HOW do you set about making sense of chaos? Ask Michael Carrick, for that was how he spent his Saturday night.

Five goals, five yellow cards, a penalty, yet another injury to a key player, mistakes and missed chances - and that was just the first half at Elland Road. The 45 minutes that followed brought no further goals but plenty of talking points. A suspension for Isaiah Jones after a fifth yellow card of the season and the same punishment for Anfernee Dijksteel after his second yellow card of the afternoon. A post was hit and a penalty claim turned away.

The ultimate outcome was the same for Boro as it had been at Bristol City seven days earlier, a 3-2 defeat. And when the dust has settled, out of chaos will come both concern and cause for real optimism.

First, the worry: the defending. That's now three goals conceded in three straight away games. And not only that, the damage is being done in frantic flurries. Boro conceded two goals in four minutes at Plymouth, two in nine minutes at Bristol City and two in three minutes at Elland Road on Saturday.

Boro are simply giving themselves too much to do on the road. And giving opponents a leg-up. For all Boro's ball-playing approach is admirable, they repeatedly passed themselves into trouble against Leeds. Dan Barlaser gave the ball away for the first of the three goals, which were all avoidable.

“The goals we conceded were frustrating," admitted Carrick, who went on to discuss the wider issue of his side's defensive struggle on the road.

“There are a couple of factors. I don’t think it’s a structural problem because we don’t concede at home so much.

"Listen, we know we need to do something about it to be where we want to be by the end in the league. It’s difficult to go through the season conceding goals like that and expecting to win games. But we’ll find a way."

If it's not structural, what's the problem? Concentration? Or game management?

Carrick said: “What’s game-management? Kicking the ball up the pitch? Kicking it into the stands? It’s defending in moments that we’ve got to be better at. In a stadium like this, against a team with individuals like Leeds, they can cut through you and have moments. In games like this, that split second of thinking can make the difference and you end up conceding two from nowhere.

"I thought we got back to playing very well though, and the other side of it, some of our play in possession was very good."


Carrick's point about the defensive record at home is an interesting one. Whereas Boro have conceded 22 goals in 10 away games this season, at home they've leaked just seven in nine games.

The good news? Three of their next four fixtures are at home. And the coming Riverside fixtures aren't the only reason for optimism.

Despite those defensive issues on Saturday, the red card and Paddy McNair's injury - which we'll come to - Boro were disappointed to leave Elland Road empty-handed. They gave as good as they got for long stages. They aren't far away, even if they do have an entire team of outfield players now injured or unavailable.

"That's a big positive," said Carrick, who was enormously encouraged by much of what he saw from his side.

"We said before the game about the team that we can nearly put out with the boys that are injured. It would be a good team.

"We’ve picked another couple of setbacks again, but again, we stuck to it and we hit the post and the boys feel we should have had a penalty with Crooksy.

"Big moments in the game where we could have easily taken something from it. We were right in there. The boys can take a lot from that moving forward as a group."

If you've got tickets for Saturday's visit of Ipswich, take your boots, you might get a game. With Dael Fry and Hayden Hackney not fit enough to feature at Elland Road, the last thing Carrick needed to see was McNair hobbling off in the first half.

Before Saturday's game, Carrick recalled once playing centre-half for Manchester United at Elland Road. Jonny Howson has also played in defence in the past. It's not out of the question the captain will have to do a job at the back against Ipswich, with Boro potentially missing five defenders.

Further forward, Hackney was sorely missed on Saturday. Boro needed his ball retention, particularly in the first half, which swung very quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous. Barlaser, in the team in the absence of Hackney, cheaply conceded possession in the first couple of minutes and was fortunate not to be punished when Joel Piroe fired over. He was punished soon after when he again gave the ball away, which led to Dan James's headed goal.

And two minutes later it was Crysencio Summerville - like James, hardly a giant - who headed in at the opposite post. What is Summerville doing in the Championship? He's too good for this league, as Dijksteel discovered.

Elland Road was bouncing and yet just four minutes earlier the home fans had been stunned by Latte Lath's brilliant opener. The Ivorian should have had a hat-trick before Leeds scored their third from the spot. It was Matt Clarke who gave away the penalty but it would be unfair to be too harsh on the defender, who was understandably rusty having come off the bench less than 60 seconds earlier when he replaced McNair.

At that moment it looked to be damage limitation time for Boro but Latte Lath's header on the stroke of half-time changed the game again. The striker will miss chances - as was the case at Elland Road - but he's a livewire, a nuisance and will get better as the season goes on. This was his best display in a Boro shirt.

Boro tightened up in the second half but Dijksteel's red card made their task all the more difficult. As was the case when he was sent off at Rotherham at the end of last season, the Dutch defender's hopes of taking advantage of a rare opportunity in the team have now been severely dented. As were Boro's hopes of getting something from Saturday's game after that sending off, but even with 10 men they created the opportunity that led to substitute Silvera hitting the post before Rogers' rebound was somehow blocked.