By Mike Courtney
What a feeling. I'm sitting here with a smile as wide as our winning margin and it feels good. This is the way it should be most weekends. I haven't seen us play with such passion, pride, determination and skill in many a year. The scoreline doesn't flatter us in the least, in fact we could and should have scored a few more but let's not complain. This game was won with ease and hopefully it will be the start of the run that we need to close the gap on the top of the table. So the questions is, where did this performance come from, and more appropriately where has it been all season?
Let's give credit where credit is due to BMAC for finally changing from the diamond formation and adapting a 3-5-2 formation that gave us width and pace and allowed Rossco to operate closer to the opposition penalty box. I have previously blogged about this formation, twice I think, and felt it would enable us to create more chances. I don't for one minute think that BMAC would pay the slightest heed to what I write but I'm glad he adopted this formation which allowed us to press high up the field and put Birmingham under pressure from the off. Playing Rudy in an advanced role was a master stroke as he never gave the Birmingham back 3 a second on the ball and with Rossco running the channels brilliantly and young Mowatt showing composure beyond his years in midfield, we totally dominated a poor Birmingham side.
We should have been two up early on with Ross and Pearce both missing guilt edged chances, but it wasn't long before the faithful were cheering, when the Blues keeper went walkabout and Rudy teed up Ross to finish cooly from outside the box into an empty net. Ross returned the favour by crossing perfectly for a marauding Austin to stoop and nod home from 8 yards to send the home fans into ecstasy. It was 3 just before half time when Ross latched on to a flick from the imposing Smith only for Randolph to save, but Smithy was alive to the rebound and he calmly slotted home from the edge of the box to cap off a majestic first half team performance.
The second half was never going to live up to this as Birmingham did come back into it a bit but some last ditch defending by an impressive Tom Lees kept them at bay. Leeds did create plenty more opportunities with Randolph saving brilliantly from a point blank Smith header and when Rudy was put through by a slide rule pass from Mowatt, Randolph was again up to the task to keep his shot out. Smith did have the ball in the net when Mowatt played him through and he hammered the ball to the roof of the net but he was harshly ruled offside. The Revie Stand didn't have long to wait for number 4 though as Mowatt's inch perfect cross was met at the far post by a powerful Smith header to seal the 3 points and move us up into 9th place and improved our goal difference into the bargain.
This was the performance that every Leeds fan was waiting for, it's been almost a year since we last scored 4 goals, and it was a great way to bounce back after a run of poor results. Every player impressed from the back through midfield and up front. I have been critical of Smith as a signing up to now but I was impressed with his work rate and finishing today and he was unlucky not to have bagged a hat-trick. The back 3 were solid throughout and handled most of what Birmingham threw at them. Murphy and the aforementioned Mowatt controlled the flow and it was nice to Byram back to his best on the right flank. Warnock got forward also and made a few decisive clearances as well. The attacking trio of Austin, Rossco and Smith were excellent throughout and it's hard to find fault with the team as a whole. The change in formation certainly helped us create more chances than we have done all season and we were rarely exposed at the back as Murphy and Mowatt gave good protection to the back three. Kenny was hardly tested in goal but had to be rescued by Lees on a couple of occasions. It just goes to show that if you have pace and width in this division you will create chances and I believe this is the formation we should keep for the remainder of the campaign.
So hats off to BMAC for having the guts to make the change and giving us something to cheer about after a disappointing few weeks. I know one swallow doesn't make a summer but if we can continue to play in this way more wins will follow. Its great to see young home grown talent emerging and I believe young Mowatt is a star in the making and needs to be nurtured and protected and signed to a long term deal before some of the premier league teams come knocking. So let us bask in the glory of a pride restoring performance that has me, and probobly every Leeds Fan, beaming on a Sunday afternoon.
MOT Leeds Leeds