By Mike Courtney
We're back on the road this weekend as Brian McDermott takes his Jekyll and Hyde Leeds side to the Valley to face Charlton. Since the last International break BMAC has changed from his Diamond formation to a 3-5-2 formation. This has worked well at home with 2 wins, scoring six and conceding none with a 3-2 loss away to Huddersfield sandwiched in between.
The home performances have been very impressive and have helped us climb to 8th in the table and within touching distance of the playoffs. But it is our away form that is still the issue and this needs to improve if we are to maintain our rise up the table. If you look at the two home performances since this formation has been adopted it's a no-brainer that we keep playing this way but the difference between those performances and the way we played at Huddersfield is seismic. Take Rudy Austin for instance, in the two home games he was phenomenal getting the man of the match award against Birmingham and setting up Rossco's two goals against Yeovil. He was playing like Yaya Toure, marauding forward with drive and precision creating chances and scoring goals. His link up play with Ross was akin to Toure and Aguero and had the fans out of their seats and gushing with enthusiasm. But away at Huddersfield he was more subdued, less inspirational and influential which got me thinking, is he being instructed to be more defensive minded away from home, which in turn is affecting his performance.
I know it's difficult to perform week in week out but the difference between the way he played in those home games and the one at Huddersfield was clear for all to see, Saturday away at Charlton might answer some of my questions. The reason I am picking out Rudy's performances is that I think he is crucial to the way the 3-5-2 formation works. His non stop work rate and pressing high up the pitch coupled with his drive and power has created the opportunities for others and have seen us score more goals, 8 in the last 3 games compared to just 10 in the previous 11 league games. So the 3-5-2 has definitely seen us create more and has stopped the outcry for wingers and a new striker. We still probably need these type of players but the urgency has diminished somewhat. With our full backs raiding and Rossco playing nearer to the goal, we have started to create and take more opportunities then before. So all in all the 3-5-2 seems to be working well at home but whether it can work on the road remains to be seen.
Charlton will be a big test on Saturday. I don't like Charlton, I think it goes back to the playoff defeat in 1987, when Billy's boys were cruelly robbed of a place in the top flight by two late Peter Shirtliff goals in extra time. It broke my heart and I haven't been able to forgive them since. That was over 26 years ago and the pain is still there. So this weekend as we take to the field at the Valley, I hope the boys go some way to relieve some of my pain by taking another 3 points on the road to the premier league.
We will be without our two recognised full backs as both Byram and Warnock are out injured. Adam Drury is still not back to full fitness and Aidy White is out on loan, so if BMAC sticks with the 3-5-2 formation it looks like Lee Peltier may have to switch to left back and possibly Tom Lees moving to right back from the centre. This could mean a first start for Marius Zaliukas playing alongside Pearce and Wootton. This could hamper our attacking play as neither Lees or Peltier, especially with Peltier on the wrong flank, being renowned for their creativity. We will have to rely on young Mowatt and Murphy along with Rudy to provide the ammunition for Ross and possibly Smith, though I wouldn't be surprised if Blackstock got a start.
With our away form being what it is, this is going to be a difficult match. Charlton won't roll over easily and we will need to be at our best if we are to take maximum points. I think that there is a renewed confidence in the camp garnered from our recent performances and the team seems to have settled in to the new formation fairly comfortably. As I have already said, it hasn't proved successful on the road yet but if and its a big IF, we can play like we have been at home under this system the chances will come and I do feel we now have the fire-power to convert these chances and take a welcome three points before the International Break.
Leeds to win 3-1
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds.