This is what Leeds United have become - Graham Smyth's West Ham Verdict as habits get ticked off

Leeds United
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Can there be any surprise that Leeds failed to hold a lead, failed to control a game, failed to take chances and failed to win at West Ham? This is what they do. This is who they have become.

Forever blowing leads, a grand total of 25 points have been given up from winning positions this season. It's not the hope that kills you, it's lacking the quality and tactical nous to kill a game.

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And a 3-1 defeat at the London Stadium, against a team with nothing at all to play for and a European final to think about, Leeds did nothing whatsoever to suggest they can suddenly change their ways at the last minute.

Yes, they took the lead on 17 minutes as Rodrigo - who else? - swept home a Weston McKennie long throw on the volley. But everything that followed was classic, unadulterated 2022/23 Leeds.

Getting into excellent positions only to butcher the opportunity with a complete lack of composure? Check. Giving the ball away and with it control of the play? Check. Scandalous defending permitting a team to play through them and run round them to create chances and score goals? Check. Not winning? Check.

Perhaps the worst factor of all of this was that prior to kick-off, safety was in Leeds' own hands. Forget the permutations, the mathematics were relatively simple. Win twice and stay up.

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So up against a West Ham side showing six changes, a team who played on Thursday night and might be feeling it a little in the legs, it was a question of how badly Leeds wanted it.

TYPICAL DISPLAY - What Leeds United served up at West Ham United should come as no surprise given the way this season has panned out. Pic: GettyTYPICAL DISPLAY - What Leeds United served up at West Ham United should come as no surprise given the way this season has panned out. Pic: Getty
TYPICAL DISPLAY - What Leeds United served up at West Ham United should come as no surprise given the way this season has panned out. Pic: Getty

For the visitors it was a must-win football game. For West Ham it was an occasion. Declan Rice's likely last home run out in those colours. When the two sets of players walked out of the tunnel, one looked happy and relaxed in the company of their kids, playing the role of mascots. The other wore faces set like flint, dragging the ghosts of a shipwrecked season out with them.

The opening stages were promising enough to drag everyone in and get their hopes up. Patrick Bamford got away down the left, twice, although his and then Rodrigo's heavy touches robbed them of shooting opportunities.

Jack Harrison did get a shot off, Leeds' first of the day, testing Lukasz Fabianski but not so strenuously, with a first-time hit from Luke Ayling's cross.

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Taking the lead was a deserved outcome, wholly in keeping with the start. Weston McKennie's long throw dropped perfectly for Rodrigo and he hooked his foot around it to volley in.

The question, as Allardyce punched the air, was now how badly did West Ham want it?

Sadly, they didn't even have to do that much to reach out and take what they wanted.

A spell of increasing pressure brought corners, scrambles and bodies flying in to block shots in and around the area. An equaliser was every bit as inevitable as Rice being the man to get it. As space opened up, West Ham poured forward into it, Jarrod Bowen got on the end of a scoop into the area and dinked the ball to the back post for Rice to sidefoot in impressively.

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Before play could restart, Bamford limped off. Lead blown, 1-1, striker gone, Willy Gnonto on.

As West Ham sprang forward for a two-on-one break it all started to bear a horrible sense of familiarity. Mercifully, Pablo Fornals shanked his shot and it stayed 1-1.

It happened again though, Ayling getting to the byline and trying without success to find Gnonto, then racing back as West Ham broke the other way. This time it was Emerson with the chance at the end of it and Joel Robles had to save.

In possession Leeds were working the ball wide to Ayling or Harrison, who looked to cross into the area - a largely pointless exercise without Bamford to challenge the giant centre-back pairing.

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When Rodrigo nicked the ball off Kurt Zouma, however, they were able to create a much more plausible opportunity. The forward got to the area, cut back and teed up Gnonto who could only miskick it straight to Harrison, who could only scuff wide. But of course. All of their 2022/23 habits ticked off the list, Leeds headed in at the break level.

The second half was initially played in a strange atmosphere. There was no jeopardy for West Ham, no tension in the stands, no urgency but also no pressure. That was all on Leeds. So, again, how badly did they want it? A big, big second half was needed. Intensity was required.

What they delivered was abject. West Ham had the first chance, Lucas Paqueta's long-range curler requiring a decent save of Robles. The keeper was needed again when a header bounced down and back up towards the top corner before he tipped it over.

A passive performance from the visitors was allowing the hosts to stroll. They assumed complete control of the ball, without having to hit top gear. Then they assumed control of the scoreline, Bowen the man on the end of a slick move.

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Crysencio Summerville got onto a through ball to threaten some kind of response, but his shot didn't make it to goal, a defender's boot blocking the way.

A moment later Summerville left the ball for Ayling, who had left it for Summerville and it rolled out of play. They questioned each other as Allardyce hurled his chewing gum to the floor in disgust. But with Rodrigo limping around, running through the agony of plantar fasciitis, and record signing attacker Georginio Rutter sitting on the bench twiddling his thumbs, the manager had questions to answer too.

He said after the game that West Ham's goal was just Leeds going hell for leather but it was from a corner that they conceded, one that the home side initially looked content to keep in the corner before their neat inter-play and Leeds' lack of tackling created a surprise route to goal along the byline. Manuel Lanzini stuck the ball in the net and that was that.

Maybe that is that. Other teams have been digging out results, winning games and making a fist of survival. Leeds, though, have not for all the reasons previously mentioned. If it looks and smells like relegation then...

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Rodrigo and Bamford both have injuries. Allardyce does not consider the squad to have a replacement. He sees a lack of quality at each end of the pitch and a lack of depth generally. He's not wrong and so much of that is not the fault of the players, a point which should not get lost in the next week.

At full-time they wore the look of a beaten bunch, as they have so often this season. The win-or-be-relegated scenario that now faces them calls for something heroic. Even that might not be enough, should Everton win at home to Bournemouth so it's out of their hands and no longer a question of how badly they want it. If Bournemouth are to beat the Toffees, can Leeds be relied upon to make sure that it even matters?