As we eagerly await a return to Championship football – with the minor distraction of a 3rd round tie at the Emirates first up – I thought a reflective look back at the season so far was appropriate. A half term report for footballers basically, starting with the men between the sticks.

1. Andy Lonergan 

Season so far: Replacing Kasper Schmeichel between the sticks this season, Leeds United’s new number one Andy Lonergan got off to a terrific start proving he had all the shot stopping ability of his predecessor, with a better command of the area and was less prone to blunder.

Ramshackled and reshuffled defences haven’t helped his clean sheet column with a series of injury problems and one player fall out which has resulted in Leeds’ backline sharing a consistency akin to an Essex girl’s fake tan.

Despite an entire defence exhibiting signs of early onset Ben Parker syndrome, Andy Lonergan has been a God send to Leeds United. His performances consistent, his effort unquestionable and the marked improvement we’ve seen when we have been able to field our best defence was in no small part down to him.

Season High: Saving a penalty against Bristol City to help Leeds United to a 2-1 win. Also recorded the first back-to-back clean sheets in living memory (well, not quite, but it was starting to feel like it…)

Effort – A: Unquestionable. Leeds’ goals against column doesn’t do his half season performance justice.

Performance – B+: Whilst he won’t be displacing Nigel Martyn in the hall of fame any time soon, Lonergan’s half term performance shows a player capable of making the step up should Leeds do the unthinkable this season.

Attendance – C: Fractured his finger in the line of duty missing several games as a result. This act of heroism unfortunately led to the short-lived Paul Rachubka disaster (below) before Simon Grayson brought Alex McCarthy in on loan.

Overall – B: The best buy of summer 2011. There wasn’t much competition for that honour, but if Leeds United were a club that bought players, I’m sure he’d have still been up there with the best of them.

12. Paul Rachubka 

Season So Far: When Andy Lonergan was injured in the line of duty, Paul Rachubka came on to see out the win and retain Leeds United’s clean sheet, but from thereon in, everything went downhill.

A late error against Coventry City cost Leeds United the win and further errors followed in the 3-2 win against Peterborough United. But none of that could prepare Whites fans for the dramatic implosion against Blackpool where Rachubka leaked three goals in 30 minutes.

3-0 down, Rachubka was substituted at half time for Alex Cairns and hasn’t been seen since – his career at Elland Road effectively over.

Season high: His substitution against Blackpool.

Effort – C: Effort hasn’t really been a problem, his execution has. It seems there really is such a thing as trying too hard.

Performance – F: Disastrous would be an understatement. Watching the mental breakdown of a grown man was incredibly painful, yet somehow compelling – bit like a car crash I guess. I said at the time we’d look back on it and laugh. More time needed.

Attendance – F: Sure, he turned up. But did he really have to? Really?

Overall – F: Hereby excluded from Leeds United Football Club. Don’t bother collecting your things, we’ll mail them to which ever cave you decide to hide in.

LOAN: Alex McCarthy 

Season so far: Oh blessed are thee Reading for sending us a shining light amidst our darkest hour.

McCarthy arrived at Elland Road after the Paul Rachubka catastrophe and instantly proved a capable and reliable keeper.

Clearly talented with bags of potential, a bright future awaits this exciting young prospect. Shame he’s only a loan really.

Season high: Three clean sheets in his first four games, with a string of top class saves in the 2-1 win over Burnley that came in between. That run was followed by a penalty save against Watford. Take your pick.

Effort – A+: Top class, can’t fault him at all. Was desperate for games and eager to prove himself. Made all the right noises in the press and followed it up with some outstanding performances on the pitch.

Performance – B+: A couple of creases left to iron out, but this lad looks like the real deal. A big future lies ahead for McCarthy, but he needs to be first choice at Reading if he’s to develop fully.

A match for Andy Lonergan with the potential to become much better.

Attendance – A+: Not only did he turn up for every game, but he brought his concentration with him. Paul Rachubka, take note – that’s how it’s done.

Overall – A: Quality. Just quality. At just 22 years of age, Alex McCarthy has a massive future ahead of him. I only wish that future was at Elland Road. Expect big things. We wish him nothing but luck.

Alex Cairns

No report filed for Alex Cairns because it would be impossible to do so on such limited game time. The fact young Cairns didn’t feature is not a negative however – just look at the impact Paul Rachubka managed to make in 30 minutes.