Mad Max strikes again

A little later than usual with the match report due to a weekend of drunken debauchery so I’ll keep it relatively short as everything that needs to be said, has probably been repeated numerous times already.

A 2-0 win over QPR at Elland Road moved the expectation levels up another notch as Leeds United sneaked into the automatic places with Cardiff City’s match postponed. Beating the league leaders was reason enough to celebrate, but the manner in which Leeds United kept QPR quiet and dominated this tie was, for me, the pinnacle of a very positive season so far.

Right from the off Leeds looked threatening and dominated almost entirely, with the midfield dictating play. Snodgrass was excellent out wide, as was Howson who seemed to shift between the central attacking position he’s been playing in lately and the left wing. Bradley Johnson meanwhile dictated play in the centre whilst Neil Kilkenny kept things neat and tidy and allowed Leeds to dictate the tempo.

With Johnson battling away and silencing the QPR midfield for large parts and Killa’s tidy passing spreading the ball in both directions, you could really see the midfield system Simon Grayson has been trying to create come together and give Leeds United almost total dominance.

There was of course, one other player I’ve yet to mention – Mad Max Gradel. From a liability to Elland Road superstar and back more times than I care to count, this was the superstar version of Max that can delight crowds and terrify defenders.

Max switched from Becchio’s strike partner up front and his more common position of winger (with the Shaun Derry marked Jonny Howson going in the opposite direction). It was these two individual positions that his two goals came from as Snoddy and Howson linked up to provide his first – an opportunistic half volley from a centre forward position, whilst his second came from one of those great solo runs where he usually gets dispossessed and then sulks because the nasty defender took the ball off him.

Two good goals that lifted Leeds United into the automatic promotion spots and gave the Whites fans plenty to celebrate this Christmas. Celebrations that were later refuelled by the news Luciano Becchio has finally signed a new contract.

I haven’t mentioned the defence, because overall they had a very quiet shift. Alex Bruce went off injured early meaning Leigh Bromby got some rare time on the pitch – he had little to do, but when called upon he did his job perfectly well. Out wide, the full-backs never hesitated to get forward and help out the attackers, whilst Kasper Schmeichel probably wished he’d brought something to read.

Paul Connolly again deserves special mention. Him and Snodgrass seem to have developed an almost telepathic understanding of what one another is going to do, and it’s formed a formidable attacking force down the wing. The two overlap one another and play one-two’s throughout, but also cover each others positions when needed. Great to see.


In the interests of balance, I should probably mention QPR. They did have the odd chance but nothing worth writing home about. Man for man, Leeds United were by far the stronger team and were worthy winners. It appears the lack of depth in the QPR side seems to be costing them. It’s a side with some obvious quality, but whether it will be enough to sustain an automatic push is doubtful – having played almost every team in the division now, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t put QPR in the top three or four.

…and Leeds’ promotion chances?

I said in pre-season that I expected to finish in the play-offs and part of my reasoning for that prediction was the sheer level of depth we have available to us. Ross McCormack, Billy Paynter, Sanchez Watt and Lloyd Sam (and maybe a couple of others) would be starting XI in most Championship sides, but at Elland Road they’re struggling to get a couple of minutes here and there in the first team.

Having played the majority of teams in this division now, the only one I would say was better than us is Cardiff. Leicester City were pretty outstanding too, but their failure to gain any kind of momentum leaves them way off the pace.

With that in mind, there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t finish in the automatic places. I think our obvious quality and the strength in depth we have available to reinforce that in times of need, means we have a massive advantage over 90% of this league and that seems to be coming in to play as the season progresses.