December 28, 2015 by notjustpumpkinbread
Possession doesn’t win you games. For all the crowing about how much Leeds had in the first half, I can’t really remember them having a single shot on goal. In fact, that goal in the 80th minute was probably their only real attempt on goal that had any conviction about it. The “stats” may well tell a different story, but we could always ask Dorus I suppose; and if we were able to, I’m sure he would agree that he wasn’t really tested during that game. Then, maybe, he’d give one of those wry, Dutch smiles of his. You know, the ones that say “I know I’m having a really good season so far, but I’m too modest to say that“.
So, that’s how it’s probably going to be folks. Allow the opposition the ball, trust in the back four to control our defensive third and hit the opposition on the break. Hold on. Isn’t that what a Brian Clough team kind of did? I’m sure there are stats out there, but it would be interesting to see how much possession was conceded to the opposition during his tenure. Now, please don’t get carried away, I’m not comparing our current incumbent to the original Special One. I’m also not saying we’re playing the kind of dynamic football witnessed during that time. What I am saying though is there’s too much reliance on match stats these days – I blame Sky for that!
With a starting 11 that had only one enforced change – good luck to Dani Pinillos on his road to recovery from an ACL injury – Jack Hobbs moved into the centre of defence and Michael Mancienne took up his position at left back. There had been mutterings of the possible return of Danny Fox (giving the opportunity of once again seeing his magnificent beard) but with him not even making the bench, it looks like his time a The City Ground is coming to an end. He problem is, we’ve been dining on the sweet ambrosia of a quality left back for most of the season and let’s face it, he’s no Dani Pinillos. Should he find himself ushered out the door in January and in so doing freeing up a space within the squad for a new addition, I would wish him luck and thank him for his service to this great club.
As the game started , we took our time in settling down while Leeds hustled and bustled and kept the ball but didn’t really do anything with it. A bit like MK Dons in the second half. Mendes whizzed around but wasn’t playing quite as well as that previous game. Ben Osborn was working hard on the left of midfield – playing out of position and needing to work a bit harder as Mancienne wasn’t getting forward as much Pinillos. Eric Lichaj was getting pulled inside leaving an acre of space for the bright young thing that is Charlie Taylor – the Leeds left back. He was in a very advanced position and should have been utilised more by Leeds, but thankfully he wasn’t.
We’d got to the 15th minute when Mills picked up the ball and advanced into the space in front of him. He looked up, saw Lord Nelson of Oliveira pushing forward and pinged a lovely ball over the top. A despairing dive from a Leeds centre half, their advancing keeper looking woefully exposed and Nelson was gone, powering into the left side of the opposition’s penalty area before accepting the gift and putting us one up! He’d fluffed his lines when clear through with the keeper to beat against the Dons, but he made sure this time. For all Leeds’ possession, we’d caught them out, panicked the keeper and finished well.
With David Vaughan having another of his exceptional games, Leeds never really troubled us as he broke up the play. It would have been nice for us to maintain a bit more of the ball, but overall, 1-0 at half time was a good thing. Roll on the second half and the chance of another win at home. Now, there’s no doubting the work rate of Chris O’Grady, but a little more intelligent movement would just round his game off nicely. It’s a signal of intent when you start with two up top, but O’Grady wasn’t having the best game in the world.
We’d won a free kick just outside the area, with Nelson whipping it just over the bar and Leeds once again hustled and pressured to little avail. Mr. Dougie blinked first and swapped Mendes for Ward in the 62nd minute. Giving Ward half an hour to get back in the swing of things after a few games out would hopefully fire things up for him. I couldn’t help but think with the two up top and the way Leeds were playing we looked vulnerable. When Tesche replaced O’Grady five minutes later it (all of a sudden) looked more solid and our shape improved. Yes, the irony is not lost on me that we then went on to concede a goal. But that aside, we looked a lot better.
With Vaughan protecting the back four, Lansbury and Tesche slightly more advanced and Osborn and Ward on the wings, we looked full of potential. As with the Dons, we were undone by a well worked goal, but it was disappointing that this solid back four allowed them to get a shot off. The ghost of games past really, when all was looking well but momentary lapses at the back were our undoing. The surprising final change of man of the match Vaughan for Oliver Burke really livened things up, but if you wanted to be ultra-critical, perhaps swapping Osborn for Burke and having two natural wide men on the pitch with Vaughan sitting deep would have been great.
As it was, that final ten minutes became end-to-end stuff, with the lightning fast Burke causing a fair few problems. We were looking the likeliest to score again, with three or four counter-attacks causing all sorts of problems for the back-peddling Leeds, but that final killer pass eluded us. One such attack ended with Burke absolutely hammering a shot from outside the box, which deserved more than hitting the upright. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and the game ended 1-1, but that was encouraging stuff as far as I was concerned.
There were many “shouters” on Social Media bemoaning the “shutting up shop” mentality of our manager. I’m not entirely sure what they were watching. Those two substitutions yesterday worked as well as the two against MK Dons worked poorly. Ward grasped his chance to make an impression and push for a start tomorrow against Cardiff, while Tesche has a point to prove after Dougie showed him some faith at the beginning of the season. He’s worked hard to recover from his broken foot and looks sharp. He’s not just a defensive midfielder and can play in a more advanced role with Vaughan behind him. Personally, I’d like to see the 11 that finished against Leeds starting in Cardiff. If I were to make one change, perhaps sacrificing Ben Osborn for Oliver Burke would give us those two natural wide players a 4-5-1 would need. Mendes is looking a bit tired and would benefit from a rest.
These are sage words indeed. I couldn’t have said it any better.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!
PS On the last couple of home games I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very brief word with Chris Cohen and Robert Earnshaw. They’ve also both been gracious enough to allow a sad, middle-aged man to take a quick photo with them. I drove from Hampshire to get to the game yesterday. The M25 and A1 were not a pleasant experience, so I wasn’t at the ground early enough to see who was around to say hello to. “Oh well” I thought, there’s always the next game. Having clapped the Forest players and Dougie off the pitch, I was part of the last few to leave the Peter Taylor Stand…and so was this man.
Thanks Guy. I always liked watching you play and you were kind enough to let me take a few moments of your time.