Here’s to hoping that this result really Leeds us to better times ahead.
During the recent international break, seemingly everyone who followed this club of ours was descending into doom and gloom. We’d lost 1-0 at home to Huddersfield and by all accounts (I have to admit I wasn’t present) we were awful and were sat fourth bottom. Fast-forward three games and, whilst we can’t exactly be exhilarated at being 17th in the league table, I think we are showing signs that there might be life in this team yet. A gritty, solid performance at home to a very good Leicester team we were unlucky not to beat, a great fightback after a most appalling start at Millwall and perhaps the mixture of the best of both worlds, a great win at Elland Road. Five points out of nine; things are looking up.
So what’s changed? On the face of it, not much. The same group of players, no new radical formation, no visible emphasis on either going gung-ho in attack or trying to contain teams at the back, but results and performances have been decent this week. We generally look a bit more potent up front, a bit more solid at the back, a bit more willing to graft and fight in the middle of the park, and ultimately that is what will get you results.
I wrote after that Huddersfield defeat that certain players needed to look at themselves improve their own individual performances drastically. I’m not conceited enough to think that the players have actually read this blog and taken my words to heart, but they certainly seem to have pulled their socks up. Curtis Davies, who for a lot of this season has been way below the mountain-top high standard he set last season, was brilliant vs. Leicester and was brilliant again this weekend. Marlon King got a hat-trick in the week at Millwall and had a massive part in the goal getting us the win at Leeds. Hayden Mullins, who to be honest I had written off as a Donkey, has improved markedly; a good second half performance at The Den followed by an apparent near-impeccable performance to get us our win up north. The previously invisible man, Ravel Morrison, has apparently improved his attitude towards the game sufficiently to be re-included in Clark’s XI, and has responded with very good showings, particularly vs. Leicester. Football is a team game, but if enough individuals’ form drops below par then the whole team’s performance will be affected, that goes without saying. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these results have coincided with these individual improvements.
Before this trio of results, a sizeable amount of people were really slamming Lee Clark. He was incompetent, way out of his depth etc. There are probably a good few people who are still very sceptical that he is the man for the job to say the least. Anyone who read the previous blog I wrote or reads the messageboard knows that I’ve defended LC to the hilt; I think that a lot of the things that have caused our pretty bad start to the season are in no way his fault. I do thing that he’s had his hands tied in many respects, and until recently one of those has been on the injury front; nations have suffered less casualties in a war than we have had so far this season. But this week we’ve been able to put out a lot of the same players in consecutive games for the first time (in the case of Millwall and Leeds away, exactly the same starting line-ups). I think it’s really helped that we’ve had the same players playing together; partnerships start to develop, their understanding of eachother becomes greater, the team generally becomes more cohesive. This could be the single biggest factor behind us becoming more solid and harder to beat.
Looking forward, we have two of the bottom three at home in the form of Ipswich and Bristol City; I’d be fairly disappointed if we didn’t beat both, because both teams look like they couldn’t defend an innocent bloke in court. After that, Blackburn, Derby and Blackpool away, with Hull at home sandwiched in there completes our November. None of those games frighten the life out of me, though all four will be a challenge. Still, I think we could potentially get at least twelve or thirteen points out of those six games, and that would shoot us right up the league. We’re only two points worse off now than we were at this stage of last season; I still think a high top-half finish is more than achievable, especially if we keep playing in the manner we have done this week.
I just hope we kick on from what was a fantastic result yesterday.