No wins now in the last four for Leeds after another below par performance at Elland Road. Three home games at Elland Road were ahead of us last Tuesday, from which we should have realistically been looking to take all nine points, but after disappointing results against Walsall and Brighton, we’re now looking at a maximum of four as the gap to the play-off places disappears.

This was another below par performance from Leeds and the result is no more than they deserved. Although there was an improvement on Tuesday’s performance, there’s still several issues that need to be addressed;

“What the **** is going on?”

Formation

We’ll start with the ever changing line-up, which yesterday was as below at kick-off.

Ankergren

Hughes, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Lowry

Howson, Doyle, Kilkenny, Johnson, McSheffrey

Beckford

The midfield is in no particular order as it was hard to make sense of who was playing where to be totally honest, such was the lack of order it seemed to possess. The key thing to note here however is that Beckford is upfront on his own, whilst our bench harboured the likes of Becchio, Gradel and Snoddy.

More to the point, on the pitch was McSheffrey, who I was led to believe was a forward. Clearly not a natural midfielder, would probably benefit from playing alongside Beckford as he’d be a much better targetman for the long-ball Leeds are insisting on playing at the minute and can also hold the ball up and create chances, which is what Beckford needs to be of any benefit to the team.

Much like when Luciano Becchio was playing alone upfront, Beckford was massively ineffective as a lone striker with poor support from the midfield. Leeds’ final ball was so poor that the Brighton keeper could have probably taken the day off and the scoreline wouldn’t have changed too much. Beckford and Becchio need each other to produce the goods. They both bring something to the party and neither can play alone.

I’m starting to think we’re dropping a striker in order to accomodate McSheffrey who must have been promised first team football. I don’t mind that as McSheffrey is a good player, but he needs to be playing alongside Beckford to keep the balance of the team and give us any real threat going forward.

The penalty

It was never a penalty in a million years, but these things happen. The referee was totally useless throughout and both teams had to cope with him so no sour grapes from me in that respect. Leeds had all the possession and really should have walked it against a pathetically weak Brighton side who we battered 3-0 in the reverse fixture.

The long ball

It’s becoming really annoying seeing balls pumped long to players who can’t bring them down. The supporters were once again whinging at Beckford for failure to move and fight for the ball, but he’s so useless in the air there was probably little point. The team plays better when we have some sort of flow and pass about a bit, but they just don’t seem to have the confidence to try and play football at the minute.

The celebration

The players goading Gus Poyet after we scored was totally unacceptable in my mind. Whether it was deliberate or has been taken out of context, I aren’t entirely sure. Maybe they were intending to celebrate with their own bench? I know Grayson wasn’t pleased anyway and nor was Gus by the sounds of things and it’s hardly surprising really.

The positives

The substitutions

Once we’d made our three changes we were back to our normal shape with Luci and Becks upfront and four in midfield. Snoddy, who started on the bench for some reason, came on and had an instant impact and it was no surprise he got the goal. After falling one down, it was the only time we looked threatening, but since this coincided with going back to basics in terms of line-up and formation, I’d suggest this played more of a part than anything else.

The defence

A million times better than on Tuesday. Doyle and Howson in midfield were nullifying attacks before they became a threat, leaving Brighton with nothing but the long ball option and Paddy was there everytime to head clear. We look so much better with them three in the team from a defensive aspect that if the formation remains the same, I think the clean sheets will return soon.

Max Gradel

Max was the victim of an absolute horror challenge that saw Brighton reduced to ten men late on. I honestly couldn’t believe he got up and played on afterwards as he must have been in some pain, so credit to the youngster for his determination.

The fans

Unlike midweek, it was a good turn-out with 24,000 there to cheer the Whites on. Good to see such a sizable crowd despite things not going our way at the minute. That said, the patience is growing thin and the growing sighs around the ground reflects the times. Most notable chant of the day was a chorus of “What the …. is going on?” when Brighton scored. No booing at the end though thankfully.

Overall

Better but still with flaws. It didn’t surprise me at all to see us improve massively when we went back to 4-4-2 and got the regulars back on the field. I hope we start the next match with the line-up that’s served us well all season and if we are going to play McSheffrey, then hopefully it’ll be alongside Beckford rather than out of place in midfield.

Defensively we looked a different team from Tuesday night, but upfront we’re lacking in ideas, despite the vast array of attacking players at our disposal. Back to basics for me.¬†The worrying thing is that the gap to the play-offs has closed massively so whatever the reasons behind the current slump, they need sorting sharpish.

Can’t deny I’m worried at the minute, but not entirely surprised. Years of supporting Leeds tells me that we never do things the easy way and this season looks to be no exception. I have full faith in Grayson’s ability to turn things round, but the longer this goes on, the more the fans will lose confidence and the more the morale of the support drops, the harder it will become.