Here’s five things we learned from Leeds United’s derby defeat to Huddersfield Town.
1) The Cellino debate is stuck in a loop
There were most protests against Leeds United’s owner on Saturday – a video screen erected in a car park opposite Elland Road, broadcasting footage criticising his tenure. Elsewhere, but not far away, was a banner supporting the Italian, underlying the fact that there are people on both sides of this argument. At the centre of it is Cellino, saying little and doing little in response to the movement against him. The pressure might be on him and the protesters are not letting their dissent drop but with Cellino persisting with the FA’s rule K arbitration process and his appeal against a second Football League ban, it appears that he sees the authorities as more of a threat to his reign. Quite what stage the rule K mechanism has reached, no-one will say. We await news.
2) Form in the Championship rarely turns around overnight
Not long-term form anyway. United’s flurry of three wins was badly needed and an impressive reaction to their defeat at Brighton but it spanned a period of just eight days. The season as a whole has followed a different pattern. Every year, someone mutters the phrase ‘there’s always a side who come from nowhere and sneak into play-offs” but the reality is slightly different. Last season, all of the top-six teams were in the top seven with a month to go. Likewise in 2012-13. Brighton bridged a gap of three points in the final seven fixtures of 2013-14 but were right in the running. If a team’s not close by this stage then they’re clutching at straws, regardless of what might have happened with Crystal Palace 12 years ago. Leeds have long been destined for mid-table this term.
3) Pace is United’s biggest enemy in this league
Leeds are not an especially quick team at either end of the pitch and it shows on a day like Saturday. Between players like Nahki Wells, Harry Bunn and Joe Lolley, Huddersfield had enough fizz to pick off a side who are never comfortable with players running at them or in behind them. United were guilty of some bad errors in a derby which turned dramatically but Town’s ability to counter at pace meant Leeds were never likely to get away with those mistakes. It’s one of several things for United to address in the summer.
4) Evans’ changes didn’t work – but United’s youngsters cannot play indefinitely
Evans’ midfield was so strong at Blackburn that it deserved to remain untouched against Huddersfield but in fairness to him, Lewis Cook has barely had a break and the same is true of Charlie Taylor. Taylor’s league starts number 29 and only three outfield players have made more this season. That figure is put into perspective when you remember that Taylor contracted glandular fever in October. Championship coaches need to be able to rotate their sides and David Wagner made five to Huddersfield’s line-up on Saturday. That said, Evans’ substitutions against Town were neither swift nor effective. The second half belonged to Huddersfield from the first minute.
5) The attendance on Saturday is proof of what happens when Leeds throw their fanbase a bone
The crowd at Elland Road was the third highest in the Championship this season. That Leeds can tempt in almost 30,000 on the back of three wins for what was, in reality, a mid-table West Yorkshire derby says plenty about their pulling power and plenty about the public desire for a team who look like they are going somewhere. There is no such thing as a fair-weather Leeds supporter and their fanbase really aren’t asking for much - just the glimmer of hope that every club needs to show. Hope kills but it also sells.