Championship Analysis – Leeds confusion after McDermott U-turn

It’s not often that a crowd chants its seemingly-outgoing manager’s name in defiant unison when its team has gone eight games without a win, including an FA Cup defeat by a side in League 2 and a thrashing by local rivals. The Leeds faithful, however, have shown in no uncertain terms that they are behind Brian McDermott, who was told he was sacked just before the closure of the transfer window on January 31 amid claims by the club’s incoming owner Massimo Cellino that he wanted to appoint a new manager.

“From the bottom of my heart, thanks to each and every Leeds United fan for your support,” McDermott said upon hearing the initial news, which sparked fury and subsequent protests by fans outside Elland Road, as well as backing from his players, especially captain Ross McCormack, who had earlier decided to stay at the club despite interest from other clubs on deadline day.

McCormack clearly took out his frustration on Huddersfield, scoring a hat-trick in a timely 5-1 win and taking his goal tally to 21, ahead of a baffling official club statement insisting McDermott was still in charge. He took training on Monday so appears to be the manager once again.

The events at Elland Road overshadowed what was a pulsating lunchtime promotion clash at Loftus Road, where QPR and Burnley shared a 3-3 draw. Both sides took turns to lead in a see-saw battle that resulted in the hosts maintaining a three-point grip on second spot. Had Burnley held on to their 3-2 advantage the Clarets would have climbed above their rivals on goal difference, but manager Sean Dyche chose to remain upbeat.

“We’ve now taken four points off the pre-season promotion favourites and that’s a good marker for us – we are up there for a reason,” he said afterwards.

Nevertheless, Burnley could, and perhaps should, have been overtaken by Derby, who let a two-goal lead slip at Birmingham in another 3-3 thriller. The Rams remain a point behind in fourth but have played a game more.

Leicester, meanwhile, stretched their lead at the top of the table to 10 points – and their back-to-back winning run to a staggering nine matches – after grinding out a 1-0 win at Bournemouth thanks to a late goal by the evergreen Kevin Phillips. With a wealth of experience at this level, including promotions with Birmingham, West Brom, Sunderland and last season Crystal Palace, the 40-year-old could be an inspired signing as the season approaches its final third.

At the other end of the table, the bottom three all lost, with Barnsley suffering a 1-0 defeat in the dying seconds at Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton seeing a 1-0 lead overturned by two Wigan goals in the final two minutes. Yeovil were defeated 3-1 by Nottingham Forest in Sunday’s game, allowing Forest to cement fifth spot.

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