Leeds United players back head coach but is Jesse Marsch's time running out after latest setback?
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The lack of confidence and a lack of conviction was clearly in evidence in their 3-2 home defeat to Fulham and if the players are really fighting for their boss they need to begin showing it on the pitch - and fast.
And if the board is determined to stick by their man it is time to say so in a big public statement.
In fairness, much of the Whites' play between the two boxes was again decent enough against Fulham, they created plenty of chances and half-chances and did end their mini goal drought with two goals.
But the finishing was once again below standard at times and the defending simply woeful with players not taking responsibility for marking opposition players.
The result was that Leeds have sunk into the bottom three and it is likely to get worse before it gets any better with Liverpool at Anfield next on the horizon.
If results go as badly next weekend as they have this weekend they could find themselves rank bottom and more than three points adrift in the bottom three.With just two points taken from their last eight matches Leeds have, results-wise, fallen apart again as the song goes and a long season lies ahead.
The fans chanted “sack the board” and told Marsch he was “getting sacked in the morning” during the game, but Marsch came out fighting again after the latest setback and said he had spoken with the board who were still behind him.
He said: "It's my job to help the teams turn results so the fans turn their opinion.
"Given everything, the fans were very supportive. I know there's frustration but the energy at the beginning of the match was of optimism and belief. We've got to find a way again to use that.
"I understand the frustration from the fans and we are equally frustrated and more so.
"We are doing everything we can and we are together, we are unified.
"The board and I are unified completely. We've had clear discussions that we're together in this.
"It's painful right now and I take responsibility. I have to find ways to organise us and keep the confidence high and the belief high, keep pushing the good things we're achieving and find ways to lock down the ways we're vulnerable.
"It's not inspiration (needed) as much as discipline, concentration and belief, confidence to know we're on the right path."
On the game itself, Marsch added: “We had a good start to the game and you feel like after the goal we felt we were going to get control of things.
“But, we found ways to hurt ourselves, to give up goals in ways we don’t think we should be. Then we put games in balance.
“Even in the second half when it’s 1-1, you can see our confidence isn’t at its highest. Then, we find a way to give the game away.
"Basically it’s two corners then a throw in as well, where we don’t defend well enough. We have to do better."
Skipper Liam Cooper agreed the team needed to defend better, saying: "We're frustrated, we are in the ascendancy, score the first goal and concede an easy goal, for them, he’s not had to do much and it’s put in an area, Mitrovic gets a flick at the front stick.
"We’ve actually been all right defending set plays and yeah, we’ve not been the best today and punished for it and yeah, just disappointed and angry.
"The fans are disappointed, rightly so, this club needs to be winning football games and we’re not doing that at the minute.
"We’ve got to get a result from somewhere. We as players have got to stand up and go and get a result somewhere.
"We know we are at a big club and you've got to take it on the chin and when your backs are against the wall you've got to come out fighting. We've got to do that – we need every man inside there to come out, take some responsibility and put this right."
Right-back Ayling, who was back in the starting line-up against Fulham, added: "All the boys in that changing room are right behind him (Marsch).
"He came in last year in a tricky position and kept us in the league and we are all behind him this year so we are going to try and pick ourselves up and go again for Saturday."
The Whites could not have wished for a better start as they made the running in the early stages as they often do, going ahead when Rodrigo followed in to head home from close range after Jack Harrison had been sent through by Brenden Aaronson and his shot deflected up off a defender.
They had been given an early warning of Fulham's danger, however, as in their first attack Harrison Reed had been left unmarked to meet an Aleksandar Mitrovic flick on, but saw his shot superbly blocked on the line by Marc Roca then cleared by Robin Koch.
Fulham were level within six minutes of going behind as they won their first corner and from it Mitrovic was given too much freedom to head home a simple goal at the near post.
It was not great defending by the returning Ayling who was trying to pick up the striker, but questions had to be raised about why he had been given that job when Leeds effectively had three centre-backs on the pitch.
Three minutes later the alarm bells were really ringing round Elland Road when from from a home free-kick Fulham cleared and Willian sent Andreas Pereira clean through as the only player in the United half. He raced towards goal unchecked, but was denied by a brilliant one-on-one save by Illan Meslier.
Leeds limped to half-time with their confidence clearly dented again, but they looked a different side initially after the break.
Within three minutes of the restart Rodrigo's angled shot was comfortably saved by Bernd Leno and Aaronson was sent through by Luis Sinisterra only to send a curling shot just over.
Jack Harrison's fine run and cross then gave Rodrigo another shooting chance, but the angle was too tight and he fired wide.
Another chance came from quick thinking by Roca at a free-kick as he swept out a long pass to Ayling who controlled the ball well with his chest before sending a left foot shot shot just wide.
But again when called upon to defend home defenders went missing to allow Joao Palhinha freedom in the area, but he poked the ball wide.
Sam Greenwood – surprisingly chosen in midfield with Tyler Adams the victim of a muscle injury – forced a save out of Leno with a low shot from the edge of the box and the Whites at this stage still looked good going forward.
Substitute Patrick Bamford almost made an immediate impact as he was slipped through by Aaronson, but as he tried to poke the ball past Leno in a one-on-one the visitors' keeper made a good save.
The game's key point arrived on 74 minutes, however, as more dreadful defending allowed Bobby Decordova-Reid the freedom of the box to send a glancing header into the net after the ball had been played back in from a half-cleared corner.
Cue unrest in the crowd and chants of "sack the board". United's previously decent attack play now deserted them and it was no surprise when Fulham made it 3-1 as Reed all too easily skipped past Koch and pulled the ball back for Willian to score with virtually a tap-in.
That was the cue for many home fans to leave the ground and they did miss their side's second goal at the start of added time as another sub Joe Gelhardt played the ball through nicely for Crysencio Summerville to toe-poke the ball past Leno.
There was no time to pull off an unlikely comeback and all that was left was for an inquest into another points giveaway by this Leeds team, who are deep in relegation trouble now even at this relatively early stage of the season.
Leeds United 2
(Rodrigo 20, Summerville 90+1)
(Mitrovic 26, Decordova-Reid 74, Willian 84)
Sunday, October 23, 2022
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Struijk (Gelhardt 85); Roca, Greenwood (Klich 76); Harrison, Aaronson, Sinisterra (Summerville 64); Rodrigo (Bamford 64).
Fulham: Leno; Cordova-Reid, Tosin, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed (Cariney 90+2); Wilson, Pereira, Willian (Duffy 88); Mitrovic (Vinicius 90+2).
Referee: Anthony Taylor