The first defeat of any season is always a bitter pill to swallow, and when that defeat ends a decent unbeaten run which had created a bit of a feelgood factor and some useful confidence, then the taste is all the sourer still. There can be little doubt that QPR deservedly edged the game at Elland Road – they came north with a game plan as they had done to Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, and they went away having done the job. Rangers had been rather unlucky to see Joey Barton’s first half goal disallowed for a clearly inappropriate offside flag, just as in the end they enjoyed some good luck when Rudy Austin’s fulminating howitzer hit the angle and bounced to safety. It was a game of fine margins, as reflected by the scoreline.
As depressing as a home defeat is, however, there can be long-term benefit if the lessons of that defeat are learned and acted upon. This match was under the Sky TV microscope, but it is an open secret that the Leeds United squad is defined more by the gaps in it than by the several excellent players it boasts for this level of football. Another striker is still needed, at least one winger is still needed. At the moment, there is a lot right with any team that Brian McDermott puts out, but the vital missing ingredients are making it very difficult for that team to be as effective as it needs to be in the attacking third of the field. Impotence in attack has its consequences further back; there is more pressure on ball retention in midfield because the options up front are not what they should be.
Brian McDermott is a downy bird, and he knows what is needed. It is the growing urgency of that need which, with the end of the transfer window looming ever closer, is giving cause for concern if not alarm. From the outside, we just have to take it on trust that work is going on behind the scenes to secure the additional players which are clearly needed in order to give Leeds a chance of sustaining some sort of competitiveness this season. If not, then it could just be a long and depressing struggle, despite the best efforts of a manager who has said all the right things and has also done so much that is right since coming to the club – as indeed have the new owners GFH-C.
Monday could be a very significant day in this season for Leeds United, and maybe even in their history as a whole. Getting the ingredients right is that important when you’re looking for the recipe for success. The QPR game has demonstrated very clearly for us just where the areas of need are – if we don’t secure some decent wide options, then surely we’ll be placing too much reliance on the likes of Diouf, who showed in his cameo performance that he’s currently far and away the best we have where quality service from the wing is concerned. After Diouf we have Ryan Hall, who still seems to be struggling to make a real impression at this level.
As is often said in too many American TV shows of a dubious standard: “OK. You got 48 hours”. That’s about the size of it for Leeds United right now, and the clock is running down. Tick tock.