Leeds United: Whites learn harsh lessons on the road

Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal in front of the Leeds fans at Bournemouth in September.  PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal in front of the Leeds fans at Bournemouth in September. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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Leeds United’S away form throughout 2014 cannot merely be described as travel sickness, but more a debilitating contagion.

This is the time of year when supporters across the country usually savour festive matches, yet, as it stands, the forthcoming trips to Nottingham Forest and Derby County will not be filling too many of a Whites persuasion with too much hope.

The perception that in the final analysis United are a nice easy-on-the-eye side, but a soft touch away from Elland Road has been inescapable to avoid given recent evidence, with the travelling hordes who pack out away ends to watch the club, whether near or far, fully entitled to think that.

Leeds’ away faithful have endured some punishing and excruciating episodes this calendar year, with the statistics truly appalling.

In 10 away league games this season, Leeds have won once – at Bournemouth on September 16 – lost seven games and drawn twice. It represents a damning total of five points from a possible 30, with their concession of 22 goals being a tally which is the second worst in the entire Football League in 2014-15 and a figure even more inferior than Blackpool’s.

Only United’s next opponents, Fulham, who head to Elland Road on Saturday, have conceded more, with the Cottagers having shipped 27 goals so far this term on their travels away from Craven Cottage.

It is certainly something to cling onto for Leeds amid the wreckage of Portman Road.

Looking at the wider picture of 2014 in its entirety, it is hard to think of a more brutal time for United followers who travel religiously to watch their side every other week.

Those of a nervous disposition may want to look away from the following statistics...

In 23 away matches in all competitions this calendar year, Leeds have won just four times and lost on 15 occasions, with their victories coming at Bournemouth (September 16), Birmingham City (April 26), Barnsley (April 19) and Yeovil Town (February 8).

The portents were truly set in their two first away assignments in 2014 with defeats at Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday being ones that have entered the annals of United folklore for all the wrong reasons.

The Spring away losses at Bournemouth and Watford were also further dark episodes during that fraught second-half of last season, with another tough episode at Vicarage Road already in the early part of this term along with an insipid opening-day loss at Millwall and another dispiriting reverse in the capital against Brentford at Griffin Park.

You have to go back to the final day of the 2012-13 campaign for the last time that Leeds beat a home side in the top 10, when they famously overcame play-off bound Watford, with a little bit of help from home goalkeeper Jonathan Bond in a dramatic 2-1 win on May 4, 2013.

As Neil Redfearn acknowledged when picking up the pieces after Saturday’s 4-1 disintegration at Portman Road, finding the away answers is a taxing problem.

He said: “If you look at the best spell, it was obviously the caretaker spell when we beat Bournemouth and drew with Birmingham. That was four out of the five points.

“I do think it is a case of just losing that bit of momentum. We have had a stop-start sort of season as regards people in charge or what have you for one reason or another.

“We have just to try and put things down and in place and get things going in the right direction. We are getting the home form right and picking up results at home and getting the performances right. But the performance wasn’t good enough at Ipswich.

“We are going to have the odd off-day, but when we do have them, it cannot be so dramatic. We need to be more resolute and tougher mentally.”

Looking at this season’s evidence, despite United’s damning away haul, it is not as if encouragement has not been provided on the road, with anyone who watched the first half of the games at Rotherham United and Blackburn Rovers and the final half-hour of the victory at Bournemouth probably forgiven for thinking: ‘Problem, what problem?’

Given the fact that Leeds are still a work in progress, with the make-up of their side largely consisting of continental players still acclimatising to Championship life in some respects interspersed with prodigiously talented young players just starting out with plenty to learn, a few bad days at the office on the road are to be expected from time to time.

But their frequency is starting to be alarming, with the way in which Leeds shot themselves in the foot and seemingly accepted their fate long before the final whistle at Portman Road particularly pronounced, with the body language of the away players speaking volumes.

On the performance, Redfearn said: “I was gutted, to be honest, as I expected us to have given a far better account of ourselves than what we gave.

“It wasn’t what you want to see and difficult for us to take.

“It is a learning curve for a lot of these young players and they are learning in adversity with this away form and it is something we have got to address.

“It was an off-day. It was a great start, but it is like we are waiting for the opposition to come back into it when we really have to go and grasp the nettle and get the opposition by the throat and go for it as we have a side capable of doing that.

“It is a young side which has only just been put together and I think we are going to get odd days like Saturday and it is important we give them the right message and dust themselves off and we work hard throughout the week to iron out the problems we have had and go again.”

HOW RARE WINS AWAY FROM ELLAND ROAD WERE SECURED

flashback to Leeds United’s four wins in 23 away matches in all competitions in 2014:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014: Bournemouth 1 
Leeds 3 – United scorers Doukara, Bellusci, Antenucci.

Three goals in the final 21 minutes saw Leeds rally from a goal down to claim a super 3-1 victory at Bournemouth, thanks to goals from Souleymane Doukara, Giuseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci. The pick was Bellusci’s stunning free-kick.

Saturday, April 26, 2014: Birmingham 1 Leeds 3 – United scorers Smith, Pugh, Caddis (og).

Three second-half goals helped Leeds seal a seasonal double over the Blues thanks to Matt Smith, Danny Pugh, right, and Paul Caddis (own goal).

Saturday, April 19, 2014: Barnsley 0 Leeds 1 – United scorer McCormack.

Leeds claimed a spot of payback for some desperate Oakwell episodes by hammering another nail into the Reds’ relegation coffin on Easter Saturday. Ross McCormack netted the only goal, his final strike for Leeds.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: Yeovil 1 Leeds 2 – United scorers McCormack, Warnock.

A fluke free-kick from Stephen Warnock helped Leeds triumph in wind-swept Somerset in front of the Sky cameras. Ishmael Miller headed Yeovil in front, but Ross McCormack majestically levelled before Warnock struck.

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