If you based this season purely on Leeds United’s home form, the club would be right in the hunt for promotion. If you based it purely on our away form, we’d be right down near the bottom of the Championship.
That’s the long and short of the results away from home. They’re having a seriously negative impact on our league position and they’re stopping this season from gaining any momentum.
A trip to Ipswich Town was always going to be tough and I was prepared for the possibility of disappointment down there but Saturday is probably as easily as we’ve been turned over in all of our 20 games.
Millwall beat us fair and square on the first day of the season and the defeat at Brentford in September was a bad one but the annoying thing about the result on Saturday was that Ipswich didn’t need to work for it.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re a very hard-working team and they’re going to be in with a good chance of promotion but think about the goals they scored: two free headers, an avoidable penalty and a strike from Daryl Murphy where he had acres of space to run into.
It’s amazing to think that we had our tails up after three or four minutes of the match; that we took the lead through a very sharp finish from Mirco Antenucci. Credit where it’s due, the centre-forward’s bang in form at the moment but no-one else on the field came especially close to pass marks. It was a bad day at the office.
I’ve spoken before about the trouble we have defending against set-pieces and crosses and that was the biggest problem of all at Portman Road. Every time the ball went into our box you had a horrible feeling that it was going to end up in the back of the net.
It was all a fry cry from the win over Derby County when, quite frankly, the team never looked in trouble. The defence stood up to Chris Martin and gave him nothing and the midfield got stuck in early on. Every single player was bang on the money and to go from that one Saturday to Ipswich the next is really strange.
I think it’s fair to say that our style of football, or the team we use, needs to change away from home. At Elland Road the onus is on our players to force the pace and attack. They’ve got the advantage of a home crowd and we’ve seen many times before that the atmosphere often works in our favour.
Away from home the situation is different. The opposition are compelled to come forward and half the battle from our point of view is to stop them playing their game. I know that’s not romantic and it doesn’t sound pretty but it’s always been the reality. In away fixtures you’ll rarely experience easy, flowing wins. More often than not you’re forced to grind out results. Any result is a decent one.
We’ve got a young side and in Neil Redfearn we’ve got a coach with a distinct style of play. He’s got his philosophy and I genuinely admire it. I like the football he’s trying to produce. But at the same time, every boss needs to know when to be pragmatic. You sometimes hear coaches say that they’re not thinking about the opposition. Personally I reckon you should always be thinking about the opposition – their strengths, their weakeness, their tactical approach. We all want to see pretty football but those of us who know and follow the game understand that at places like Ipswich you’ve got to be gritty, dogged and resilient.
You’ve got to do what’s necessary. I don’t judge away games on how we play. I judge away games on the points we pick up.
Without doubt we need to start picking up more. I really don’t see us getting into relegation trouble but we’re not going to pull away from the bottom three properly while we’re winning one week and losing the next.
Perhaps away from home there’s an argument for making more use of our experienced lads. It could help to have some old heads in there, just for a bit of nous and guidance. I’m not saying it would improve our football – maybe it would do the opposite – but it might give us a better chance of results. It might give us the know-how we’re sometimes lacking.
One way or the other, something has to change. Because at the moment the away form is wasting some excellent consistency at Elland Road. It’s a pattern we must break as soon as possible.