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Leeds Utd                    1 (Piroe 21) 

Southampton               2 (A Armstrong 18, Smallbone 35) 

4th May, 2024, EFL Championship.


I’m at a complete loss as to what exactly has gone wrong with Leeds since the international break. We were the best team, playing the best football for three months before that but now the latest six-game form tables tell us we are the third-worst!

As far as I can see, it is the defence that has suddenly lost its way. Time and again in recent games we have succumbed to poor goals – four of them at QPR last time out of course – and again today neither of the Saints’ goals should have been scored had we been alert and correct at the back.

The first, scored as early as the 18th minute, saw no less than five Southampton players, all unmarked beyond the back post ready to pounce on a cross ball while seven Leeds players were ball-watching and pulled towards the front post. How can we allow that to happen? If we cannot do something about our defending in the next seven days then any chance of a Wembley appearance can surely be consigned to the bin.

As we did at Middlesbrough recently, we did quickly get back into the game; just three minutes later in fact. It was a moment of instinctive finishing from Joel Piroe too, something that we’ve not really seen enough of from him or indeed the rest of the attack which again looked subdued to say the least. Summerville and Gnonto tried their best to get things going but, once again, Georginio looked a shadow of the player we saw at the turn of the year – more like the player we saw struggle in the Premier League last season in fact.

It all looked possible again for 14 minutes or so as we seemed confident enough without really testing the Saints’ defence. But even during this period, our own defence still looked shaky, particularly at one corner that was allowed to drop near the back post that was almost scrambled in by a lurking Saint. With the corner calamities we’ve seen recently, how on earth was that allowed to happen? Surely that was one of the things they would have been working on during the last week, one of the “things” Daniel Farke alluded to after the QPR fiasco?

And then of course we succumbed again. A simple long ball, chased by Walker-Peters that Junior Firpo assumed would go out, didn’t, and with Junior spending more energy on appealing to the liner than stopping the Southampton man, he was able to wriggle past and set up Will Smallbone for the easiest of close-range tap-ins with Leeds defenders once again not tracking him or sensing any danger. I really worry that we will not be able to put this defence back together tightly enough before Norwich have a go at it. Other than our defending, this game was a draw all day long, especially once that Ipswich lead was apparent. The stats for either side were near identical.

I don’t know whether the Ipswich score had been fed onto the pitch or not at this stage – it was 1 – 1 in Leeds when the Tractor Boys went ahead at Portman Road – but it looked like something had got to them and for the remainder of the game there wasn’t much urgency or clarity about anything we did. Neither side showed much enthusiasm for this game after that although Leeds were marginally the more interested. After the game Farke seemed to suggest that he was happy with the performance, or maybe ‘happier’ than of late, but it didn’t inspire me one bit. This was a game that I felt demanded a rip-roaring performance by Leeds to restore confidence and belief into a group of players that looks almost shell-shocked with what has befallen them lately. To go into two games against Norwich on the back of this doesn’t fill me with hope that we can suddenly find our mojo again.

At this point I should mention, yet again, the match officials and particularly referee Matt Donohue. I’m indebted to my friend @El_Loco_Jo (Twitter) for pointing out that @TheSquareBall once described him as “the dickhead ref” because he truly lived up to that epithet today. His decisions were totally random, he seemed to be merely guessing who the culprit was whenever there was a coming together! A rugby tackle on Georginio went unpunished while a bit of handbags between Gnonto and an opponent got them both a yellow card! Awful tackles were admonished with the wag of a finger and a word in the ear while mere “contact” brought five more yellows! The man was totally out of his depth! No, nothing to do with Leeds losing a football match I admit,  but another sign as to how the weakest, poorest of referees are being promoted way beyond their abilities – and no surprise at that when the Premier League now needs 60 refs for every round of their games.

Anyway, it was another lack lustre, confidence sapping display by Leeds and the only surprise to me was that the fans were so supportive of the players and manager at the end of the game – unlike the abuse they got from large numbers at QPR last week. It was actually heart-warming to hear the fans doing their very best to lift a group of players who have lost their way, I guess we all recognise now that, as Farke says, we do still have one bullet left and, all we can do, is try to show them that we appreciate what they have achieved this season and we’d love for them to get the ultimate reward for their efforts.

Somehow, the group needs a complete reset and to fly out of the traps next Sunday like their lives depend on it. I do worry though that our youth and the toll of this gruelling season upon them, means we’ve just about run out of steam, and whether we have two, or hopefully three last 90 minutes in us, I’m just not sure.

        Game Statistics:


              Leeds U    Southampton


  Possession    57%         43%

  Shots             11            11

  On Target        4              4

  Corners           5              2

  Fouls             17             18

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