Leeds find Fulham sandwich and can’t cut the mustard Graham Smeaton December 14, 2014 Match reviews 34 Comments After last Saturday’s debacle where Ipswich rolled through us with an ease not seen since Hitler took the Czech Sudentland in 1938, you’d forgive us poor Leeds fans for fearing the worse when Fulham trundled up the M1 from that there London. The stage was set, the capital of the country ready to meet the capital of the North. It’s at this point that my mind starts to go all manic, thoughts everywhere and then there’s the twitching, the uncontrollable twitching. How will we perform, who will be nominated ‘Defensive Chuckle Brother of the Day’, will we stand off them and let them attack, why do I do this every week; pretty standard questions I am sure that all Leeds fans ask themselves. Thing is, it wasn’t actually that bad. The first half was one of those hustle and bustle affairs, each team scrapping to gain the upper hand. In the 3rd minute Leeds won a free kick after ex-Leeds man, and ‘I-love-kissing-the-badge’, Ross McCormack fouled Leeds’ bearded wonder Mirco Antenucci. In the 4th minute, with Leeds pressing, Stephen Warnock put in a cross; this was one of 42 crosses that Leeds attempted which is a record for the season so far by a long way. Leeds were having much better possession in the opening exchanges and this led to a number of passes into the box from the likes of Antenucci and Sam Byram and corners such as the one taken by Adryan in the 10th minute. I was impassively calm at this point, things didn’t seem to be going wrong and we looked tight all over the field. That isn’t to say that Fulham sat back and said “play all you like son”; they were creating their own chances and making their own inroads into the game. In the 17th minute Fulham’s Grimmer (a word that sums up a lot of Leeds’ performances week-by-week) put in a cross that was cleared by Alex Mowatt and a shot from the Cottagers’ Hyndman was blocked by Leeds’ midfield anchor Tommaso Bianchi. Leeds were holding their own and didn’t seem to be suffering those jittery performances that seem to typify passages of play in our game. Leeds were getting the ball into dangerous areas from the likes of Bianchi and Byram and it was from one of these that Leeds almost took the lead. In the 29th minute, the impressive sam Byram sent over a ball that Alex Mowatt headed against the woodwork. If that had have gone in, Leeds might have pressed on and they have won 60% of games this season when leading 1-0 after 30 minutes. Both teams continued to press and Fulham’s Christensen had a goal-bound shot blocked by Stephen Warnock which gave rise to a period of concentrated pressure from Fulham leading to clearances being made by Warnock and Liam Cooper. In the 38th minute, the impressive Alex Mowatt had a shot attempt from outside the box that cleared the goal. Leeds continued to press and in the 43rd minute Sam Byram had an attempt at goal which parried by Gabor Kiraly in the Fulham goal. This galvanised Fulham who continued to press and a Fofana shot was blocked at the other end by Mowatt. This was the last action of a pleasing first 45 minutes for Leeds United fans, pleasing in the fact that we hadn’t capitulated and were more than holding our own. Bolstered by the first half performance, you could have forgiven Leeds fans for our optimism; Fulham have been bad away from home and have a poor track record at Elland Road…maybe, just maybe we’ll get something out of this. Fulham opened the second half with the first chance on 47 minutes when the lively Fofana forced Marco Silvestri into a smart diving collect. Leeds pushed on and on 52 minutes Adryan had a shot attempt that missed, followed a minute later by a 35 yard shot from Byram that was high and right of the goal. The game had a mini-spike of action in the 56th minute when Tommaso Bianchi had a shot that missed the target. The quietly-impressive Adryan had a 58th minute shot from a free kick, awarded for a handball by Fuham’s Christensen, saved by the impressive Kiraly in the Fulham goal. There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t poke a sleeping bear and it was the previous spurt of Leeds pressure that finally woke up Fulham. On the hour mark, just as Leeds fans were likely thinking ‘looks like at least a point’, Fulham scored the opening goal. Hugo Rodallega was played in by Lasse Vigen Christensen and his [Rodallega] right-footed shot found the low right portion of Silvestri’s goal. Being 1 goal in arrears after 60 minutes is not a good position for Leeds fans as they have gone on to lose 63% of games from this position this season. At this point, teams tend to lose shape for a passage of the game, but it didn’t happen. Billy Sharp was brought on for Souleymane Doukara and Leeds actually regrouped very quickly and began to press. AN immediate response was needed and Sharp crossed the ball on 61 minutes forcing a clearance and Sam Byram also delivered a ball into the danger zone. Leeds continued to press for the equaliser, and a series of passes and balls in were cleared by Fulham’s Grimmer, Hutchinson and Bodurov. On 65 minutes, Adryan had another chance when his shot was saved by Kiraly, Leeds were scrapping and pushing and showing signs of real pressure. On 67 minutes, Billy Sharp headed at goal that was blocked by Fulham’s Bodurov; the resulting corner being cleared by Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz. It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Fulham were still creating chances with goalscorer Rodallega forcing a standing save from Leeds’ Silvestri on 73 minutes. On 76 minutes Adryan was substituted out and replaced by young midfielder Chris Dawson for the last 15 minutes or so of action. Fulham’s Rodallega had another shot attempt that missed the target. As the game petered out towards a Fulham victory, Fulham gained a couple of corners but the game began to tail off. The last significant piece of action was the substitution of Stephen Warnock in the 88th minute to be replaced by Gaetano Berardi who got 2 minutes of game time; this is usually enough time for him to be sent off. To round up, it was a much better performance as a team and each unit played their part in this; it was nice to see better cohesiveness. Defensively, we looked much better than the ‘Disaster Show Special’ against Ipswich with 3 Leeds players (Jason Pearce, Sam Byram and Stephen Warnock) not missing a single tackle attempt. This ‘tackle-first’ approach was mirrored in midfield with Alex Mowatt (4) and Tommaso Bianch (7) also tackling well; Bianchi’s 7 tackles making him the Championship’s #1 ranked tackler. Mowatt impressed further in midfield with 41 general play passes and 9 crosses which created 4 shooting opportunities for his teammates. Attack-wise, we didn’t do enough to bring Mirco Antenucci into the game; Antenucci is a player with a high volume shot frequency per 90 minutes (3.15 shots) and a high shot accuracy of 51% but we didn’t get the ball to him enough – hence the 1 shot attempt he made. This ‘not getting them quality ball’ also applies to Adryan who is a playmaker not being given the ball to create plays. Adryan brings something special, asks questions of opponents and that is something that we need to develop further. Before I go, I want to give Souleymane Doukara one mention; on his substitution on 60 minutes he had made 22 passes with 100% completion accuracy. henrymouni Huff and puff again. We are sliding down the league. I would play Morison instead of Doukara. It is ALL about ‘the 3 points’ now. We have to play for 90 minutes plus, not 45. The petition is just over 19,500 now so we need a surge to show the FL that we mean business:- https://www.change.org/p/the-football-league-to-act-in-the-best-interests-of-leeds-united-football-club-regarding-massimo-cellino Graham Already signed and it is all about the 3 points. My main point is that we need to do two things, create more shots and get them on target more. Antenucci, who is our most accurate shooter, only had one chance and he usually averages 3 shots per game. henrymouni Yes, I agree Graham. We are relying on Antenucci, the way we were relying on Ross last season. He is the one who’ll save us from the big drop!! Irving08 If we are relying on Antenucci to save us from the big drop, then I’m very worried. He’s good, but I don’t think he is capable of the one-man shows RM put on last season. Stan Broadbent Sorry but you must have been at a different game to me. Both Leeds and Fulham were appalling. I said at half time, ‘at least the second half can’t be any worse’ I was wrong! I wasn’t at Ipswich game but if it was worse than yesterday if must have been bad beyond belief. Graham We were lacking a cutting edge but you have to admit that there was more there than last week’s debacle against Ipswich where even I got bored by 53 minutes and it takes about 60 at least before our lass grates on me to that degree. Irving08 We lacked more than that: we lacked coordination going forward and we looked lightweight – and this against a featherweight side. There are things to admire in our individual play, but we don’t yet convince as a team. TSS We lack a leader in a key position. The reason Stephen Warnock has stood out so much this season – aside from him being a very good player who’s worked hard – is that he’s the only one with the experience to adapt properly to the circumstances and manage a game. We lack gamesmanship and are being routinely outfoxed by teams full of players who’ve been around the block a few times and know when and how to suck the life out of the game to frustrate an opponent who has taken the upper hand, players who know how to work a referee or frustrate an opponent into making silly mistakes. Players who know to time their bursts so they’re unexpected instead of being absolutely full burst every time they get the ball. Players who make the right decisions 9 times out of 10 instead of 50/50. It’s inexperience. Inexperience is our biggest issue really, but that’s the trade-off of playing youngsters. They’ll excite and look unstoppable some days, others they’ll be schooled by someone more experienced, but they’re learning and you have to keep faith that it’ll all pay-off eventually. All that said, it’d pay off quicker with a Gordon Strachan or a Lucas Radebe to guide them because above all else, we miss genuine leadership on the pitch. Irving08 I can agree with that. A Bobby Collins would do just nicely. But I’d settle as indicated elsewhere for a younger Michael Brown. If we could, I’d make Derby an offer they couldn’t refuse for Bryson, who has the drive we lack. Graham At the moment a Jackie Collins would do the job Chris Taylor I agree with everything you said here I thought Leeds were by far the better team especially in the second half and thought things just wouldn’t fall for us, I also thought the game changed when Dawson came on for adryan as we just didn’t seem to have the same spark as Dawson just couldn’t get into the game. I am still positive about this team and the thing that angered me most yesterday was the fans not the players and those that booed at the end should be ashamed of themselves!! Graham Thanks, I actually thought Adryan had one of his better games of late; I just fear we aren’t using him properly. It’s a difficult one but with a playmaker like he’s supposed to be then he needs the ball more. Imagine Chelsea not getting the ball to Eden Hazard or Manchester City not getting the ball to Yaya Toure. I think that as Leeds fans we need to be a little more humble and realise that, until we prove ourselves more and earn a place at the top table, that we are, and it pains me greatly to say this, a former-big club. henrymouni Leeds united has it’s part to play in the Championship. Where would the Circus be without clowns? A bit Eric Cantona—ish! LOL Ron Good point Graham. Even though we all love this team to bits and we all remember the better days, we all deep down know that this squad is not good enough to challenge. It’s a very long season and you need depth across the park to really stay in the fight. Whilst we have some promising young players, we lack cohesion (understandable given the upheaval/s) and we lack genuine quality that is needed to get out of a division that can be best described as being like quicksand. When Hockaday was released I said that Jose Mourinho could not make a difference and I stand by it. Redfearn deserves to see this year out. Cohesion and quality – very few teams escape or prosper without it. Given our ban in the upcoming transfer window, I’m not sure we do much more this year than blood youngsters and hope to God we are not relegated. Irving08 If the ball isn’t getting to Adryan,then he has to assert himself and either demand it or go and get it. henrymouni It is difficult as a fan, when relegation looms and the team is as we were for the last few years. Even Redders thought we were poor, saying “the team needs help” from experienced players. I hope Redders can hold it together, and not play ‘the blame game’. You thought we played well Chris, but not well enough to get us the points we desperately need. I wonder what Massimo is thinking?? Chris Taylor I think they just don’t have a plan b no wingers at the club is a massive disadvantage as we can’t change the style or set up that we play Irving08 What was Plan A ? Chris Taylor The diamond…durrr Irving08 Really ? Paul Oh shut up trying to make excuses the sooner leeds are related for a reality check the better spellz I agree Paul, we have one of the most disillusioned fan bases in the world, I think. Graham I wasn’t trying to make excuses, merely look for positives and it was a lot better than against Ipswich where we showed very little. I actually agree on the need for a ‘reality check’ Paul and a massive one at that. What I like about TSS is the healthy and literate discussion rather than the Keyboard Warrior rants on Facebook. I have just been ‘removed’ from a Facebook Leeds group for having the nutty notion to suggest we won’t be respected until we earn it and that we are in the eyes of others a ‘former big club’… Boom, deleted. spellz Ha ha that is harsh, I to enjoy the discussions on this forum and only post here for the same reason (obviously the healthy discussions) I was also not being specific to your article when Paul made his post but most of our fans in general definitely need a reality check, until we accept that we are not good enough, when will the players ever get the message if we commend them for everything they do good or bad? spellz Well what a time it feels to be a Leeds fan, languishing morbidly above the relegation spots in the championship, uncertainty in the future as there is problems with the current owners and the ownership of our club and we are now losing at home to a team who were battered at home themselves not to long ago, yet fans still talk about the chance of promotion……sound familiar? sure it does it is happening every season like bloody deja vu, we have to rank up there with the unluckiest clubs in history….worldwide. seriously dissapointed losing to Fulham, we are just not good enough period. We need investment in the squad Janurary but will probably not get it due to the FL intervention, just a joke atm I am actually afraid to google Leeds United in fear of what I will read next, I hope we can get out this slump soon and as for Redders who I personally like, no miracle worker as people assumed before the Darko era, we just definitely are not the complete unit. we have to face it improvement needs to take place on the pitch and some real talent needs to brace our squad particularly some experience, hope it gets better for us. Sorry for the depressing post but it is what it is, we…… including myself, still love Leeds and always will do but for the loyalty of our fan base and the stature of the city we are based in we really deserve more as a football club and it irritates me to see season in, season out we are in the same position every time. Since we were in the premiership the only happy moments I can think of was the times with Grayson at the helm and Bates was our chairman he still brought relative success to our team even though the bloodsucker ran the club, he bought style and we were playing exciting football and actually challenging for promotion spots. Our managers since have been lacklustre and for once in Cellino I see someone come to the club with a vision and passion to see the club back to its glory days and hes been forced to sell, Leeds United…..the drama never ends. Rant over. M.O.T AA. Canada Leeds I think that the statistics in this article are useful. They make me wonder what factors are missing to get some wins? Are we making enough chances? Are we physically strong enough to scrap for the ball? Owt else? Graham You like statistics? You’re on my Christmas card list. NottsWhite I am not of the view that the team are not good enough to compete in the division however I think to suceed the head coach needs to start learning from his mistakes. A bench with only one striker does not provided the required options when we are chasing a game. The insistance on the diamond formation makes us painfully predictable. Substitutions are like for like swops which provide no tactical challenge for the opposition. The over reliance of a core number of players suggest that recruitment made by Cellino has generally been wasted. Fulham were there for the taking yesterday but some of the subs made when we went behind left me confused. Bringing Dawson for Adryan offered nothing new, was there the opportunity to play both ? On 87th minute a change of mind in reaction to Warnock going lame saw Berardi being brought on. Surely we should have gone 3 at the back to commit more players forward. Finally, despite his goals I find Doukara to be bone idle. A team needs to defend from the front which he is not prepared to do. Irving08 Good points re substitutions: Dawson could have replaced Mowatt and played with Adryan, as he has in the Development Squad. Berardi is underused, in my view. He can cause trouble ! Irving08 Against Notts Forest, I’d think seriously about playing Byram in midfield with Berardi behind him on the right, and bringing in Taylor at left back, if Warnock is injured. This would give us greater mobility and bite, at any rate, on the right; but I don’t think Taylor would let us down in defence, and he would add something going forward. I might also push Belusci – if he’s fit – up into midfield, ocupying Cook’s spot. Mowatt and Adryan will have to do the creative stuff, while Dawson did just about enough for me to push one of these for a place (notably his late run into the box from a short move he initiated). henrymouni And maybe Sharp or Morison instead of Doukara? Can Berardi stay on the pitch for 90 minutes Irv? readers say we lack experience in midfield. Maybe he will play Tonge, and leave Sam at full back? NottsWhite Henry, Tonge will be played against Forest. Not too sure what I think about that. We need the experience but Tonge just does not have the legs to give more than 45 mins Irving08 I’d stick with Doukara Henri; he and Antenucci play a lot outside the box for a good reasoned tigons : neither Bianchi nor Mowatt can go forward with pace, while Adryan only plays in fits and starts. I like Berardi. Henri; if he takes their best player with him, I could live with that ! Tongue has always looked to me like a player for whom looking good takes precedence over anything else. No, I wouldn’t start with him. I’d pursue my suggestions instead. henrymouni In truth I don’t think Redders will change the team much. He is not a tinker man. I like Berardi, but he does some silly challenges. I would not pick Tonge but Redders might? I would pick Morison but Redders won’t! I think Sharpe deserves a start and he may be the only change, unless Bellucci is fit.