Leeds United: Players have produced perfect response to Blackburn display – Whelan

Mirco Antenucci breaks through the Huddersfield defence.
Mirco Antenucci breaks through the Huddersfield defence.
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WHAT WE’ve seen after the Blackburn Rovers game is a response from the players.

The players have come out and said it wasn’t good enough against Blackburn, the fans knew it and we knew it wasn’t good enough for a Leeds United team, too. But they have gone out and done something about it.

It was an absolutely fantastic performance against Cardiff City and I felt the way they went about their business was a proper performance. There was the work rate, the tempo, the closing down and they were enduring the physical side of the game as well and actually letting them know they were in a game. They have probably gone away with one or two bumps and bruises which is what you’d expect.

They have done that side of the game which makes a difference but they have set their standards now and they know now what they have to do to win games. But obviously they have taken the confidence they have got with the win in getting the hoodoo off their back from Elland Road into Saturday’s derby game and they have turned it on again. It was a fantastic performance against Huddersfield, everybody put in a shift and Mirco Antenucci’s work rate is phenomenal.

Everyone is getting close to their opponent, they are winning their individual battles which they weren’t before and now we are actually putting in quality deliveries from wide areas which gives something for the forwards to feed off. We saw that on Saturday and we got our rewards with both strikers scoring and another wonderful strike from that man Alex Mowatt.

In terms of Giuseppe Bellusci and Marco Silvestri, I think when people are given stick –and I have had it in my career – when people say they need a bit more from you, you work hard on the training ground. You try and improve certain ares of your game and I think that’s what the two of them have done.

Bellusci has been patient, he was not happy to be on the bench and I wouldn’t think he would be, but what you want as a manager is a positive reaction when your time does come. You need to be mentally prepared and ready and he was just that against Cardiff. I thought he was excellent, he didn’t put a foot wrong and it seems to me now that these guys realise they are defenders and not midfield players.

The ball is going into the stands, they are clearing their lines, they are putting the ball in behind the opposition and starting to play in their half – all things that we weren’t doing before.

Now they are getting paid to do the job they are paid for which is defending first and foremost.

If you can play the ball out, do it, but give it to midfield players and let them do the creative side of the game and you do your job which is defend. We have seen that from Bellusci on Saturday who was brilliant. And for me, I thought Silvestri could have been man of the match with the amount of saves that he pulled off. He was there when he was called upon, focused, he was cool and collected, he looked like he was commanding his area and enjoying the game.

From here, until it’s mathematically out of the question, we aim for the play-offs. We aim for promotion, it’s as simple as that. But we do it by taking one game at time and we don’t look past our next match which is Rotherham United, a massive game, because if we win that it’s three victories on the bounce.

Let’s not get carried away because this is a very difficult Championship and the table is going to change from week to week. All we need to do is pick up our points and keep trying to improve and just slowly, gradually creep up on people. Let them look over their shoulders and see Leeds United coming.

We know we have got a good team, we know we have got some decent players and Steve Evans will also be looking to strengthen. That will just add a little bit more to what we have got already.

It just seems like now that Steve has got the boys going, he’s got them motivated, he’s got them passionate again and he’s got them playing in a way that excites people.

And we have got strength in depth on the bench which is what we need to have if we are going to challenge and be a force to be reckoned with.