McCormack-PearceA loss is a loss no matter how you cut it, but in the moment, when you’ve paid your money and travelled to see a game, it’s never quite that simple.

Though there’s been a definite uptick in sarcastic cheers and booing recently, Leeds United fans aren’t prone to such behaviour. From my more than two decades experience following this club all around the country (and Europe) I can tell you that the result is rarely the most important thing to our regulars. I’ve seen us cheer the players off the pitch after absolute hammerings, simply because they gave it their all and tried to play a game of football we wanted to see.

You could be Don Revie reincarnate, 2 wins in 16 games is going to cause unrest. But what’s really frustrating fans is the lack of a discernible gameplan from Brian McDermott, the formation is switched almost every week and there’s little difference in the style of football we’ve played to the dross we witnessed under Neil Warnock.

I’m all for patience and 2/3 year plans, but there should be a noticeable, if somewhat gradual, change in our style of play, and above all else, the squad should be enthusiastically embracing this new direction for the club and giving everything to see it succeed. Instead we’ve had confusion and a total lack of effort.

While our performance at Turf Moor yesterday doesn’t justify use of football’s maximum percentage of effort (110%), it was certainly an improvement on recent performances and did show the team are still capable of putting the effort in for this manager.

As far as a discernible gameplan goes, we switched formation again and did the basics better than we have been, but there was no indications that this was the start of a footballing revolution for Leeds United.

Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing though.

We know this team can play better than they have been because we saw it during the first half of the campaign when there were gradual signs of Brian McDermott’s influence, since then however, we’ve been all over the place.

At their best, the squad has looked like eleven professional footballers put together at the last-minute who’ve no experience playing alongside each other. At their worst, they look like eleven men drawn at random from the crowd.

The fact is, whatever Brian McDermott has attempted to put in place hasn’t worked. The players either lost faith in him or their own ability, but whatever it is, a back-to-basics approach may be the best we can hope for at this juncture.

Back-to-basics will only take you so far of course, and even when the Championship’s second placed team are having an off day (as Burnley undeniably were), they’re still going to get the better of us more often than not, as was the case here.

Leeds started brightly enough though, Matt Smith firing the first shot of the game tamely at the keeper from a difficult angle following good work from McCormack. That effort was followed by a dreadful back-pass from Burnley which McCormack intercepted. One-on-one with the keeper, the Leeds end was already cheering as McCormack’s lobbed effort beat the keeper, only for the ball to bounce back off the post.

The early pressure paid off for Leeds though when a long-throw from Connor Wickham was flicked on by Matt Smith for Ross McCormack to head home. 0-1.

No matter how well Leeds start and how much effort they put in, it’s hard to believe this defence will ever hold out with a one-goal lead and it didn’t take long for those fears to be realised, Burnley’s quick break led to a low, hard cross hit across the area from Kieran Trippier which Jason Pearce tried to put wide for a corner, but instead put into his own goal. 1-1.

An unusual substitution came early in the second half from Brian McDermott who replaced Alex Mowatt with Dom Poleon. While it’s always nice to see Poleon get a run out, Mowatt had been performing well on the right-hand side of midfield with Sam Byram for support and while McCormack and Wickham had done their part in defending from the front, we only had two orthodox midfielders shielding our backline at this stage.

It wasn’t long after that change Burnley took the lead, a deflected shot from the corner of the box bouncing back off Leeds’ defence for Arfield to take a second stab at it, this time beating everyone to make it 2-1.

I mentioned the unusual substitution above because Burnley’s second goal started down the right hand side of pitch where Mowatt had been operating. It’s impossible to say whether the change cost us, but the space Burnley found wasn’t there earlier in the game. Still, the goal itself didn’t come close to the sloppiness of some we’ve conceded recently, so that’s something…

From there, Burnley sat back and absorbed pressure making it difficult for Leeds to find space and the game ended 2-1 to the home side.

The latest formation experiment worked to an extent, Leeds managed to apply sustained pressure for a time and McCormack and Wickham (playing wide roles either side of Matt Smith, who was effectively a lone striker) worked hard to ensure the midfield wasn’t overrun.

I wouldn’t say Mowatt’s substitution was a turning point to the game, but he and Byram worked well together on the right while Dom Poleon didn’t have much of an effect. It was certainly a strange decision under the circumstances.

But while Leeds lost this game and the dreadful run continues, I didn’t leave angry at the performance for a change. In fact, the only thing I was really riled by the whole day was the cringeworthy banner someone brought into the away end, begging Cellino to take over (as if a badly written banner would influence his decision). Have we lost all self-respect at this club?

On and on…