Three consecutive wins after the display that was Brighton, when the Whites folded in 20 minutes, gave Leeds United fans hope that their fortunes were on the up.
Those fortunes, that hope was rudely demolished as Leeds folded to a bitter 4-1 defeat at the hands of close neighbours and local rivals Huddersfield Town.
Next up for the Whites is a game against South Yorkshire side Rotherham, a team undergoing something of a renaissance under Neil Warnock – himself a former Leeds United manager.
The reverse fixture saw another ex-Leeds United manager in Neil Refearn drive away from Elland Road with all three points after a 1-0 victory. Well he would have driven away if he’d have been given a parking permit.
After such a crushing defeat as suffered at home by Leeds against Huddersfield, Rotherham might fancy their chances of exploiting a fragile Whites side that they see are there for the taking. Leeds meanwhile, need to take stock, reassess and approach the game with a mentality that wiped clean the slate, in doing so forgetting the second half crumbling against the Terriers.
In that vein, here are five things that Leeds United need to do to be able to succeed at Rotherham.
1. Self-belief and confidence
A capitulation, such as happened against Huddersfield, is hard for any team to take and whilst it can be put to the back of your mind, it lurks there in the shadows. Leeds have to have that self-belief that they will overcome Rotherham, that self-belief will return and that they can bring all three points away from the New York Stadium.
To do that, Leeds need the confidence to go out and attack, hit Rotherham with the response that they showed after the first half mauling suffered against Brighton. They need to abandon that sense of negativity that has crept in and was evident in the defeat to Huddersfield and be resolute enough to take the game to Rotherham.
2. Hard work on the training ground
Seems given does this one, that Leeds need to have used what time they were together as a team and grafted on the training ground. I’m not tasking general graft, I’m talking specific graft.
Defensively, a lot of work needs to be done and especially around set pieces. When a set piece ball is thrown into the area, you’d be forgiven that it was a hand grenade by the reaction of the Leeds players. That area of play needs to be worked on to create a sense of assurance in the team.
In midfield, this ‘graft ethic’ needs to be continued with a focus on working to staunch the flow of attacks that tend to come through the team’s ‘engine room’ but also in link-up play where the idea of ‘playing from the back’ actually works and doesn’t break down in the centre of the park.
Up front the graft needed is quite simplistic in nature – get anyone with the ball in an attacking position to either play a key pass (leading to a shooting chance) or take a shot. Leeds don’t shoot enough in what is a very simple equation: shoot more, more shots on target, more opportunity to score. If you don’t shoot enough, you limit your scoring at the other end – having to live off scraps rather than dine at the top table.
3. Blind eyes and deaf ears
The team needs to ignore outside distractions, in effect turning a blind eye and deaf ear to them. The Leeds squad need to distance themselves from the protests of the various fan groups that are protesting for/against the ownership of the club. All that is beyond their immediate compass.
The players also need to do their best to ignore the uncertainty caused by the court cases and appeal process faced by owner Massimo Cellino. The focus needs to be firmly on the pitch and not off it, with the outside influences blocked out.
4. Repay the fans – a system, put in a performance
They deserve it, the fans have put up with relative highs and abject lows this season and still come back in droves. A performance is needed, a reaction to Huddersfield needs to be seen.
Forget about the clichés of ‘play from the back’ or ‘defend from the front’ and focus on one thing – ‘perform from the heart’, in essence Leeds United need to play with passion. They also need a system, develop this and play to it – putting out two wingers would be a start if we are going to play that way. At the very least, the players need to make it look like they know what they’re doing, rather than looking like 11 men that have turned up and will give it a go.