01 Mar 2015 04:56pm, by Shields53
Well our little run of form had to end sometime didn’t it? I expect many thought our sequence of two draws, five wins and only one loss in the last eight games would have ended away at one of the league leaders, Middlesbrough, but a hard fought rear guard action saw us steal the points at the Riverside. It was the following Tuesday that that performance caught up with us and the run ended against Brighton. Most fans weren’t too upset with that result, many still regarding the win on Teesside as a bonus and would probably have expected to lose at least one of those two games and Brighton are a far better team than their league position suggest.
Our run of form has certainly been flattering, given us a slightly optimistic view of our capabilities but not everyone was convinced of our abilities. The online bookies were still offering long odds on Leeds, Titanbet pricing us at 6-1 to win at Brighton and Ipswich are the firm favourites for Wednesday’s game. Tuesday night’s loss served as a reality check, a reminder that we still need to keep a cautious eye over our shoulder and look to secure a safe mid table finish rather than getting carried away with ideas of the play-offs.
That said Saturday’s loss was a whole different kettle of fish to Tuesday night. Watford may be in the play-off places but Leeds surged into an early lead with goals from Billy Sharp and Rudy Austin. Leeds looked resurgent, the spring missing from their step midweek was back and Watford looked shell shocked. Old habits die hard though and we let them back into the game, the defensive frailties so prevalent earlier in the season back with vengeance. It’s not necessarily the loss that is so upsetting, it’s the nature of the defeat. A team two goals up at home should not end up losing.
The very nature of that defeat has led to some over the top reactions, people calling for Reddres to go and that Sol Bamba, the best thing since sliced bread (Or Lucas Radebe) only a week ago, is a terrible defender. The overwhelming praise of him initially was probably too generous but likewise the criticism of him after the last two games is severe. He has his limitations, of course he does, he is also not match fit, all reasons we were able to sign him on a free loan deal. He has though been a big part of our run of form, his marshalling of our defence, leadership and tackles have won us more points than they have lost us.
The current formation and system may also have run its course, just as our diamond became one dimensional and predictable so may have this 4-2-3-1 we have been playing. Teams study each other and with Leeds on a run our opposition will have been keen to review our games, our system, our weaknesses. Neil Redfearn’s issue is though that we have limited options to change things round. Our bench has been full of misfiring strikers in recent weeks with limited options to change things in midfield or at the back.
It’s not all doom and gloom though is it? The high of our good run has made these two defeats seem worse than they really are. From hovering just above the relegation places we hit the dizzy heights of 11th and although we may now have dropped back down to 16th we are now 10 points off the drop zone, a significant improvement on where we were. Yes there is work to be done, there are games to be won until we are truly safe but our results against Middlesbrough and Bournemouth prove that we can beat anyone in this league on our day. We need to bounce back though, beating Ipswich will be tough and three points against Wigan next week are pretty much vital.
This season was always about rebuilding though and we have the basis of a good squad that will be together for years. This is largely down to Redders, both his work in the Academy and him giving players opportunities once he had the reigns over the first team. Taylor, Cooper, Byram, Murphy, Mowatt and Cook if they stay together are the basis of our team for years to come. Some of the overseas imports may have been hit and miss but Silvestri standing out as a good buy with Antenucci and Bellusci providing valuable contributions this season. With Adryan, Benedicic and Del Fabro marked as ones for the future and Montenegro and N'Goyi still looking for opportunities to impress we may yet unearth some diamonds.
Whilst two defeats on the bounce is never good I’m finding it hard to feel too negative. We are in a far better position than we were two months ago and there are plenty of good signs for the future. Lets hope we pick up some points in the next week to settle the nerves.
24 Feb 2015 12:56pm, by Shields53
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