week, his performance aren’t worthy of support from anyone. I don’t see the people who booed as non supporters, people booed him because quite frankly he’s shit. People want to see results, if you can’t understand that, take your own advice. Even Poleon has a better record than Hunt and has had LESS of a look in at this club and is on a lot less money.

          • Matthew

            Also, you honestly think booing makes a team play badly? That’s hilarious. You clearly haven’t been to many, if any home or away games this season. The booing is the least of this teams problems. Infact the team receives some of the best support in the country at times from the crowd and produces utterly shit football as a way of saying thanks. I can think of many occasions where we’ve been a few goals down and large sections of the fans continue singing.

          • king sniffer

            Honestly, you don’t think booing makes a team play badly! Hilarious! I’ve been to plenty of games thank you Matthew, both home and away. I’m 51 and the first time I went to see Leeds I was 10, but thanks for your concern anyway. So you don’t think a player being booed as he runs onto the pitch will have a detrimental effect on his confidence, and hence his performance. Football is all about confidence. Confidence leads to goals. Skill alone is not enough. That is a FACT. I have sung all through games, but I will never boo our own players. If you intend to continue, I hope you don’t do it next to me. Supporters can only do one of two things to influence a game – sing or boo. One has a positive effect, one has a negative effect. A lot of our problems over the years have stemmed from supporters getting on a particular players back. As soon as that happens, that particular player is finished at our club. When things are going badly, particularly at home, players start to hide to avoid it. The downward spiral begins. It happens at all clubs, but seemingly more so at ours.

          • Matthew

            You miss my point, you’re making it out to be worse than what it is. And missed my clear and obvious point that this team has played badly and will play badly regardless of boos, cheers etc. What’s more hilarious is that you’re associating booing with the team playing poorly, this is why I think you’re taking out of your ass and haven’t been to many, if any games this season. You’re welcome to claim otherwise.

          • PMH

            This is just a difference of opinion, and a minor one, We are on the same side so let’s not get overexcited. The team has played very badly and deserves boos when they stink. Booing does not help the team and booing a player coming on the pitch is most likely to undermine confidence. You are both correct.

          • Matthew

            That’s just it, his comments suggest the boos are aligned with us playing poorly and that simply isn’t the case. On many occasions have the crowd cheered the team on when we’ve been battered completely and it has made absolutely no difference. He seems unable to grasp that we simply have a poor team that Cellino needs fixing. And yes I agree with you. But I also think people have the right to show that they dislike a substitution made by the manager, he has done quite a lot of poor subs this season.

          • king sniffer

            I’m so glad you find it all so hilarious Matthew. Where you get the idea that I haven’t been to any games this season from, I don’t know, and quite frankly I resent it. For your information, I’ve been to plenty and realise how bad we have been. Where do I say that the REASON for poor performances is booing? You miss my point that however badly the team are performing, booing will make it WORSE. Not rocket science, just common sense. Not an opinion – fact. I have manage to grasp the fact that Cellino has a hell of a lot to do, but thanks for pointing that out anyway! You carry on with your booing and supporting the team. You’re doing a sterling job, well at least you seem to think so. Better get back to your homework now.

          • Matthew

            Anything and everything you’ve said is above. This is what I’ve responded too. Though you do seem to be getting a bit defensive now. Perhaps we’ll just agree to disagree. Though I will just say that among other things, your assumptions are hilarious.

    • TSS

      Warnock – don’t get me wrong, he’s a quality player. But he’s lost a yard of pace from his peak and can’t be expected to play a position as reliant on pace as LWB/LM is.

  • Chareose

    For me the fact that the fans are moaning about an issue weeks before BM reacts to it is one of the biggest signs that BM is not good enough………… Its taken him an entire season to realize either that Murphy is best playing the role that suited him at Crewe or that Austin going forwards is interfering.
    Its taken him the entire season to realize Austin doesn’t have the all round ability required to compete effectively for a promotion chasing team. It took him 6 games to realize Kebe’s form and fitness was making him hopeless and that playing him would just damage his confidence further.
    For me Warnock has always been our best left back, hes an ex England international for godsakes. If you know someone is the best player in a position surely a good manager MAKES it work ??? They coach the player ???
    Then there is the handling of Djouf this season……….arguably our best player AWOL. There was the Varney incident etc…………. BM is not a good manager and im unsure if he can coach either. I know he thinks he can and he says the right things but I make judgements based on actions and achievements not talk.

  • Ron

    Although happy to get the win, I have clocked off for this season for the simple reason that everyone mentioned in this story may or may not be around come day 1 of the season. It’s been a stressful year and I have noted since Cellino has arrived we have been linked with every player – dead or alive. When I saw David Bentley’s name linked, I knew it was time to switch off the football until August. Thanks very much SS for your efforts this year and fellow followers. We all love this bloody club, no doubt about it. Let’s hope 14/15 is a season where everything makes sense. Take care.

  • PMH

    It is the standard fan error. Win a few and we are ready for promotion. Lose a few and we are a worthless piece of faeces. Given recent form, a lot of fans are giving up, and want a whole new team, but that is a big mistake. The difference between promotion and relegation form in the Championship is very narrow. The current squad has enough talent to compete for play-offs. They haven’t looked like it because they have been traumatized by defensive disorganization, and have had their confidence shot to pieces by asking them to play out of position and in formations they don’t understand. Those problems are definitely fixable. So, job number one is to get a good run and to assess talent before the summer. No doubt there are players to dump, and some decent prospects to acquire. I just don’t think a fire sale is in order, and I don’t want to see a new manager with a completely new squad starting from scratch next season. There is nobody out there with a magic wand. A new manager would be acceptable if there is a good experienced one available. Leeds is not the place for beginners.

    • NottsWhite

      I disagree that we currently have a squad that is capable of challenging for a playoff spot as last season and this have proved that we start well only to run out of steam (or get worked out by more tactically astute managers). Our midfield and defence are weak. Yes, play players in their correct position but do not believe that we are on a par with QPR, Reading, Derby etc…. A win against a poor Blackpool team does not erase the last 3 months of results

      • Matthew

        Part of the problem is that McDermott has been poor tactically for a fair few games, and we’ve been out of ideas far too often when we’re on the back foot. If anything a decent manager would drill the team on how to deal with sustained pressure and turn a negative into a positive. We’ve been all too keen to roll over and die some games. This is of course the fault of quite a few players AND the manager. We’ve also been unable to attack the vulnerabilities of weaker sides and often end up finding ourselves on the back foot against teams that are lacking in quality. Again another fault of the manager. We’re crap but we’re not that crap that we deserved some of the losses against lesser sides.

        • NottsWhite

          I agree but a better manager may have improved our points tally by 15 points. Up to Xmas the division is a bit of a chicken scratch, then the quality teams find another gear and go on runs that take them to the top 6. Even when we were challenging for a playoff place by Xmas we were still inconsistent. We just don’t have the quality to compete in the second half of the season

          • Matthew

            While I was happy we were in 5th, I didn’t take it for granted because I knew this team were a long way from being capable of holding said spot. I did spot Austins decline a mile away and sure enough weeks later more people picked up on his lack of form lol. I will say that I’m getting sick and tired of these wasted seasons, we shouldn’t have to celebrate surviving in this league, and a manager with McDermotts record(Aka the losing streak) should have been shown the door a long time ago, only a Leeds eh? The madness never ends. How we do in the transfer window will tell how the next season will go, and at the very most if we are to lose in the FA/League Cup, the least we could do is lose against a decent side and not Rochdale lol.

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