Leeds United 2 Bolton W 1
I seem to be in a very small minority of Leeds fans who have seen some improvement in our performances in recent games. In particular I felt we were half decent at Reading and in the home game with Wednesday; sadly, two elements of our play – shoddy finishing and weak, naïve defending – meant we failed to convert those brighter performances into wins.
Today, against another poor side admittedly, we have finally reaped the rewards of what I saw as another much better all-round display. The problem for me though is that it was still not a totally convincing display because those same failings in both boxes were still apparent. Up front, Caleb Ekuban had another couple of excellent opportunities and should probably have come away with a hat-trick but yet again he was found lacking. The best I can say about him is that we once watched Chris Wood waste chances like this but eventually he found his range and started banging them in for fun. Let’s hope it’s the same for Caleb. Our number 45 was not alone though and Gjanni Alioski will also be ruing another one on one miss that players at this level really ought to be putting away.
At the other end we somehow allowed the little figure of Adam Le Fondre to have the freedom of the South End of Elland Road to nod a header home from a free kick. Heckingbottom will not be happy with that one. If we allow Fulham space like that on Tuesday they’ll need an abacus to keep score.
Other than the issues already noted, the likes of Hernandez, Alioski, and Ekuban had good games with the Spanish maestro looking a class above the other 21 players on the pitch. Some of the passes he clipped, stroked or hammered around the pitch were awe inspiring and of course he was Jonny on the spot to prod home the rebound for what proved to be the winning goal. If there is anything at all that we can offer Pablo to keep him at Elland Road then the club need to find it; if Leeds need the fans to have a whip round I’m sure we’d be only too willing if it meant being able to witness Pablo’s silky skills for one more season.
Samu Saiz has similar talent to Pablo and yet somehow he has yet to hone those skills so that we get full value from them in the hurly burly of the Championship. Too often his amazing ball control and initial surge past his marker is then undone by holding the ball too long or making what looks to be the wrong decision. Contrast that with Pablo’s passing which is usually inch perfect.
So, an important three points to just keep us all calm at a time when we know we have problems but are not totally sure what the answer is. I’m detecting a more fluent attacking Leeds under Heckingbottom albeit we still look naïve at times at the back and lacking confidence up front. Even if we were to go on and win all seven of our remaining games (I know we won’t!) we would need to ensure that it didn’t mask the knowledge we all have that the current squad is not strong enough; we need leaders on the pitch, we need steel in midfield, we need another quality centre back, and we need a goal machine up front and probably a few more too if we are to mount a proper, sustained challenge for promotion next season. I believe the club knows this and I see no reason why Heckingbottom can’t be the man to then create a winning mentality in such a squad. Fingers crossed we can be tight at Craven Cottage and not undo the positives we saw today.
Leeds Utd Bolton W
Possession 44% 56%
Shots 16 9
On Target 6 3
Corners 9 5
Fouls 13 10