Steve Evans admitted that Leeds United’s defensive record was hindering players further up the pitch as he focused on eradicating a costly weakness at Bolton Wanderers today.
The club’s new head coach said problems at the back and Leeds’ habit of conceding the opening goal had “certainly got our attention” after a soft strike from Moussa Dembele denied United a deserved win in his first game in charge.
Dembele buried a rare Fulham chance at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, forcing Leeds to fight back through a second-half penalty from Chris Wood.
The squad which Evans inherited from Uwe Rosler on Monday has recorded one clean sheet in 13 games this season and Evans, who described Dembele’s finish as “sloppy”, said he would look for Leeds to take a grip of this afternoon’s visit to bottom-of-the-Championship Bolton.
“There have been too many occasions for everyone’s liking that Leeds United have been behind at half-time,” Evans said. “We all know goals change games and change how you talk at half-time.
“Because it’s fine lines and one of the toughest leagues, you have to make sure that you’re doing everything right. The opening goal can make people relax and give good players the opportunity to get on the ball without a little degree of fear.
“How you concede goals is important. We were sloppy the other night. A couple of misplaced passes and perhaps we should deal with it better.”
Asked if United’s backline were good enough for the Championship, Evans said: “A lot of the players are good enough for this division. You can’t judge others without seeing them play for you.
“But we’ve conceded too many goals and it’s certainly got our attention. You have to defend properly and the guys from the midfield onwards have to believe that the players in that position can deliver a clean sheet.”
Evans, however, said he was confident his ideas were already sinking in after Leeds dominated a poor Fulham side, prompting chants against Fulham boss Kit Symons from the home crowd.
United’s own supporters were growing restless towards the end of Rosler’s reign as head coach but the club’s performance at Fulham drew an appreciative response.
“Do good performances appease people? I think they do,” Evans said. “Football supporters are more clued up than ever. People know when a team’s played well and are unlucky as opposed to not playing well and not going anywhere.
“We were playing not so well against Brighton (Rosler’s last game), going nowhere. I watched the full game. We played against Fulham and it looked like we were going everywhere.
“The difference is we need to win. We know what that can do for us. If we’d got three points at Fulham we’d have been sitting mid-table. What would happen from there is that others above would look at where Leeds are.”
Bolton are bottom of the league with eight points and have won only once since the start of the season. Boss Neil Lennon signed ex-Newcastle United forward Shola Ameobi on a short-term deal yesterday.
“It’ll be tough,” Evans said. “In the Championship, bottom can beat top.
“Neil Lennon’s a good guy, a hero to me. He was Celtic manager when it was hugely successful, beating the likes of Barcelona.
“It’ll be good to catch up with Neil again and hopefully I’m sharing a beer with him with my first win as manager.”