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brentford 1-1 leeds united: dogged underdogs

brentford 1-1 leeds united: dogged underdogs

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Steve Evans’ school of thought, as far as I can make out, depends very much on whatever his last thought was, and on the ability to follow it like a newborn baby duckling follows an alsation.

It might be fine at first, and the gentle old dog might keep you from drowning, but at some point you’ve got to realise that dog is not your mother.

Leeds started at Brentford the way they finished against Bristol City, and given the reaction to the way Leeds had started against Bristol City, that must have seemed to Evans like a wise move. A lone striker at home against one of the division’s lowly had meant horrific drear; bringing Chris Wood on and going 4-4-2 had brought an instant goal.

So it stands to reason. Start with Chris Wood at Brentford and play 4-4-2 and Leeds will score instantly and again and again and win by ninety goals to nil. And that’s what Steve Evans did, pairing Wood with Souleymane Doukara, sending Lewis Cook to play left-wing, and leaving new signing Diagouraga on the bench.

So why didn’t it work? Because the last good thought isn’t always the best next thought. The howls and catcalls at the end of the first half against Bristol were in part because Leeds had set up as if they were going away to the home of one the best teams in the division, when in fact they’d gone defensive against a team that wanted to defend against us. An attacking line up and some attacking intent could have finished Bristol City off without all that carry on.

Brentford were a different proposition. Plus we played them away, and anyone who has played a football management game or listened to Robbie Savage’s shriek witlessly on the radio knows the difference between home and away environments. Brentford are mid-table, with seventeen more goals to their name than Bristol City; had won six and lost six at home, compared to Bristol, who had won two away.

What I’m trying to say here is that we were playing different teams in different circumstances, and simply repeating the last thing that worked instead of adapting to the circumstances is what gave Brentford a goal start at Griffin Park.

They also got it because Sam Saunders was able to walk straight through the middle of our wonky set-up and lash the ball past Silvestri without any Leeds players getting involved. Diagouraga has presumably been signed to prevent such things from happening, but even if he wasn’t ready to make his debut — and he came off the bench in the second half, so he can’t have been far off — Tom Adeyemi is still available to plug that midfield gap next to Liam Bridcutt and give Leeds a solid spine away from home. That has worked before, but Evans’ current last thought about Adeyemi is that he’s ‘out of form’, so who knows if he’ll ever come back from that; it took Sam Byram a long time to change Evans’ thinking about him. Not that the goals he scored when he came back or his comfortable debut in the Premier League suggested Evans’ stubbornness smote our face.

Instead we had Cook struggling on the left-wing, which is not a surprise given that the lad has been struggling in central midfield of late; while Mustapha Carayol paid for his anonymous performance with a seat on the bench. This was a change I did agree with; after bursting the net against Rotherham, Carayol was conspicuously awful against Bristol City, raising fears that he might be a dud after all; yet here he was, eventually, after a half-time formation switch and the introduction of Diagouraga on the hour, to set the seal on the right sort of changes by whacking the ball into the corner of the net when it looked like nobody else knew what to do with it. I now worry that this will be the push and pull of Carayol; dreadful in two of three games, but then he’ll score a wondergoal and we’ll have to keep picking him. I’ll take wondergoals, though, any day.

That it got better against Brentford, and that it ended with a wondergoal, was a relief; whatever the record books might say about the result against Bristol City, that game felt like a defeat, and to lose again so soon could have been the articulated lorry that finally did for out family of ducklings.

But Steve Evans keeps hoovering up credit for making changes that get results, because Steve Evans keeps selecting starting line-ups with miserable defeat written all over them. Maybe it’s some kind of Red Adair hero act, I dunno, but perhaps Steve Evans could save the underdog status for Steve Evans.

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