Accrington S 1 (Adekaya 81)
Leeds Utd 3 (Harrison 23, Firpo 66, Sinisterra 68)
28th January 2023, FA Cup 4th Round.
For a second consecutive FA Cup tie, the result has gone pretty much as we might have planned and expected! A 1- 3 result at League One Accrington was, I am sure, pretty much in line with most fans' predictions (I had 1 – 4 and still maintain that would have been a more accurate reflection!).
And, once again, as we did in the replay against Cardiff, we scored some very good goals – in fact, it is hard to remember when we last scored an ugly or lucky goal – although I’m sure someone will tell me before the night is out. The quality of the goals we are scoring is probably a reflection of the wealth of talent we are now able to call upon in the front two-thirds of the pitch… I’ll come to the final third later!
Jesse Marsch was able to rest a few players and yet still put a very strong-looking side onto the pitch, another sign of how we have finally, at long last, built some depth into our squad, at least going forward. A front two of Georginio Rutter and Patrick Bamford with Rodrigo able to rest up on the bench is a huge step forward from the days of playing Dan James at ‘9’! Helped by a very decent flat pitch we played some good stuff too albeit only having weathered an early and expected storm from the home side. Indeed, had Accrington had only a modicum of better quality up front those early minutes could have been embarrassing. As it was, Illan Meslier dealt comfortably enough with three early attempts and the ‘Owd Reds’ forwards were off target with a couple more while Leeds's only early strike came from a scuffed left footer from Georginio Rutter that missed the right post. From the 23rd minute onwards though, Leeds’ obvious class began to tell and maybe the Reds' early enthusiasm began to drain away.
The first goal came in 23 minutes and was a stonker! Rasmus Kristensen hustled his way down the right wing, passed inside to Sam Greenwood and Sam played a perfectly weighted ball further inside to Jack Harrison. Jack simply swung his left boot at the ball without breaking stride and creamed the ball into the right corner of the net. Super goal.
Leeds had other chances in the first half with Luis Sinisterra unlucky to see his shot on the turn get finger-tipped onto the left post by the Reds’ keeper.
There were no changes at the break and so Leeds carried on where they left off and scored two more superb goals in the 66th and 68th minutes although the home side should have equalised before that as an old Leeds failing came to the fore again. Harvey Rodgers suddenly found himself all alone beyond the back post as a right-wing cross bobbled and deflected here and there on the way through. Rodgers had a rush of blood though thankfully and blazed the ball high over the bar. It was yet another reminder that all is not well with this Leeds defence yet; accepting of course that we probably won’t see Firpo and Kristensen next week at Forest. Anyway, goal number two came to ease our worries and it was another beauty. Roca to Harrison deep in our half and then out to the left wing to Junior Firpo who, once again was looking far more adept going forward than defending. Firpo waited, then pushed the ball inside to Patrick Bamford who held the ball while Firpo continued his run into the box. With some clever feet, Paddy then dragged the ball back and just prodded it to one side of the defender while Firpo ran around the other. Firpo finished in style, sliding the ball into the bottom keeper with his right foot. Two minutes later the game was as good as done when Jack Harrison burst down the left from inside his own half, rounded a defender, and picked out Sinisterra and Bamford six yards out. Sinisterra got his boot there first to send the ball into the top corner while Paddy Bamford looked a tad upset that he didn’t get there first!
As with the Elland Road game against Cardiff, what we then needed was to see the game out, and manage the final few minutes. It looked like that was the plan too as we made changes – Rodrigo for Sinisterra (though I was perplexed why we’d risk Rodrigo at that point) and then Perkins, Llorente, and Aaronson for Rutter, Koch, and Bamford.
But we lost our way in the final minutes and couldn’t get to the final whistle without offering one of our regular gift goals. A long-range shot from Leigh was pushed to one side by Meslier but then Quirk was quicker than the Leeds defence to rescue the ball and pick out Adekaya at the near post. He finished with a neat dink over Meslier and, once again, a bit of the gloss of a previously professional performance was rubbed off and we were left wondering how this defence of ours will cope next time out when the side in all red will be Nottingham Forest. It still worries me, brilliant as we look going forward.
My man of the match was Jack Harrison. I've been critical of him this season but he looked back to his best today. OK, we have to again remember the quality of the opposition but he had a fine game, scored a cracker and was involved in all three goals. I am slightly concerned though that his lack of a celebration for his remarkable goal and his prolonged wave as he went off might be telling us he's off. What do you reckon?
For now though, let’s celebrate a rare moment in our recent history – a place in the 5th round draw on Monday night. There are several potential ties that would have us rubbing our hands at the prospect of a cup quarter-final … or we might get drawn against Man City!
Accrington S. Leeds U
Possession 41% 59%
Shots 15 21
On Target 8 10
Corners 2 4
Fouls 10 17