By Mike Courtney
Prior to yesterday's match at home to league leaders Leicester, there was a lot of negative talk regarding the state of the team, manager and the club in general.
Most of it was warranted after a string of poor results culminating in the humiliation at Hillsborough last week. Most observers reckoned that Leicester would compound that doom and gloom by doling out another beating with Messrs Nugent and Vardy tipped to rip open our porous defence.
BMAC was looking for a response from his players and he reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with the return of Byram and Warnock to the full back berths, Michael Brown joining Rudy in midfield and Luke Varney alongside newly appointed captain Ross McCormack up front. The response the manager was looking for was evident from the outset as Leeds hassled and harried Leicester all over the pitch and could and should have been one up inside 5 minutes when Varney's cross was heading against the post by our skipper.
We were lucky to survive a few minutes later when Pearce let Vardy run in behind him and he smashed a right foot shot against the post. From there until the end of the half it was mostly all Leeds. McCormack had an exquisite lob cleared off the line after Schmeichel flapped at a corner and his deflected follow up was expertly turned round the post by the keeper. Then Ross was put in one on one with the keeper and a chance he would normally have taken went a begging as he shot straight at Schmeichel. Tom Lees sent a free header over the bar from 3 yards and Kebe tried to play in Varney but his square ball was cut out at the expense of a corner.
At the other end Leicester's highly rated strike force was getting little or no change from Lees and Pearce, Rudy and Brown were all over the park tackling and intercepting and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Kenny didn't have one save to make in that opening half. The manager must have been happy with the reaction he got from his players in that opening 45 minutes, but I think we all knew we couldn't keep that tempo up in the second half and the lack of a goal despite having dominated was worrying.
We didn't create much in the way of chances in the second half as Leicester began to get a foothold in the game, but neither did they and as we approached the final 10 minutes Kenny still wasn't unduly tested. When Kevin Phillips was introduced I must admit I though he would make an impact for them but it was
Andy King who almost broke the deadlock, when he was just wide of Kennys left hand post after a Leicester break. Leeds hearts were finally broken on 88 minutes when the aforementioned Phillips step-over a low cross and Dave Nugent poked home a soft goal for a smash and grab victory for the leaders.
Depsite 4 minutes of added time and the introduction of Diouf for a rare appearance, Leeds were not able to conjure up the equaliser that their first half performance deserved and we have now lost our last 4 league games and have plummeted to 12th having being top 6 before Christmas. There were a lot of positives though. We did look livelier all over the pitch. We created plenty of chances and kept their strike force quiet for much of the game. Some fans will point to the fact that we still play a lot of hoof ball and don't try to play out from the back, but when you are on a run like ours this is understandable. We don't have that creative spark in midfield and though Varney did well I feel we still lack a genuine partner for McCormack up front.
BMAC said after the game that it was the first time he felt he had a team and a formation and game plan to compete in the Championship. I hope he is right but having been in the job for the best part of a year I would think its about time we had at least that. The team needs new blood and though we have brought in two wide men we still need 2 or 3 signings before the end of the window. Our next two fixtures are at home to Ipswich and Huddersfield, so we have the best part of ten days to get the takeover sorted and players in.
I am still optimistic for this season. Six points from those upcoming home games will have us back within touching distance of the playoffs. We need a win, a scrappy goal, a soft penalty, it doesn't matter how we get it but we need it and soon. The players, management and fans can take some solace from yesterdays defeat, but at the end of the day it was still a defeat and we need to end this bad run some way, some how and soon or we will be building for season 2014/15.
So lot's of positives to take from yesterday apart from the result and when push comes to shove it is a results business, but at least we restored some of the damage done at Wednesday and if we can take the confidence from that into our next home matches, we could get this ship back on course before our season is washed up on the rocks.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds.