Leeds Utd 3 (James 5, Summerville 7, Piroe 38 pen)
Middlesbrough 2 (Latte Lath 3, 45)
2nd December, 2023, EFL Championship.
It seems almost churlish to criticise any part of this Leeds performance as the main thing was to grab another three points which we did, and it was vital as it turned out with all of the top four sides winning their games in this 19th round of games. There were aspects though that were obvious enough to just ensure we don’t get too carried away, particularly in the way we gave up two disappointing goals again.
Positive aspects first though; this forward line of ours continues to delight and if we do win promotion this season it will largely be down to the brilliance and invention of the likes of Georginio, Crysencio Summerville and Dan James and the calmness in front of goal of Joel Piroe.
The opening five minutes of this game was like a replay of what we saw on Wednesday against Swansea and, now as then, we started by going a goal down, something that has happened far too often this season. It was a poor goal too. Archie Gray was turned inside out by the twisting and turning Latte Lath who then got himself a yard in which to strike at goal. His shot flew past Illan Meslier at his near post, again, not for the first time this season.
I guess we’ve got so used to going a goal behind this season that it no longer worries us too much, especially when it happens so early. Would you believe me if I told you that a quarter of the goals we have conceded this season have been conceded in the first ten minutes of our games? It’s true! Mind you, we’ve also scored 18% of our goals in the first ten minutes too! Don’t be late getting into your seats at Elland Road folks!
So, it should have been no surprise that we were level within four minutes of going behind. What was a surprise though was watching as little Dan James rose between two defenders to head us level! It came following a manic few moments in the Boro box with Dan James first clipping the ball past the keeper only to see a defender knock it clear. It only found Glen Kamara though on the edge of the box and he fed it to Georginio. As we’ve seen many times, Georginio isn’t exactly a flawless striker of the ball in front of goal and once again his shot was poor and straight at Dieng in the Boro goal and he saved with an outstretched leg. The rebound was headed back into the middle by Georginio but it was cleared again, but cleared badly again and this time Sam Byram collected. Sam skated around the outside of three defenders making for the byline and then somehow hooked his foot around the ball to send it looping towards the back post. There was the tiny figure of Dan James leaping, salmon like, between two enormous defenders to head home! And breathe!
Just two minutes later and we were ahead! Joe Rodon brought the ball away from deep in our own half and found Archie Gray marauding up the right wing. He played it inside to Georginio and he drew the attention of four blue shirted Boro defenders before returning the ball into the path of Archie, now with space to launch a considered cross in to the mixer. A defender jumped at the front post but could only deflect the ball up and behind him to the back post and there was Crysencio leaping like another salmon to head home! The two shortest players on the pitch had both scored with unlikely headers and Crysencio’s reactions in the box were cobra like; the little man is on fire.
2 – 1 and we were still only seven minutes in! Things settled for a while, although our defence was again embarrassed by Latte Lath who broke through the middle to get another sight of goal. This time Illan was equal to it and blocked the shot and then the rebound was fired over our bar into the South Stand. But it was another warning and it was easy to see how this Boro side walloped Preston in the week. Georginio had a chance to put us 3 – 1 ahead but yet again his shot, following another typical Summerville break, was easily blocked by Dieng. If Georgi had a decent shot on him… he’d be the complete wonder kid! Boro then suffered an injury to Paddy McNair and big Matt Clarke lumbered on to replace him. Within a minute the dancing feet of Georginio had him in a tangle on the edge of the box following yet another awful attempted clearance from Dieng and, at the second attempt, Clarke forced our man to the ground and Darren England pointed to the spot. No penalty worries this time as Joel thrashed the ball past the Boro stopper. Just a word on Darren England – the referee infamous for the disallowed Liverpool ‘offside’ calamity earlier this season – he was quite simply out of his depth today! Totally inconsistent in his decisions that came across as random! The man needs removing from the referees list.
That ought to have been the game safe but, as so often, we showed another aspect of our defending that still lets us down too often. We ought to have managed the game to half time at 3 – 1 but we couldn’t. A right wing corner floated across, Latte Lath climbed higher than Sam Byram and his glancing header flew past Meslier. We’ve conceded this same goal at least twice before this season if my memory is correct and it’s just too easy.
The second half was, thankfully a lot calmer than the first and Leeds were largely in control especially when the Boro were reduced to ten men. We huffed and puffed and had chances to put the game to bed including another one in particular for Georginio when the ball found him clean behind the Boro back line. Once more his shot wasn’t powerful enough, despite being in the corner, and Dieng got a glove on it to turn it round the post. It’s been a problem all season to put away more of the big chances we create and, on another day it could have been costly. As it was, the woodwork saved us from that disaster when a deflected cross shot cannoned off the left post and then the quick reactions of Joe Rodon got the ball away before a Boro striker could pounce.
At the end of the day, we achieved our objective; we got the three points and that is all the record books will show. We made a decent Boro side look decidedly average for the most part too and created enough big chances to have made this far more comfortable than it proved to be. We continue to enjoy what is clearly the most potent forward four in the division, but we have to improve our defending – get back to those clean sheets we were delivering earlier in the campaign. We can’t always expect to score our way out of trouble! Still, for now, as I started with, it’s churlish to complain too much – the table has a good look about it tonight with Leeds now having a ten point margin over 7th placed Blackburn who we face next. A top six finish currently looks the minimum we can expect… now to chase down one of those automatic promotion places!
Leeds U M'Boro
Possession 61% 39%
Shots 20 11
On Target 9 5
Corners 6 3
Fouls 12 15