Leeds United 1 Derby County 2
A lovely, well worked early goal set Leeds on the way in this game and for an hour we looked reasonably comfortable, or as comfortable as a one goal lead can ever look. The latest tinkering of the team by TC put Stuart Dallas in at left back and after the game Christiansen suggested he had also gone 4 – 4 – 2 – although I couldn’t really see much difference from the usual 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 to be honest. Was it Sáiz playing up top with Lasogga?
We were playing OK, nothing more I didn’t think and apart from the goal there wasn’t much to choose between the two sides. Mat Pennington looked more settled than he did last Friday and Pontus seemed solid but then again Derby were not really asking too much of us anyway. The midfield trio of O’Kane, Vieira and Sáiz were workmanlike enough with Sáiz looking bright as he prodded and poked and weaved and turned and twisted looking to create openings for Lasogga. Lasogga was vastly improved over his performance on Friday – actually winning a fair proportion of headers all over the pitch for once.
The goal we got in the 7th minute was a nice combination of good pressing from Vieira, good awareness from Samu and a typical Lasogga finish. The problem was we couldn’t finish Derby off by finding more such combinations and the 8 attempts we fashioned just isn’t enough.
As each minute passed with Leeds not adding to that score, Derby grew in confidence and belief that they would get their chances. Their gaffer even says he knew if they could get one then Leeds would have no response and would crumble… well, words to that effect he apparently told his players at half time. All of us Leeds fans could have delivered that team talk for them, so used to seeing it are we by now.
Sure enough, eventually the chance came, yet again a move worked down our right flank as have been too many goals these last two months. A soft penalty then proved to be the difference; it was the price for not finding that second goal ourselves and it’s something that can always happen.
So, where does that leave us? Well, we still look very low on belief, not surprising having lost 7 of 10. We also still look soft to me, in every respect. Mentally we don’t appear to be thinking enough about managing the game, something Leeds teams have not been good at for donkey’s years. Once again, Derby “played” the referee, the slightest sniff of danger and they’d not think twice about bringing our man down and in 50-50 challenges they just looked stronger, barging little Alioski off the ball is not difficult but they did it to O’Kane, Lasogga and even Samu Sáiz too often for my liking. Only Ronnie Vieira seemed to have the strength to stay on his feet when barged by a Derby player. Vieira continues to grow in confidence and ability with every game.
And then there’s Kemar Roofe. Regular readers of this blog or the books will know that I’ve always had a soft spot for Roofe but I have to say it’s wearing thin. Yes, I know he is not and never will be a winger – by his own admission he wants to play in the centre – so why TC persists in asking him to play out there is beyond me. He offered us almost nothing last night but worse, he even looks dejected about it and the first Derby goal saw him either short of pace and stamina or woefully short of heart to track back and do a job for the team. For me the experiment of playing him wide must end now. If we can’t play him in a forward two then let’s leave him out altogether.
For the rest, I think we just have to persist with them. Again, let’s remember those fine margins, let’s remember we looked OK for an hour last night, let’s remember Bristol and let’s remember the first twenty minutes at Hillsborough. If we can just continue to tinker with the line up to fine tune it I’m sure we’ll eventually find the winning formula. As to promotion, I don’t think that will come this season now unless we can bring in 2 or 3 game changers in January to galvanise the squad we have now and that’s assuming the current crop can win enough games between now and then to keep us vaguely in the hunt.
I’m looking at the trip to Brentford just as I did with Bristol – not a chance – but that turned out OK didn’t it?
Leeds Utd Derby County
Possession 45% 55%
Shots 8 8
On Target 1 3
Corners 5 8
Fouls 14 16