Ghoulish Defensive Error Costs Leeds TSS October 30, 2011 Match reviews 30 Comments Robert Snodgrass’ second half goal put an end to Cardiff’s run of consecutive wins against Leeds United, but The Whites will feel unlucky to have finished with only a draw. A closely matched first half saw the teams separated by some ghoulish Darren O’Dea defending, which gifted Joe Mason an easy opener. It looked as though O’Dea had been pushed off balance by the Cardiff youngster as he tried to take the ball around him, but the on-loan centre back had no complaints. The real problem was O’Dea’s failure to do the elementary. First to the ball and under intense pressure from Mason, he should have hoofed it clear immediately. Instead, he tried to take control and paid dearly as a consequence. That left Leeds United with an uphill battle to climb, in a half-empty Elland Road that was completely void of atmosphere against a side we hadn’t beaten for 27 years. The Whites seemed intent on bypassing the midfield – our biggest asset – completely, instead opting to hoof the ball clear for Ross McCormack and Andy Keogh to chase. Paul Rachubka was the biggest culprit of our hoofing, but on the rare occasion he did play it short, the defenders seemed to be following a similar game plan. Fortunately, the second half saw everything change. Leeds passed the ball around better and with the midfield no longer bypassed, started dominating proceedings with Cardiff barely getting a touch of the ball. Unsurprisingly, this approach saw Leeds create more chances, which in turn, gave Leeds fans something to cheer about and the atmosphere a desperately needed lift. As the atmosphere intensified so too did the pressure Leeds were putting on Cardiff City. David Marshall, undoubtedly Cardiff City’s man of the match, made several top class saves to deny Leeds a deserved equaliser. But Marshall couldn’t keep Leeds at bay forever, and when the equaliser came it was no surprise to see Tom Lees – our man of the match for his work at both end of the pitch – involved with a header on to Robert Snodgrass, who turned the ball beyond Cardiff City’s impressive goalkeeper. The second half was littered with good chances for Leeds to score more, but some excellent blocks from Cardiff City’s captain and goalkeeper kept the honours even. Leeds United will feel they deserved to win, but the heroics of a couple of City’s players earned the visitors a draw. Ups and downs… Failure to win means Leeds fans will undoubtedly be playing the blame game. Jonny Howson was no doubt anonymous, Robert Snodgrass will be getting criticised for a lack of first half creativity and Paul Rachubka will be the worst thing to happen to Leeds United since Tomas Brolin. The truth is, the midfield was bypassed in the first half meaning it was hard for any of them to get into the game. When the ball was hit long and high to Snodgrass, he did well to pluck it out of the air multiple times, showing good control and forcing free-kicks, corners and throws – something he does every game when lacking support, but sometimes it doesn’t pan out and the rest it goes unnoticed. Howson and Clayton meanwhile couldn’t help but spectate first half as Rachubka continued to hoof it long, cutting them out of the game almost entirely. Still, when they did get the ball they at least attempted to pass it around a bit and maintain possession – something that no one else seemed to be interested in. As for the second half, Howson seemed to spend much of it playing deeper, offering an alternative to the hoof ball system they’d decided on and linking passes together as Leeds gained momentum. Whether it was a tactical change or simply a reaction to the first half madness, he appeared to be standing behind the attacking line as we applied pressure, picking up the loose balls as Cardiff cleared and keeping composure to distribute for another attacking move – basically what Neil Kilkenny used to do, but with a tackle or two thrown in for good measure. Clayton meanwhile pushed on, trying to get his name on the score sheet and offered a real attacking threat to Leeds with his powerful shooting ability. He made a couple of careless challenges, but I’d rather him pick up the odd booking than let our opposition break too easily. As I said above, Tom Lees was the clear man of the match. He seemed to be on the end of every free-kick and corner, heading on for Robert Snodgrass to snatch the equaliser. The young centre back was unlucky not to score himself too, but it was his defensive display that most impressed me, never really losing his man and responsible for almost every clearance we made under pressure. I was also impressed with the two full-backs attacking displays, particularly Aidy White who Cardiff couldn’t deal with when he broke forward at pace. Whilst still not convincing dealing with high balls, Paul Rachubka is a good enough shot stopper and was unlucky not to get a clean sheet when you consider the circumstances of Cardiff City’s only goal. It’ll be a day worth celebrating when Andy Lonergan returns, but you can only put today’s error down to Darren O’Dea. Finally, the forwards. There was little Ross McCormack or Andy Keogh could do with the service first half and it didn’t surprise anyone when Luciano Becchio was brought on early in the second for Keogh. However, the change was perhaps a little premature, as we were keeping the ball down in the second half and that would have suited the Keogh-McCormack partnership more than it did the Becchio-McCormack one. The hoofball football we played for the entire duration of the first half was where we needed Luci. No complaints overall. Sloppy defending and a masterclass in shot stopping from Cardiff’s goalkeeper coupled with the last ditch blocks from their captain cost us the win, but we responded well to a poor first half showing and have to give credit to Cardiff for their resolve. A draw against fellow play-off contenders is never a bad result.