Having beaten some of the Championships’ top sides in recent months, you could have been forgiven for having been remotely optimistic about this match. Sadly, if you had been, then more fool you.
The game served to highlight little more than the urgent need for change at Elland Road as Leeds were swept aside by Hull at the KC stadium in the pouring rain, as the Humberside club completed a well deserved season double.
Frankly, the defeat was widely inevitable before a ball had even been kicked; realistically even before Neil Warnock’s suicidal team selection and formation due to the run that Hull have been on in recent weeks. Warnock knew it, his tactics said it and the fans were subjected to it.
It’s hard not to create a blame culture over the current situation but the facts cannot be ignored. We are no further along than we have been at any point in the last eight years and even with new investment, owners, players and a manager, we have struggled for consistency and quality on the pitch and faced uncertainty off it.
The new owners have publicly stated that January ‘isn’t the best month to do business’ and historically, we let the first month of the year pass by with nothing more than a few corked bottles of wine and some soggy mince pies. We’ve never capitalised on potential during this time and despite the regime change, you can’t help but edge towards the wine fridge for some stale plonk.
The problem mainly revolves around Neil Warnock. Had we a manager with years ahead of him and a public commitment to the club, we might have ‘guarantees’ that the chequebook will be unearthed from an eight year covering of dust but do you commit money to a man who is no more guaranteed to stay at the club beyond the summer than Tom Lees is to smile? If they don’t back him, he may as well bugger off now; without some sizeable funding, he is a good few players short of a promotion-challenging squad, despite what he has murmured publicly, and the odds for him to get us up on the cheap are at best long and at worst, never going to bloody happen.
We just seem to be at a bit of a impasse. Someone has to make the first move. Either the owners back Warnock regardless or Warnock commits. If neither, then Warnock might as well save himself six months of hassle and catch the managerial merry-go-round to some other club.
The trip to Hull is never a pleasant one; well it is Hull for a start but from off, Leeds were on the back foot, struggling to contain a team with verve, pace and creativity, men against boys I think the cliche is. Inside the first two minutes, Jason Pearce was loosing a battle of wits with Sony Aluko and David Meyler, dragging them both down after they’d skipped past but Leeds could breathe for a few seconds more as their penalty appeals were waved away.
The match was so largely forgettable as Hull mounted attack after attack; such was the ease with which they danced through the lacklustre Leeds midfield and but for their profligate finishing, the scoreline would’ve been far more comprehensive.
In an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation with Sam Byram and Aidy White as wing backs, in theory, Leeds should’ve held strong in the middle of the park but without the usual front two of Luciano Becchio and El Hadji Diouf, nothing stuck up front, passes were inexplicably poor and all too often, Leeds were throwing possession. David Norris, Michael Brown and Paul Green were largely bypassed as Leeds nervously cleared their lines, skywards and there was no hint of any creative flair to get Ross McCormack and Davide Somma involved up front.
Robert Koren pounced on Alan Tate’s woeful attempt at a back header but fluffed his lines before Robbie Brady missed a glorious chance; Leeds had no answer and it was only a matter of time before things really got embarrassing. Sure enough, having limped to half time with the scores level, Leeds were undone within minutes of the restart; Corey Evans’ neat finish from Koren’s pass set the ball rolling before Meyler pounced, unmarked at the corner to power home Hull’s advantage.
It should have been so much more; how the Football League Show managed to condense the action into ten minutes was baffling in itself, such were the home sides’ chances and dominance. Frankly, goal difference will probably have very little to do with the promotion places come May but Hull missed a glorious chance to utterly humiliate Leeds. I’ll just take the embarrassment for now.
When the final whistle came, the fans who stayed till the end gave the players the full extent of their feelings; as they sheepishly approached the away end, there were boos, gestures, anger.. ‘What the f****** hell was that?’ rang out around the KC. The players didn’t know where to look and beat a hasty retreat down the tunnel.
Only Green and McCormack looked to have run themselves ragged chasing a lost cause while presumably, the others were still trying to work out what exactly Warnock expected of them in the aforementioned formation, or that Becchio and Diouf played no part was at the very least surprising.
It just seemed like Warnock had long let this one go, hence the experimentation with the formation, starting a rusty Somma and leaving Diouf and Adam Drury out of the squad completely. The official line was that a few players had knocks, hence the omissions but it cannot be a coincidence that Becchio has four yellow cards on his record which are due to be wiped in the new year, for instance.
On the bright side, January is knocking on the door with a sense of trepidation. How much Warnock will do remains to be seen. The glass is usually half empty, but right now it’s full. Because I’ve stocked up on wine.
ON ON ON.