Another day and another defeat for Leeds United as Burnley snatched the points in what was at least, a more even game than the last two. Despite this, it saw Leeds extend their losing run to three and give them an unwanted record of registering only two wins in the last sixteen! The defeat at Turf Moor means now that only one thing matters for the rest of the season and that’s this long lingering takeover.
Only one change was made to the team that got dismantled at Reading with Zaliukas quite rightly being dropped from the squad after shambolic performance midweek, replaced by the in form Matt Smith. Who has pushed hard in recent week to regain his starting birth. McDermott opted for a 4-3-3 formation with McCormack and Wickham playing off Smith as Leeds looked to use the target man to unsettle Burnley.
The promotion pushing side were without Danny Ings which meant a start for once upon a time, Leeds target Ashley Barnes who hardly showed us what we were missing out on throughout the match but his partner former Ex Leeds loanee Sam Vokes was a handful throughout.
Leeds started the game brightly and put Burnley on the back foot, with Smith winning most headers aimed towards him. It was also the tall striker that had the first opportunity of the game when his left foot strike was saved by Tom Heaton but Leeds should have been ahead just moments later. Out of nowhere McCormack pounced on a loose pass to dash clear and bear down on goal, his dink looked for all of the world to the away supporters that it was in but it instead, hit the post before Jason Shackell managed to clear the loose ball.
Still Leeds pressed whilst managing to contain Burnley well, limiting them to long range efforts until finally we did take the lead thanks to our captain and top scorer. Unfortunately, I can’t go too much into our goal due to deciding to take a short, sharp but ultimately, ill-timed toilet break but so I hear it came from a Smith flick on which the Scot managed to pounce on from about twelve yards. Either way we were pretty decent value for the lead and as the away fans continued to sing loud, Leeds looked to have regained some confidence.
However, opposing teams will know that against us, you will get chances and it only took Burnley one time to get in behind us to get back level. Danny Pugh was caught up the field and Wickham was unable to track Trippier who’s free cross was diverted into Butland’s goal by Jason Pearce. In fairness to the defender, he had to go for it as it was beyond Butland and there was a striker waiting behind, the disappointing aspect was that there was no pressure on the cross which gave Trippier plenty of time to pick his spot.
Unfortunately as the game went on, Burnley got more comfortable without ever being dominant. Leeds still managed to create half chances through McCormack and Smith but as has been the case over the last few games, we just didn’t offer enough in the 2nd half.
When Burnley did take the lead, it was again, very avoidable. Wickham’s slack cross field ball put the defence under pressure and despite a few decent blocks, we couldn’t pick up and clear the second balls which left Arfield able to emphatically smash the ball into the bottom corner to but the Clarets in front for the first time.
Boasting the only unbeaten home record in the Championship, it was always going to be an uphill challenge but at least we were in the game. McDermott put on Dom Poleon to try inject some pace into the game but the youngster couldn’t really get into the game, like most of the White’s forwards.
As the game came down to the final ten! it was Burnley who were looking comfortable, with Leeds unable to mount any kind of series pressure until the 90th minute when a series of goalmouth scrambles and corners gave the fantastic travelling support hope but when Butland (yes, Butland) headed over, the game was up and Leeds were defeated again.
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Whilst the last two games ended with booing, it was anything but from the Leeds fans today who stayed with their team throughout the 90 minutes, including at the end of the game. You would have thought that it was Leeds that had won the game such was the noise coming from the away end; they’re the kind of scenes that make you forget about the result for just a minute and appreciate the fact that us fans know how to put a good spin on a tough situation!
As for on the pitch, it’s clear for all to see that McDermott just doesn’t know his best team and what formation to use. He wanted to bring in Smith today which was fine but then what happens to Wickham? He’s shoved out wide. Wickham wasn’t brilliant today granted but I can’t help but feel we’re not getting the best out of him. This is a player that has scored plenty of goals, especially at this level, he needs to be in the box, not covering for Pugh’s back near his own penalty area. Whilst the same can be said about McCormack, he does have the capabilities to play out wide and still get into the box.
Whilst the defence improved today (which wasn’t asking for much) they still looked vulnerable and one can’t help but feel a fit Danny Ings would have enjoyed himself today. Whilst Murphy, Austin and Mowatt did little wrong, Burnley’s midfield still came out on top without being at their best which was worrying. There’s no doubt that we’re lacking a leader in that area of the pitch, someone who may not be the most gifted player but he won’t allow the opposition to settle. At times Austin has looked like that man but it’s only in flashes which in the long run, isn’t good enough.
As our season fades into yet another mid table finish, McDermott has to use these games as a platform for next season; how he wants to play, who he thinks is key and what formation he wants to use to take us forward. For me, the midfield needs to be built around Murphy and Mowatt, both players that can play, have good vision but have too much defensive responsibility at the moment to be able to express themselves freely. For me, Matt Smith was our best player today and I still genuinely believe he can become a top marksman at this level (if only we had some wingers to cross it onto his head eh…)
Right now, just a win will do. Any win at all!
Reporter – Daniel Howard