Its 48 hours after it happened and 24 before another crunch derby match against supposedly inferior South Yorkshire opposition I feel now is the time to reflect on how the Leeds United players performed as individuals in the terrible defeat at Barnsley.
As Leeds supporters, like most football fans, we seem to treat every defeat as a disaster, and every win as the sign of a championship winning team. It’s not too long ago I was sat outside Toast on the first Saturday of the season and not seeing where we were going to get our first win. Four unbeaten games later we saw this as just another game where we should pick up a point minimum in our push for at least a play off spot.
A couple of things need to be taken into consideration before dissecting the performance. Despite the size of the clubs, Barnsley are the established Championship team, we are the new boys. Although Grayson saying we were underdogs was a piece of psychology, in terms of football status in the last four years, he was speaking the truth. Secondly, this and the other derbies against “smaller” Yorkshire clubs always means so much more to them than us. The fact that within 24 hours they were selling T-Shirts and DVD’s commemorating the game beggars belief.
The game itself could not have started any better. the crowd were in fantastic voice, and Howson’s early strike should have set us up with a great platform. Despite not playing well, when we did get the ball down and play we looked decent, but it wasn’t happening often enough. Barnsley pressure built but we never looked in great danger until Bessone’s mistake. The second half was a nightmare and it’s not often I leave early but at 4-1 I gave up. So what went wrong? Barnsley had some terrific performers particularly Adam Hammill and Gary O’Connor, but what of the Leeds team? Below are my thoughts on each individual
Shane Higgs – A mixed evening. His shot stopping on the whole was ok, but he flapped at a lot of crosses. Having a keeper like Kasper who is so commanding of his area and confident in his abilities will make any one else look less confident. It’s possible the less commanding Higgs put indecision in the minds of the defenders.
Gary Connolly – Comes out of the fixture relatively unscathed but purely down to the fact that the rest of the back four had a nightmare. The weakness on the left saw almost everything go that way, and he left gaps by having to constantly provide cover.
Neill Collins – Looks like a rock in comparison to Naylor but is struggling to paper over the cracks.
Richard Naylor- It pains me to criticise a player who is Leeds through and through but surely SG has got to say enough is enough. His defending is terrible, he has the turning circle of an oil tanker and his distribution is appalling. his poor displays are causing panic and he has to be dropped for the sake of the team.
Freddo Bessonne – I feel his Leeds career may be finished. Ben Parker is becoming a better player week by week, and he has played an hour in the last year! Bessonne is supposed to be good going forward, but he makes Shane Lowry look like Roberto Carlos. He was caught out desperately for the equalizer and his slow walk off the field at half time showed that he did not want to be in that dressing room for the bollocking to come. His injury he had at the second half appeared to be feigned to me, and if his bottle has gone already then he is no good to us.
Lloyd Sam – Ineffectual game, although he has just recovered from a knock. He had a lot of ball in the first half, but didn’t do a great deal with it.
Jonny Howson – Tried his hardest but his lack of faith in the wide players saw him threading too many balls through the middle or overhitting them over the top. He was overrun in midfield due to us constantly giving the ball away and as we were defending so badly he was too deep to win second balls, or provide support to the attack when we did go forward. Cracking goal though.
Neil Kilkenny – I am a big fan of his. He makes us tick when he plays well, so his poor performance permeates through the team. He needs a ball winner alongside him and we plainly don’t have one at the moment. He can’t be expected to do the donkey work, as well as make us play.
Bradley Johnson – Can’t really remember him doing anything. Should have been helping out Bessonne but didn’t see him doing too much of that. He offered nothing going forward. Needs to step in at left back until Parker is fit.
Max Gradel – At his most frustrating. Gave the ball away far too often, and still persists in beating players umpteen times before crossing.
Lucciano Becchio – Worked hard as always, but so badly needs a partner to link up with. 4-3-3 doesn’t suit him.
Andy Hughes – It’ll take more than his dancing in the dressing room to win me over. I know he loves the club and is a bit of a cult figure but I thought he made Bessone look a world beater when he came on. He was immediately out of position for Barnsley’s second (how long did he have to tap it in?) He got frustrated by making runs and not getting the ball, and then showed why he doesn’t get it more often by producing a piss poor cross.
Ross McCormack – Two sub appearances have done nothing to convince me he was worth buying. One half decent free kick was all he had to offer.
Davide Somma – The only bright thing to come out of the game. Came on and looked sharp, pacy and dangerous.Linked well with Becchio and was a constant threat. I missed his goal, but understand it was well taken. He did enough for me in his sort spell on the pitch that he must start tomorrow.
And if Somma starts who drops out. I feel that we must go back to 4-4-2 but with 2 proper strikers and not a wide man coming in. Doncaster knock the ball about, so I feel they would pass it around Amdy Faye. I think the central midfield pairing have done enough to warrant another chance. The changes will come at the back and Alex Bruce must start. The return of Snodgrass and Paynter should freshen things up.
My team – Higgs, Connolly, Collins, Bruce, Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Kilkenny, Gradel, Becchio, Somma
Subs- Brown, Bromby, Faye, Sam, Watt, Paynter, Nunez & Hughes.