Stoke City 2 (Clucas 49, Allen 88)
Leeds United 1 (Alioski 90+5)
It is going to be the usual rollercoaster ride isn’t it? For a moment there, after that Derby demolition last weekend, I felt we’d rid ourselves of any defensive issues and we were set fair to breeze through the rest of the season. With the issues Stoke have had, even with “Nathan Jones who’d been gone too long” I felt we’d cruise through this game this afternoon.
But we didn’t, and quite why we didn’t, I’m really not sure. We put out the exact same starting XI and you’d have bet your bottom dollar that Derby were a better side than Stoke, and yet whatever we tried today just didn’t seem to do the business.
At the end of the day, we lost it because we are weak in defence; always have been actually with these players, and still are, despite Bielsa acknowledging it is an issue for us and that he regularly works on it. Two weak, non-descript, defensive headers from Cooper and then Klich put the ball on a plate for Clucas to rifle home the first just minutes after the break. Pontus Jansson was extremely unlucky to then pick up a second yellow card after that; he will no doubt be kicking himself for opening his mouth in the first half when he got his first, something else that we have come across before and that really ought to have been stamped out by now. Referee Gavin Ward will also be baffled I’m sure when he reviews this particular piece of action... if they ever bother; it was a wrong call by Ward, plain and simple, but shit happens... too frequently for us, but it does happen..
It made our task even harder of course but allowing Stoke to get behind us with a simple left wing cross for their second made it impossible. OK, a fine Butland save from a Luke Ayling header in between, prevented us pushing them harder, but in the end the Alioski cross-shot in the dying seconds proved to be a mere consolation.
Leeds had 71% of the ball and out-shot the Potters by 17 to 12 and we can carry on doing that all season, but if we continue to make mistakes at the back it will count for nothing as it ultimately did today.
When we are firing on all cylinders the defensive frailty kind off ceases to be relevant, we are usually so dominant that the opposition just doesn’t get to test us, but today there was something not quite right. Was it Spygate? We will never know, but whatever it was we need to shake ourselves free of it by next week and we need to hit Rotherham from the start and get that all important first goal; that’s when we really come into our own, when the opposition has to come out and attack. Stoke merely bided their time today and would no doubt have been quite happy with the one point if we hadn’t offered them more.
As good as that display was against Derby we must now at least consider and question why we have now lost three out of four league games and we need to sort it out. It will be another makeshift defence, presumably with Kalvin alongside Coops, against the Millers so the rest of the side needs to be at its very best. Until we have the likes of Dallas, Brown, Bamford and Berardi available on the bench we remain very much a team of XI too, that’s not great. The lads populating the bench are all youngsters at the moment and they are not capable of making the sort of impact you need in the Championship. As positive as I was this time last week I’m now very nervous again!
Stoke City Leeds Utd
Possession 29% 71%
Shots 12 17
On Target 5 4
Corners 6 8
Fouls 11 10