Leeds United: Right players in right system have got us to brink of safety – Lorimer

Steve Morison.
Steve Morison.
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I don’t want to tempt fate so I won’t pretend that Leeds United are safe but I’ll be amazed if we contrive to get ourselves relegated now.

People will concentrate on the eight-point gap between us and the bottom three but what really matters is the fact that we’re 12 points from 50 with 15 games to play.

Combine that with the number of clubs below us and it’s hard to say that relegation is a huge threat.

In any case, Blackpool and Wigan Athletic have already gone.

They’re too far back to stay up I feel so we’re talking about one more team to join them in League One.

We were in big trouble not so long ago, make no mistake about that, but four wins from five games has been a crucial surge at the right time.

We’ve seen some big individual performances during that run but for me the biggest factor in the club’s improvement has been the change of formation.

Five players in midfield suits us so much better than a flat four and it was telling that we lost the only game where Neil Redfearn decided to break from it.

It didn’t surprise me that after the defeat to Brentford he was straight back to 4-2-3-1 away at Reading – and to very good effect.

There are three players in particular who are helped by this system.

One is definitely Luke Murphy. Having five players in midfield gives him scope and freedom to play to his strengths – to get on the ball, pass it around and concentrate on pulling the strings.

He’s not the quickest of footballers and I often feel that in a four-man midfield there’s too much pressure on him to get up and down, box to box. That’s not his forte and it doesn’t really suit him or bring the best out of him.

But in this formation he’s got Lewis Cook, Sam Byram and others covering ground around him. It all makes for a good combination.

There’s no doubt either that Rudy Austin is most effective in an attacking role.

It’s funny because to look at him you’d think he’d be the ideal defensive midfielder – big, tough-tackling and very physical.

A lot of coaches would see him in that role.

But what you actually want from him is those driving runs that cut the opposition open and wear them down.

At the moment he’s got license to make those runs without having to look over his shoulder or worry about what he’s leaving behind him.

And then there’s Steve Morison who, to my mind, has been absolutely fantastic. I know he’s not scoring and I know we all love strikers who stick away 20 goals a season but anyone who understands football should be able to see what he’s bringing to the table.

Watch him closely and look how busy he can keep two centre-backs. His mobility and his strength in the air means opposition defences don’t get the easy ride they might expect two-on-one.

It’s hard playing as a target man and it takes a bit of selflessness because inevitably you’re going to be left with a lot of graft to do.

I honestly think that if you pulled him from the side and put another forward up front, the impact would be big and very negative.

When a club’s on a run of four wins from five, the number of goals your lone striker is scoring doesn’t matter. I’m sorry but it doesn’t.

It’ll matter to him from a personal point of view because he’ll want to be finding the net, and the more a goal eludes him the more it will eat away at him and make him snatch at chances.

But this is when you remember that football’s a team game. Good sides have a line-up that works, not a line-up with a few individuals who carry everyone else.

Morison’s actually been pretty unlucky.

He hit a post at Reading and he’s come close on a few other occasions.

Basically, he’s right there and one of these days, the ball will fly in. It comes back to that old cliche: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and Leeds at the moment certainly aren’t broken. Redfearn’s onto a good thing here and there’s no reason whatsoever to mess with his formula.