Tough test for Leeds United as they aim to bounce back

Neil Redfearn deep in thought during last Saturday's game against Watford.
Neil Redfearn deep in thought during last Saturday's game against Watford.
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As Leeds United go from taking on one promotion chasing team to another head coach Neil Redfearn is demanding an improved defensive display tonight against Ipswich Town.

Redfearn was critical of his defenders after the Whites blew a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Watford last Saturday and they face another big test at Elland Road now when Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys are in town.

United need no warning of how powerful the Ipswich attack can be as they were beaten 4-1 at their Portman Road ground earlier in the season.

They are also likely to be up against a fired up side after Town lost their big local derby with Norwich last Sunday to drop down to sixth.

After being in the top six just about all season it would be a big disappointment for Ipswich if they did not at least reach the play-offs and they will have every incentive to bounce back by beating a Leeds team that has followed three straight wins and three clean sheets with two defeats in their last two games, suddenly conceding five goals.

Head coach Redfearn laid the blame for the latest defeat at the feet of defenders who allowed Watford strikers Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney too much room and seemed to be chasing after them rather than trying to cut off the passes forward.

He said: “You can’t afford to defend like we did.

“That’s what let us down. We were the better side for 40 minutes and we got our game plan right. We played right up the pitch and put them under pressure, forcing the error.

“We squashed their diamond and they struggled, but then our back four dropped off and gave them space to play. Give a good side space to play and they’ll hurt you.

We’d talked about defending one-v-one because Watford play that way and we needed to make good decisions. Instead we’ve made too many poor decisions.”

Redfearn has options for change in defence with Giuseppe Bellusci available again after suspension and Gaetano Berardi a possible to come back in at full-back after keeping the bench warm in recent weeks.

But Leeds could be without two of the biggest players since the turn of the year with midfielder Rudy Austin – who scored a spectacular volley against Watford – and striker Steve Morison both on the sidelines.

Austin will be a big miss and could be out for three weeks with a thigh strain.

Up front Billy Sharp did well in the absence of Morison against Watford and managed the 150th goal of his professional career. He will certainly be disappointed if he is left out against Ipswich, although Redfearn does have other options in Mirco Antenucci, Edgar Cani and Souleymane Doukara.

Redfearn bemoaned his lack of options in midfield, however.

He said: “There’s definitely an imbalance in the squad.

“In our system you’re replacing players and putting others in positions which aren’t natural to them. You’re replacing midfielders with attacking players and it’s not a natural change. Sometimes it affects your thinking.”

Redfearn is hoping that his side have learned lessons from December’s 4-1 defeat away to Ipswich.

He said: “It maybe taught us the nature of the division and what this level is about.

“Mick McCarthy’s experienced at this level and his side is very much a Championship side.

“It’s big, it’s strong, it’s physical. It plays good football and it’s got many facets to it.

“On the day I think we had a certain way of playing – we were playing the diamond at the time and we got exposed.

“I think, from then on, you’ve got to look at playing in different ways and you’ve got to learn to play at this level.

“I think we’ve been harder to beat, that is the big thing. Apart from the last two games, we’ve looked more balanced.

“I think we’re harder to play against in wide areas and we’ve got good legs in there now with the kids coming in – they can get up the pitch quickly.

“We’ve got height and strength in areas where we need it and we’ve got a little bit of pace in there too.

“We’re adding the bits that perhaps the Championship demands. It’s still our DNA, we still want to play, we want to get the ball down and pass it. But we’ve still got to remember we’re playing in the Championship.”