Life decrees that to succeed you need to seek out the positives from things and when you frame yesterday’s game in such a way, there is much for both sets of supporters to take solace in. While those loyal to QPR may not have seduced by a performance that in terms of beauty, drew striking comparison with the saggy features of their manager, they did nonetheless, travel home with another 3 points to make redundant any misgivings about the enjoyment to be had during those 90 minutes.
While back in the West London pubs, the cliches about how going to ‘difficult places’, not playing particularly well, but still claiming victory augers well for a title charge were no doubt being trotted out ad nauseum, those in West Yorkshire had only the twin vices of beer and philosophy as mechanisms to deal with a pointless return; but, there was plenty of solace to be found in both.
In QPR, Leeds were confronted with the title favourites, a club that in terms of playing resources could even afford to flirt with their width and pace starved hosts, by putting Junior Hoilett on their subs bench, yet but for the want of better handling by Paddy Kenny in the 75th minute they would’ve left Elland Road as no more than equals.
The key point here is that this would’ve been on the back of a Leeds performance where at least half of those involved had an off-day. In attack, Hunt continued his run of stealth showings, only slipping into public consciousness when his number was held up by the fourth official, while Varney milled about to little effect during his hour on the turf. In midfield, Austin was as reliable in the tackle as always, but a liability with his distribution, Murphy was subdued and Green buzzed around like a wasp deprived of its sting. Throw in a stinker at the back for Stephen Warnock and behold, we have our positive…
Maybe it’s not so much that Leeds were beaten by QPR yesterday we should be concentrating on, rather the fact that despite so many players being off colour, the team still made it tough going for their opponents. An under-performing Leeds side would’ve been good for a stuffing only 5 months ago, yesterday, only a sole slip up at a set-piece (still a problem) was the difference between the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’. Progress.
McCormack apart, the consistent attacking spark is still lacking; he aside, Leeds don’t really appear to possess another striker capable of reaching double figures over a season. Still, while 35 hours and 24 minutes of the transfer window remains (as of now…doubtless Sky Sports News can instantaneously inform you of the situation when you’re reading this), so does hope, though short of a striker arriving amidst a sea of flash bulbs at Thorp Arch, it seems that the recruitment of a wide man and a more out and out attacking role for the Scot may offer the most effective way of sharpening our cutting edge.
As for the game in detail? Well, imagine Leicester a couple of weeks back, change the stadium, the kits and throw in one handling error and in a nutshell, there you have it. In defence, solidity – Peltier and Pearce have continued their improvement, while a shaky Tom Lees has now stepped aside for a very steady looking Wootton. Ahead of them the return of Austin has been key, providing protection to a back line that so often struggles when exposed as games become stretched.
Alongside Austin, Murphy’s place in proceedings looks set in stone, it’s when you look beyond those two that matters become clouded. In Tonge and Green, McDermott possesses players who are maybe more effective as squad players than regular starters; the former has done more to merit a place thus far, but his lack of mobility is almost as much of an issue with Green’s lack of creative nous. Behind them, breathing heavily into their ears, impatiently stands Alex Mowatt – mobile, creative and tenacious; only his youth appears to be holding him back at the moment, it may not do much longer.
Recruitment of a winger remains McDermott’s key piece of business; a player to share more of the creative burden, a recruit that may allow the side to revert to the 4-4-2 formation, so often favoured by the manager; a signing that could allow Murphy and Austin to be at the hub of things in the middle, and in time, maybe facilitate a role for Mowatt on the left.
McCormack can then move into that more advanced role, not necessarily as an out and out striker, but certainly playing less deeper than currently. While successful sides don’t necessarily play with two prolific strikers, they certainly need one, so (barring the arrival of another) the sooner we get Ross in a position from which he can most effectively deliver a 20 goals a season return, the better for all. Only four of Leeds’ last sixty wins in the league have been by more than a solitary goal; now we’ve taken positive steps toward solidity, a little of the spectacular is our next priority.
Here’s hoping for our first happy deadline day in years…