A week after your biggest league defeat in around half a century, you might have thought playing the Championship league leaders may have been a ‘nightmare fixture’, but after the game, it gave a lot of us a renewed sense of optimism.
Yes, I just said ‘optimism’, a word rarely associated with Leeds United, but with Brian McDermott going right back to basics with his team selection and tactics, the side he put our against Leicester on Saturday actually made a heck of a good fist of it.
I’m not going to lie, going into the match I wasn’t expecting a result, but by the end of the game, barring the defensive lapse for the David Nugent goal, I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t have won the game.
After the game, Leicester boss Nigel Pearson told reporters “We (Leicester) made a lot of mistakes. Let’s be clear, it was a bit hard on Leeds”, which tells you that they were clearly rattled by the way Leeds went about the game. Newly installed captain Ross McCormack hit the post in the opening 5 minutes with a header, before missing a one-on-one opportunity against Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester did have their chances, especially in the second half when Leeds faded a little, but despite conceding late on it was a strong performance from the Whites which was worthy of at least a point, according the vast majority on Twitter, and also the Sky Sports pundits at the match.
Peter Beagrie, of Sky Sports, put the improved performance down to the ‘back to basics’ approach that McDermott took to the game, with him changing the formation back to 4-4-2, and replacing the likes of Lee Peltier and Danny Pugh with Sam Byram and Stephen Warnock respectively.
In fact, the United manager had a concrete starting XI for the game in his mind by Tuesday of last week, with the rest of the week being used to work on basic team shape and tactics. His approach nearly paid off, the dangerous Lloyd Dyer was a spectator for the first half, and was rarely involved in the second.
Luke Varney started his first game since November in the wake of Matt Smith’s red card at Hillsborough following an unsuccessful appeal, and there is yet talk another striker could still be on McDermott’s January shopping list. The likes of Luke Moore, Leigh Griffiths and Leon Clarke have been linked with the club, along with former fans’ favourite Luciano Becchio, who is again finding opportunities at Norwich few and far between.