Leeds’ four game undefeated run came to an end at home to Brentford yesterday as Neil Redfearn was left to regret a switch to 4-4-2 that left The Whites looking disorganised and defensively vulnerable throughout.

Redfearn’s side started positively enough, carving out a couple of half-chances, most notable of which was almost turned home by Sol Bamba on his home debut but Brentford were breaking away too easily and throughout the first half found themselves outnumbering Leeds’ defence on the break.

If Brentford had been more clinical and if not for a couple of good saves from Marco Silvestri, this could have been a hefty defeat. Leeds looked a mess all over the pitch, Lewis Cook and Sam Byram struggled to impose themselves on the game, Luke Murphy wasn’t doing much better and the defence was constantly left exposed by their disorganisation.

Rodolph Austin, inexplicably played on the left-wing, was the only one who looked likely to create anything but his best efforts were thwarted by a dreadful referee denying what was clearly a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Brentford’s defender sent him flying in the box.

0-0 at the break but there’d been enough warning signs for Leeds and Redfearn really should have been looking to change the system at this point.

We’d presumably gone 4-4-2 to accommodate Billy Sharp but he and Morison had little impact on the first half while the rest of the side struggled to adapt to the change of system. Trying to be more positive at Elland Road is understandable – commendable, in fact – but if the only option we have involves Rodolph Austin being deployed as a winger, chances of success are always going to be slim.

Nevertheless, Redfearn stuck to his guns, the system remained and it turns out Einstein was right; trying the same thing and expecting a different result is insanity.

While the midfield four was flat, in practice, the results were no different to the dark days of Leeds’ 4-4-2 diamond. We somehow looked too narrow and yet simultaneously overwhelmed in the centre of the park and it played right into Brentford’s hands as they’re able to counter-attack rapidly and we weren’t able to tighten things up.

Leeds’ midfield never got a firm grip on the game and we looked uncomfortable throughout, but Brentford weren’t much more convincingly at the start of the second half and the game went scrappy for a time.

In between the referee randomly blowing his whistle and making dreadful decisions, Steve Morison fluffed a chance from a corner before Brentford controversially scored the only goal of the game.

It looked to everyone inside the stadium like there’d been a blatant handball in the build-up which seemed to cause a second of hesitation from Leeds who were expecting a free-kick, but the referee ignored the appeals and Brentford took advantage, feeding the ball out-wide for a low cross to be fired across the box for Pritchard to convert. “One nil to the referee” sang the home fans.

Leeds’ attempts to push for an equaliser would only compound the issues they’d had with Brenford’s fast-breaking attack all afternoon, leaving the defence more exposed than ever.

Brentford’s most notable chance to kill the game off came rebounding back off the post while Billy Sharp and Edgar Cani both tried to capitalise on a scramble in the visitors box but couldn’t force home the equaliser.

Boos at full-time were directed towards the officials for one of the worst, and most one-sided, performances of refereeing I’ve ever seen, but this wasn’t a game Leeds deserved to take anything from and the referees abysmal performance shouldn’t disguise how poor Leeds were.

Ups and downs v Brentford

Brentford had four or five chances to kill this off, a couple of which they created from breaking at pace leaving them in positions where they outnumbered Leeds’ defence (partly because of how quickly they broke, but mostly because of how disorganised our midfield was). Silvestri saved a couple (one in particular stands out when he was left 1-on-1), Liam Cooper ‘took one for the team’ – a yellow card, that is – with an excellent professional foul to stop another Brentford break ending 1-on-1 and the shot that came back off the post was very unlucky. There’s no debating the best team won, even if they could have been made to pay for not being clinical enough.

From a Leeds point of view, the formation just didn’t work and Brentford were one of the worst possible teams to try it against. They’re good on the ball and can break at pace if given too much space, Leeds had to keep things tight in midfield to dominate this encounter and that was never going to happen with Luke Murphy and Lewis Cook playing standard CM roles.

The 4-2-3-1 has worked so well because the two central players are DMs, prioritising the protection of our defence over staying forward to support the attack, but here we had a situation where Lewis Cook and Luke Murphy were expected to balance the two and neither of them did it very well.

Neil Redfearn spoke of wanting to be more positive at home and I’m fully on-board with that, but I reject the implied wisdom that 4-4-2 is more positive than 4-2-3-1 simply because it allows us to play an additional striker. It doesn’t matter what formation you play, how you play it is what counts and if you can’t control the game in any given system, it’s neither attacking or defensive. It’s just failing. And this failed in many of the same ways the 4-4-2 diamond did.

The 4-2-3-1 does make use of two DMs, but they’re not always defending. While more defensively-positioned in that system it hasn’t stopped Lewis Cook bursting out of defence with the ball to start and contribute towards attacks – in fact, that’s where he’s looked most effective. Luke Murphy’s looked pretty solid there too (and at AM) and neither of them were anywhere near as impressive yesterday, in an attacking or a defensive sense.

Of course, the other major difference is we lose the AM that our DMs use as an outlet for when they’ve won the ball, allowing them to quickly push up and re-establish control in the centre of the park. One of the two strikers can be doing that of course, but our midfield was all over the place, we lacked both the shape and organisation to ever really assert control.

Just how bad was the referee?

The ref was criminally bad, but firstly, It’s important to note that the best team won and Leeds didn’t play well enough to deserve anything from this game, so I hope this isn’t interpreted as sour grapes.

Brentford’s manager can moan all he likes about the Elland Road crowd getting on the refs back (which they only did after 3 or 4 dodgy calls), but if Rodolph Austin was fly-kicked to the head, he wouldn’t have got a free-kick. Along with the incidents leading up to Brentford’s goal, two very clear looking penalties were denied and there were numerous 50/50 calls that not once went in Leeds’ favour. This was the most suspicious case of refereeing I’ve seen in years.

Genuinely think the ref’s wife left him for a Leeds fan, it’s the only explanation for it.

On and on…

PS. I’ve no idea who took the photo at the top of the page (feel free to get in touch if you want to take credit), but it captures the impressive Elland Road skyline shortly after the final whistle yesterday. 

  • henrymouni

    Ignoring the smoke screen of the referee, we were very poor again.
    In truth we have made little or no progress for a few years now.
    Redders needs to get a grip!!
    We could easily have lost 4-0.

    • PAUL W

      I totally agree with you and what about the Bournemouth home game, in which Leeds led a very charmed life in and hung onto by the skin of their teeth, with Bournemouth missing a penalty, which never was, but Bournemouth could easily have won with the numerous chances and possession that they had.
      We have to stop blaming the referee for poor decisions that cause Leeds to have poor results.
      What about Leeds taking the initiative for once, by actually scoring a goal from open-play and not have to rely on trying to get a penalty score a goal ?
      Everybody knows that the referees have been instructed to give Leeds no crucial decisions, after Cellino has made them look like a bunch idiots, which they already were, anyway.
      Blaming the referee for constant poor results, is a bad habit of every team that is struggling against relegation.

    • Scally Lad

      Redders, to be fair to him, is still new and therefore low on the learning curve, and especially with new and untested signees, he can be excused for still looking for the right answers. Time is of the essence though, and we can be glad that all four sides below us lost.

      • henrymouni

        I think Redders’ main problem has been trying to fit the Chairman’s players (the new signings) into the team.
        Most of them have ‘faded away’ from the starting 11 and a lot of time has been wasted.
        Why the hell do we still NOT HAVE A WINGER??
        Our last signing was ANOTHER striker, with an appalling scoring, and assist record!!
        Sol Bamba is looking good – I suspect he was a Redders’ recommendation??
        Redders must be allowed to bring his own players in before it is too late!!!

        • Ajose should not be at Crewe. He wasn’t lacking in talent before Leeds and he’s not lacking talent now. Like half the Leeds team… he suffered from confusion and at least out of the mincer!. I hope Cellino is banned on a rolling basis then Redders will be able to pick the best team, (whatever that is) and get on with it. We are too close to the edge. The strikers need service….

  • Ron

    We could have played 4 strikers up front, but without any wingers putting balls in the box this season will remain a frustrating affair for all fans. I would rather us play young Walters on the left and let the kid learn by being put in at the deep end. At this rate we’ll stick Sol Bamba there! We went into the window lacking wingers, as we have done since Max Gradel departed, yet still nothing. Now we have another forward in Cani who will also wonder how the f&*k we have managed to not buy a winger. Please play Walters and hopefully we can suffer through the rest of the season knowing we are blooding our youth.

    • PAUL W

      You are absolutely right about playing young Walters or even having him on the bench, to come on and give Leeds some extra pace, which is badly needed in the midfield.
      I don’t really see the point in having the uncreative Bianchi on the bench, when a more attacking, game changing player could be sat there instead.
      It’s just a shame that Aidy White has had such a bad injury, but it really beggars belief that Cellino has signed so many strikers and midfielders and not one recognized wide player has been signed.

  • Barry Mell

    I’m a Brentford fan! I wasn’t at Elland Road but listened to the commentary on Bees Player and have watched 40 minutes of highlights on Bees Player, as well as other much shorter clips on TV and the net.
    1) The first Austin penalty claim had some merit as Moses pushed him, but this was not blatantly obvious and the ref can be forgiven for giving the benefit of the doubt to the defender.
    The other penalty claims were an insult to the game and Austin should have been booked for diving (and sent off for a 2nd booking later)
    2) Cooper was last man when he took out Pritchard, and was booked but could have been sent off.
    3) The goal. Since when has ball-to-face been a diabolical decision not to give you a free kick for hand ball? Watch the replay!!

    • TSS

      Hi Barry,

      Firstly, I disagree Austin dived, he isn’t that kind of player. Fans often call dive these days when the touch looks slight because simulation has become too common, but running at speed it takes very little contact to knock someone off-balance.

      Cooper could indeed have been sent off, but considering the amount of fouls on Austin that went without so much as a booking or free-kick, the ref wouldn’t have made it out of the stadium alive had he done so.

      As for the goal, I was at the game and the only replay I’ve seen of the goal – the one doing the rounds on Twitter – starts after the alleged handball took place so I can’t be sure, but am more than happy to be corrected on that one (there was also a foul shortly before that the ref ignored, per his general performance, but I’ll let that one go).

      40 minutes of highlights is a lot but even the most extensive of highlights will cut out 90% of the things a ref blows the whistle for so without being at the game or seeing a full 90 minutes, it’s impossible to really judge a referees performance. We’d be fouled one minute, get nothing, you’d get brushed up against the next and get a free-kick. It sounds like conspiracy stuff, I know, but the ref was genuinely THAT bad. And I know your natural instinct is to dismiss it as the effects of rose-tinted specs because I’m obviously a Leeds fan, but I’ve always pointed out when it’s worked in our favour too, Forest got totally mugged earlier in the season by poor decisions when playing us as I pointed out here – http://www.thescratchingshed.com/2014/12/mugging-notts-forest-and-dropping-the-brazilian/

      I don’t think there’s an anti-Leeds bias or “The Football League’s corrupt”, Leeds lost the game because we were the worst team, I take nothing away from Brentford, but that ref was atrocious and suspiciously one-sided in his decisions throughout the entire match.

      • Irving08

        Austin is so clumsy and almost permanently off balance how would one know if he dived or not ?

  • LeedsBowyer

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw Sharp was being played out wide. We should have stayed with the same formation as Huddersfield, if we wanted to get another striker on then it had to be Antenucci either behind Morison or out left. The only way to Sharp on is to play to conventional strikers and the only way to do that with our players is to go back to the 3-5-2, which to be honest could work with Cooper Bamba Wooton, Taylor Byram, Murphy Cook, Austin, Sharp Morison. I think the formation has its flaws but after signing 18 players we really should not be putting square pegs in to rounds holes…

    • Tyler75

      I thought Wooton looked good at RB – a lot more solid than Beradi – you’re right a 3 man back-line of Wooton, Bamba and Cooper with Taylor pushed further forward could definitely work

  • Tyler75

    Agreed we weren’t particularly good on Saturday and the 4-4-2 didn’t work; but there is no denying the huge influence the referee had on the game – not least in Brentford’s goal and the blatant foul on Rudi in the penalty area in the first half. The other 3 pen shouts fell in to the ‘seen them given’ category and any other team in the League having 4 decent to half-decent penalty shouts in a game at home would have be given at least one – but not us and not by this referee. Brentford are a good, very quick side – yes 2 good saves from Silvestri but that’s what he’s there for – there wasn’t much in the game and but for Morison’s and Sharp’s poor finishing we could easily have taken a point. Just a quick mention for Sol Bamba and Charlie Taylor, who I both thought were excellent. Bamba and Cooper’s developing CB partnership looks to be the best we’ve had for a while.

  • NottsWhite

    Redfearn was brave to play another striker and the formation switch did have merit as we were the home team and should be on the front foot when it comes to attacking. The issue I have is that when it clear that the tactic is not working Redfearn seems unable or unwilling to make any tactical switches until too late. It was obvious in the first half that Brentford were taking control of the midfield and our style of play was far too direct therefore playing right into the hands of the two thugs they had at centre back. Murphy flourishes in a 5 man midfield as there is less responsibility upon him however as part of a four he struggles. We also need to be more ruthless with our finishing as we are a team that does not create many chances. The Ref was poor and the Brentford players quickly cottoned on to the fact that if they threw themselves onto the ground from minimal contact they would get a free kick from the generous Mr Salisbury

    • henrymouni

      What does not help is that we do not have anyone who can take a decent corner or free kick.
      Big men in the box and nobody can find them.
      You’d think they would practice!

  • Mike

    Even in the 4-2-3-1 we dont have a proper left sided player. I like Mowatt but he’s not suited for that role, he’s entirely too slow for starters, and I think he only reason he’s put out there is he’s left footed(its still square peg round hole). Current personnel we should be in the 5-3-2 or 3-5-2(depending on how you choose to look at it) allowing Taylor and Byram to be the width since they’re our two best wide players.

    I know Redders was trying to reward Sharp for his heroics but he did so at the expense of the rest of the team, poor decision here in my opinion. I’m going to go ahead and say “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” for this situation.

  • Irving08

    One look at Saturday’s team sheet was enough to put me off going to the match; the car going on strike clinched it. Sharp scores a goal, puts on a show and he’s in; Wooton again plays out of position at right back (I wouldn’t play him anywhere though); a new centre half, who may well be a good signing, but is bound to be a bit rusty, is playing instead of the match fit and feisty runner up in our player of the year competition last year- whoops, he’s gone to relegation rivals, and yet again Jamaica’s best NFL player that never was is playing to the bewilderment of all – including and especially his own team. Overall the selections, but notably that of Sharp, were signs to me of weakness in our Manager, charitably attributed by our departed PoY runner-up to his not knowing his best team. And that was before he had recruited his lower league assistant from Huddersfield.

  • oldschoolbaby

    I still applaud NR`s positivity and his desire to play 4 4 2. But you have to be pragmatic and you certainly have to be pragmatic whilst flirting with the relegation zone.
    Buy cheap, buy twice. I`ve almost lost count of the width options that have come and, largely, gone. The laws of supply and demand are quite simple. What we need isn`t readily available and comes at a cost. We have to load the midfield until the problem can be properly resolved.
    Sharp is probably our most potent striker but he doesn`t suit that system. Morrison leaves me cold and he can`t buy a goal. So, for me, we have to persevere with Antenucci. I would love to see a proper Sky analysis of his offsides. If he were playing with better players, who released the ball that split second earlier, I`m sure he wouldn`t get flagged that often.
    I would leave Cook behind when the bus leaves for Reading. Keep the boy fresh for the weekend

    • henrymouni

      Don’t worry OSB!
      Redders has a plan!!
      “You look to win the game. But if you can’t win, don’t get beat and then move onto the next one. If we go with that mentality between now and the end of the season, we will pick up more points than we will drop,” said Redfearn.

      • oldschoolbaby

        He was obviously given the bumper book of clichés for Christmas. I think it`s the crap you get when media gurus and PR wasters are allowed to play with the heads of football men.

    • Irving08

      Surely OS intelligence trumps attitude.

      • oldschoolbaby

        Indeed, but this is modern day football. If you`re looking for the MENSA scorers, they will be woefully underemployed eating biscuits in a side room.

        • Irving08

          You can only be referring to Chris Dawson – our star Graduand.

          • oldschoolbaby

            I was defending NR. His natural inclination is to attack. An inclination can be tempered. Attack focussed football, although irritating when we crave security above the relegation zone, is what we really want to see. We didn’t take to Darko`s eastern European brand of George Grahamism, did we ?
            Your cheerleading for Dawson is as commendable as it is vocal ( you were right about Taylor ). I would suspect he has no better chance than being given an opportunity under NR. What would be a particularly delicious 3 points on Saturday would put an entirely different complexion on the table. Perhaps then some more experimentation with youth will be countenanced.

          • Irving08

            I wonder – players may have be permitted to have natural inclinations, but are Managers ? Graham was my type of Manager – ruthless and unsentimental deployment of the resources at hand. How does this sit with my advocacy of CD ? Only partially perhaps – but Graham liked organisers and CD is one of these; besides he has good feet. And I am inclined to agree with you that he is best advised to put his trust in NR. (I have form in advocating apparently slight but skillful players: the only letter I ever wrote to a football club was to Billy Bremner after he took over in 1985, exhorting him to keep hold of Scott Sellars….. ). Anyway sanity was restored last night and I was not displeased that your man Bianchi had been given another chance. What rotten luck to be crocked – let’s hope it’s not too serious.

          • oldschoolbaby

            You are what you are. You can rein in the cavalier. The cautious are unlikely to unleash themselves. Graham`s approach was too dull for my taste.
            Hopefully the defence is starting to show signs of assuredness ( I noted further positive reports on Wootton last night ?? ) which hasn`t been the case for a very long time. That would alleviate the need for a purely holding midfield player. I too wish Bianchi well though.

          • Irving08

            LUFC 4-Derby Co 3.

            I shall watch Wootton closely on Saturday. 3 points and we can start thinking about safety.

            Interesting point about the character of midfield. It would certainly work in my favour !

          • Irving08

            Correction: both our favours. MOT.

          • oldschoolbaby

            My senior moments are becoming seamless. I remember that game but I wouldn`t have guessed it was in the Graham era. If you cancel out the equalising goals it was still “one nil to the Arse, I mean, Yorkshiremen”.
            I would never want someone of Wootton`s size / stature at RB. HOWEVER, you would not want to meet Ivanovic down a dark Serbian alley without an assault rifle and a concealed support weapon and he has few equals. It will be extremely interesting to see how the experiment pans out. If you have to be sent to Rotherham to learn to embrace Yorkshire, the world has become stranger than I thought.

    • henrymouni

      Thought you would like this OSB!!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssB_RSbKKS4

      Volume adjustment at the bottom left of the video!

      • oldschoolbaby

        Sorry, came late to this Henry. It amused me greatly nonetheless. I have 2 working dogs and an American Bulldog X. None of them have the intelligence of this magnificent specimen.

        • henrymouni

          A dog to be proud of!
          Just got an e-mail from my nephew, wondering if promotion is a possibility?
          Two weeks ago we were looking over our shoulders, and now we are looking up to the summit!!