Leeds United 1 (Ayling 16)
Bristol City 0
This was a fine and dominant performance against what is supposed to be one of the best sides in the division; a side we have now completed the double over having trounced the Robins at Ashton Gate back in August. It was our second double of the season, having also beaten Birmingham City home and away.
The only quibble we can have with this performance was that, as we have done all season, we failed to turn our dominance of the game into a dominant score line and hence fingernails were bitten to the quick as usual. Once again good chances went begging through poor technique in front of goal, a top display from the accomplished David Bentley in the visitors’ goal, and maybe the lack of a bit of luck. Bamford missed probably the best chance of the game as he again seemed to freeze at the crucial moment but Jack Harrison and Helder Costa should probably have also buried their chances; in fact it is those three front players who are now consistently fluffing their lines in front of goal.
This was the archetypal Leeds performance, the one we now see every week, and I guess with no new faces likely to break into this starting XI, short of injury or suspension, we might as well get used to the fact that we’ll be biting our fingernails for the rest of the season. It is clear from his little cameo performances that Big Kev is still a long way off ‘Bielsa readiness’ and so we’ll have to make do with such finishing ability as we have in this this XI. It is perhaps significant that our goal today, as was the equaliser at Brentford, was scored by a defender, and that today’s hero, Luke Ayling, had more shots in this game than any other player!
Marcelo told us in his post-match presser “We attacked well. We missed a lot of chances” and for me, I’m now resigned to the fact that we may well have to accept that scenario for the final 13 games as well, as we have no clinical goal poacher in this side. Today it didn’t matter, but as we’ve seen, with such fine margins in all our games, it is inevitable that sometimes we'll get beat simply because we don’t stick the ball in the net often enough and particularly when that other little foible - a frailty at set pieces and corners – shows it’s face. That one was given no chance to affect the outcome today as, with so little ball, Bristol forced not a single corner and managed only 3 attempts on our goal. Let’s not pretend those issues have magically gone away though. They have not and now probably will not. Our best chance of success is to adopt the ‘attack is the best form of defence’ MO for the remainder of this campaign. We should remember too that, had Nahki Wells not uncharacteristically got his legs tangled when clean through, we might have only drawn today and I'd guess then none of us would have come away quite so bullish.
I’m sure that every Leeds fan, like me, came away today breathing a sigh of relief; a sigh of relief that acknowledged that this team can, after all, take us all the way to automatic promotion, even as it is. For the past few weeks I’ve not been convinced of that and I’d hoped for, in fact expected, a few new faces to try to eliminate the couple of shortcomings we have. It would have been better, I reasoned, had we found a way to defend those set pieces more effectively or if we’d found a clinical goal poacher to add to the squad. But now I think our match dominance can, more often than not, see us win the points, especially as we still have five of the current bottom six sides to play here at Elland Road as well as 15th placed Reading next Saturday. We only have one game left against any of the current top 7 – that crunch game at Elland Road on March 18th against Fulham. Our aim must be to win all our remaining home games – that would bring in another 21 points giving us a minimum of 80 – and then I guess we’d need to find 6 or 9 more from the final 6 away games. It’s very doable folks but let’s take it one at a time; next up that Reading game next Saturday - another must win game!
Leeds Utd Bristol C
Possession 69% 31%
Shots 21 3
On Target 6 1
Corners 12 0
Fouls Committed 13 14