Championship Review – 18/10/14

roth1I was watching the Rotherham versus Leeds match last night on Sky Sports and had a tough time deciding who I wanted to win.

A win for Leeds would keep Rotherham well below us, victory for the home team would ensure that Leeds remained in limbo.

Maybe a draw then would be the best result for Brentford?

Even taking into account the fact that it was a local derby and that there were Yorkshire bragging rights at stake I was staggered at just how little incisive football was played on the night.

Leeds were neat and and, just as they had done at Griffin Park recently, they played the ball around carefully and accurately but rarely in areas where they could threaten or hurt the opposition.

It was all very safe and unadventurous.

They had sixty-two per cent possession but I suspect that most of it was in their own half where they persisted in passing the ball backwards and sideways without attempting the killer pass.

Warnock in particular, for all his ability, seemed to be allergic to passing the ball forward.

Of their fifteen shots at goal very few were from within the penalty area and they totally flattered to deceive.

Leeds defended deep and were overly reliant on their excellent goalkeeper Silvestri to keep them out of trouble given how weak their central defenders were in dealing with Rotherham’s customary aerial bombardment.

The goal that they scored was truly excellent and out of keeping with their approach.

The two strikers finally combined and a subtly and perfectly timed through ball caught the home defence sleeping and totally square, and Mirco Antenucci judged his run perfectly to stay onside and slip the ball home.

Proof that there is ability and cutting edge there when they wish to show ambition.

Leeds seemed to think that one goal was enough, sat back and allowed the home team, who had started nervously and cautiously, to claw their way back into the game and begin to ask questions of the visitors.

Much more on Rotherham later, but Leeds look like a team that is sleepwalking gently through the season.

They possess lots of skilful players who are comfortable on the ball but they lack a leader or someone who is prepared to take the game by the scruff of the neck and attempt to seize the initiative.

They just appear to be waiting for something to happen, or for somebody else to take responsibility.

They are also naive and vulnerable in defence and do not react well to teams that press them.

The spirit too seems to be lacking and I detected little evidence of players who were prepared to put their body on the line or support and cover for their team mates.

I realise that they have an almost totally new group of players who are unaware of the demands of Championship football, and their manager has barely got his feet under the table, but the Elland Road supporters are an unforgiving bunch and I very much doubt if they enjoyed or are prepared to accept for very long what they saw last night.

They are a club in turmoil with no real plan or approach and do not appear to be a happy or united bunch.

Leeds are totally under-performing and I see very few signs of that situation changing in the immediate future.

I do feel sorry for their supporters as they surely deserve far better.

As for Rotherham, it is so easy and totally wrong to underestimate them or damn them with faint praise.

Yes, we all have a view about Steve Evans and Paul Raynor and I would like neither of them anywhere near our club, but the truth cannot be denied or minimised – they get results and their team play for them and are well drilled.

The Millers are relentless, they challenge you, put you under pressure and never give you a moment’s peace.

They keep their foot on your throat and will steam roller you if you allow them to do so and do not stand up to them.

They are also very good at what they do.

Frecklington is a terrier in midfield, snapping away at your ankles and never allowing the opposition to settle on the ball.

Alex Revell is immense in the air, wins everything, possesses a more subtle touch than you would expect, and also does so much unseen work chasing and tackling back.

It was he who was in the right place to capitalise upon a half-save from the keeper to equalise.

It was also Revell who slid in to win the ball back in midfield  and allow Clarke-Harris to stride on and score the winner with a shot of awesome power and accuracy.

The back four are well drilled and tenacious even if they lack pace, and Collin is an excellent shot stopper in goal.

The jewels in their crown are Paul Green who has vision and accuracy in his passing and the star man, Ben Pringle, who has a wand of a left foot.

He keeps the opposition under pressure by crossing the ball in from the left flank as quickly and as often as possible knowing that Revell will come flying in to challenge for the ball and unsettle the defence.

The only way to beat Rotherham is to stand up to their physical approach and defend in a brave and organised manner.

Leeds wilted last night, thankfully Brentford did not last month when Tarkowski and Dean maintained their concentration and won their individual battles.

If you can firstly keep them at bay and push Rotherham back, then ideally teams can put them under pressure, as they are susceptible to both pace and guile.

Rotherham have struggled to find an adequate partner for Revell, until perhaps last night provided them with the solution.

Matt Derbyshire runs the channels well but is lightweight and appears to have lost his knack of scoring unlikely goals and Becchio is injured.roth2

I first noticed Jonson Clarke-Harris last season when he played against us for Oldham.

He has pace and power in abundance as well as a powerful and accurate shot.

He looks raw in the extreme but is also a real talent and I suspect that he was a prospect that came under careful review by Brentford.

He apparently did not fit our requirements but Rotherham invested a club record fee in him last month and I believe that it will be money very well spent.

Clarke-Harris will probably infuriate as much as he thrills and delivers this season , but that is quite normal for a young player lacking in experience and playing at a new and higher level.

I look at the other teams in the Championship in terms of assessing the level of threat that they present to the Bees.

Brentford have already defeated both Rotherham and Leeds and I see no reason why we will finish below either of them at the end of the season.

Leeds are a team in crisis with no real pattern of play, Rotherham, on the other hand, are one dimensional but know exactly what they are doing and execute their game plan exceptionally well and effectively.

Brentford also have an established style and approach which to date is both easy on the eye and successful.

Long may that continue.


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