It’s one game, but in one half, Brian McDermott showed an ability to read a game and alter it on the fly that his predecessor never did. The three changes McDermott made in the second half were imperative to the turnaround against Wednesday today, and whilst the first two led to two goals, the third may have been as important, possibly imperative to us holding on to the lead.
Diouf’s introduction at half time was useful, in that we hadn’t really created much in the first half. We now had two technically gifted players in the front four, with both Diouf and McCormack able to provide. Moves forward suddenly seemed to flow far better, and where there had been no penetration, we carved open a slow Wednesday defence repeatedly.
I was concerned about potential threat on the counter, with Diouf unlikely to track back and offer any support, which is one of the reasons he only played a handful of games out-wide in a flat midfield four earlier in the season. Varney is more effective further up the pitch, so I was concerned we had shifted into a full-on 4-2-4 early in the match. This concern was nullified with the introduction of White for Morison, who had a game to forget. With White and Diouf on the wings, with Diouf and McCormack swapping between the deeper lying striker position, we looked solid. Of course, the most important aspect of this switch was that it released Varney, who went on to get the two impeccable headers, winning us the match.
The third change McDermott made was the introduction of Michael Tonge for Stephen Warnock, which led to Rodolph Austin being moved to centre-back, a back-four of Byram, Austin, Pearce and Drury. Whilst it could have been seen as an oddly attacking swap to make at 2-1 up with Leeds holding on to the lead, Pearce had clearly been struggling with the angles all-match, misjudging high-balls repeatedly (leading to Wednesday’s goal in the first half). This is not a criticism of Pearce at all, merely an understanding that he’s a left-sided centre back, and that playing on the right of the pairing meant he had to alter his game entirely. After Pearce had been restored to his natural position, and despite the fact we had struggled massively towards the end, giving up chance after chance, with Austin and Pearce at centre back, we looked safe once more.
All in all, three exceptionally effective substitutes.
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).