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21 Aug 2014 02:35pm, by Shields53

Tuesday night’s defeat against Brighton and Hove Albion was pretty moral sapping, particularly after the victory against Middlesbrough on Saturday. It certainly revealed some deficiencies, either in the team itself or the way Dave Hockaday has them playing. Hockaday seemed keen to lay the blame at the fault of the players;

"I can't explain our slow start. It is a mental thing. We didn't play as a team, we didn't close down and when we got the ball we gave it away cheaply. That's not good enough. They showed tonight what a good team they are but we lacked a cutting edge. It was a very uncharacteristic performance."

His comments are of course correct, we didn’t play as a team or close down and we did give the ball away and lacked that cutting edge. But why? The same team that kept our Middlesbrough fell apart and early on we hardly saw the ball. With Doukara injured Matt Smith came into the side and the big lad played up top rather than out wide. Nicky Ajose was also dropped to the bench and with Bianchi, Tonge, Murphy and Austin in midfield it meant we lost width.

With our midfield ‘diamond’ playing narrow Brighton had plenty of space out wide to get past us. Hockadays move was to bring Sharp back to cover the wide positions and shuffle the pack in the middle to cover the space. The result? Smith up front with no foil for his knockdowns and a midfield who weren’t sure where they were supposed to be playing. It’s no wonder we didn’t close down and had no cutting edge.

Things improved when Ajose came on, we played with more width and could stretch Brighton more, there was still reluctance for the wing backs to get forward though and the square ball was much more favoured than a forward pass. It seems key to me that that midfield needs sorting, we surely have the players to compete now but the way we were setup against Brighton did not work.

Cellino again responded in the transfer window, this time with striker Mirco Antenucci signing from Ternana on a two year deal. The 30 year old has scored 66 goals in 193 Serie B and has played 16 times in Serie A netting just the once. He scored 19 goals in 41 appearances for Terana last year.

But is another striker really what we need? With Doukara, Sharp and Ajose already having signed this summer and Smith, Morison, Poleon and Hunt already at the club we now have 8 strikers in the squad. Ajose and Doukara may line-up out wide for the majority of the time but it still leaves us with an embarrassment of riches up front. Even with the wildest of diamonds or Christmas trees we can only have 3 of them on the pitch at once, can’t we?

It’s surely time to think about trimming the numbers and with Matt Smith having just put pen to a new deal it leaves Morison, Hunt and Poleon as the likely candidates to head out of the door. Poleon is still young and untamed but may benefit from a loan out to a lower league team with regular games. Hunt and Morison have not performed well in the past for Leeds and failed to take grasp of their second chances, fans would be happy to see the back of either of them.

But whilst Hockaday has a good selection dilemma up front the decision that matters most is the midfield. The new coach is inexperienced at this level and on Tuesday night it showed. Whether he can get to grips with the midfield could dictate how long he remains in the job, Cellino will not put up with being overrun in the middle of the pitch as we were against Brighton for long.

20 Aug 2014 08:49am, by Shields53

Leeds United 0
Brighton 2 (Teixeira 5, Lua Lua 84)

David Hockaday made two changes to the side that defeated Middlesbrough on Saturday with Matt Smith coming in for the injured Souleymane Doukara and Michael Tonge in for Nicky Ajose. Giuseppe Bellusci had his international clearance granted and was on the bench.

Any hope and confidence Leeds fans had gained from the late win against Middlesbrough was extinguished early on as Brighton looked much the better side and went ahead thanks to Joao Teixeira on 5 minutes. The Seagulls certainly dominated possession early on and Leeds struggled to contain them. Hockaday’s response was to move players around the midfield to counter the threat but this resulted in us playing with little structure.

Things improved slightly in the second half with the introduction of Nicky Ajose providing some much needed width to the team but we perhaps lacked that cutting edge, that final ball to do any real damage. The points were secured for the south coast side when Kazenga LuaLua struck home a free kick on 84 minutes. Here are the views of some of our members.

The views of Genghers;

We were poor, really lacked any kind of shape. The midfield seemed to be rotating constantly, with Murphy playing deepest a lot of times which is surely Tonge or Austin's natural role?

First half was very much back to hoofball, aiming for Smith to get some knock-downs. Plenty of fouls against him, but even when he did win them, there was rarely anyone around him to pick up the ball. If we're going to play Smith, we need to cross the ball into the box, not go route one, with him 10 yards outside the box.

Warnock and Byram looked scared to get forward, and I don't think Warnock made a single forward pass. Every time he got it he'd stop, look around and invariably pass it back to Cooper, even when Ajose was screaming for it down the wing.

Second half we were better from the off, but I still think Smith should have stayed on and Tonge come off. If you're introducing a bit of width, your target man is who you want to see in the box, not Billy Sharp. Tonge looked knackered throughout the first half, often telling Byram not to take throw-ins quickly... He's also not quick enough to cover the amount of space he was being asked to.

One of our big problems is running with the ball. We seem okay at passing it from stationary (albeit sideways and backwards), but so often players picked it up and just stopped. Cooper probably covered more ground than anyone else with the ball last night!

I thought Austin had an alright game, some of his passing was excellent (a couple of switches to Byram stand out) and also managed to dummy past two players at one point. Same old mistakes in his game, but at least he was a bit more positive. Ajose also looked keen when he came on. Lack of a final ball, but when he picked it up his first thought was to run down the line and take players on, which is refreshing to see!

Cook was quite tidy when he came on, but I really don't understand why he was asked to play the holding role when he was full of energy and old man Tonge was puffing and blowing. He looked scared to get over the halfway line. Did a good job though, and I'd much rather see him start on Saturday over Tonge. Crowd booed a free kick he took towards the end of the game, no way to give a 17-year old confidence. He also put in the only cross of note, which won us a corner in extra time (had Smith or Sharp been on, I suspect they would have got on the end of it).

Brighton are one of the softest teams in the league, clearly, and I've no idea how we only had 5 minutes injury time in the second half after their players were on the floor for longer than that! We were penalised for every 50-50, and the ref brandished a few very harsh yellows our way, but failed to give Mackail-Smith a yellow for hacking down (read, booting in the shin) Warnock near the end. In fact, they only received one yellow, despite elbows flying in when jumping for the ball, and players being pulled down when jostling (which Byram was booked for...)

I have to question Hockaday’s tactics and substitutions last night. He reckons we can play with width and have four in central midfield, but based on last night, we clearly can't. Our 'passing game' shown up by a team who have been doing it regularly for seasons. Hope to see a couple of the old guard out of the squad against Watford.

The views of Drs.Dad;

That was terrible! First half especially, Brighton were running rings around us. We were far too narrow, and they were running around us, which the didn't need to do as they were cutting us apart through the middle too! When we had the ball they harried us until they took it off us, and we had no answer. We seemed to be playing a passing game until the final third, then old habits took hold and we lumped it up to Smith. Second half we improved somewhat and at least made a game of it. Smith off, Ajose on, and suddenly we had width to our game. I won't single out any players, because, frankly, no-one stood out in my mind. Dreadful, let’s hope we pick up those quality signings this week.

The views of 1964white;

Playing an outdated 4-4-2 v a vibrant passing Brighton team to accommodate Smith upfront totally set us on the back foot in the first half as we couldn't get hold of the ball, it was like playing 10 v 11, when we managed to attain the ball we gave it away needlessly. Ajose came on to even things up in midfield, he gave us more movement, we pressed & closed the Seagulls players down much better in the second period. We lacked invention & pace to hurt the Brighton defence.

Still scratching my head why Hockaday took off our new striker & likeliest goal scorer with 15 minutes of play left. Very poor individual performances apart from Austin (2nd half only). Brighton are a better team than their first two defeats suggest !

Leeds United Line-up:
Silvestri, Byram, Pearce, Cooper, Warnock, Austin, Tonge, Bianchi, Murphy (Cook 80), Smith (Ajose 46), Sharp (Poleon 80)
Unused Subs: S Taylor, Bellusci, Wootton, Norris

Brighton Line-up:
Stockdale, Salter, Greer, Dunk, Agustien (Lua Lua 59), Calderon, Chicksen, Teixeira (Hughes 90), Forster-Caskey, Holla (Ince 75), Mackail-Smith
Unused Subs: Ankergren, O'Grady, McCourt, Toko. Referee: J Adcock

Attendance: 21,429

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