Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough1
Well thank goodness for that! We’ve had far too many of these must win games already this season and we’ve lost most of them! For this one we were told by TC that he and the players had been working hard throughout the break “to evaluate our recent matches and come up with new solutions and ideas to help us move forward.” So, if we’d have lost this game the obvious comment would have been: “Well, that was a waste of time then!”
But we didn’t and so we have to assume that the hard work paid off. But before we get too carried away and start thinking we’ll now cruise to the top of the table with a win at Wolves and a thumping victory at Oakwell next Saturday, we need to reflect that this win over Boro was another typical Championship affair that ultimately was settled by fine margins. A look at the match stats shows that Boro bossed the possession and both sides only hit the target twice; Boro forced 10 corners to our mere three too. There is no doubt that the rub of the green didn’t really go for us either – once again a Samu Saiz shot was inches from being perfect as he struck the post for the umpteenth time this season and if we don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories we have to assume that the officials completely missed the way Ayala wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the Leeds penalty area yet miraculously found their specs in time to see Luke grab the Boro man’s leg. Had that penalty not been awarded – which clearly it shouldn’t have been – we’d have seen the game out far more comfortably wouldn’t we? It is a lesson though to Leeds – not for the first time this season have we been penalised for retaliating when really we ought to have been awarded a free kick. It’s about discipline and intelligence lads, keep your cool!
The win though was vital and gives us just a glimmer of hope that maybe this is a turning point (yes, I know we thought that after Bristol as well!). We played well, worked hard and, that Ayling retaliation apart, made no mistakes, and all that against a side that is reckoned by the pundits to be one of the best in class. We looked balanced and I think we have now learned that we NEED Saiz and Hernandez both in the side together with two defensive midfielders. In this case we had Phillips and Vieira and it worked well. Maybe TC has finally accepted that Kemar Roofe is not a wide player too; he did well enough and caused the Boro defence plenty of problems with his movement that looked to me to be better than that of Lasogga. If rumours are to be believed, PML was ill and played no part so it will be interesting who takes on the central attacking role at Wolves; I doubt it will be Ekuban who looked obviously rusty when he came on although clearly very keen. I’d stick with Kemar and give him the chance of an extended run in his preferred role. In fact the only change that TC may consider is to bring back Stuart Dallas. He strikes me as the one player who can add something significant although on today’s showing I’m not sure in place of who. I did like the experiment of playing Dallas in place of Berardi so maybe that’s the way to go. We’ll see on Wednesday.
Let’s enjoy the win for a few days and hope that the confidence of it goes down the motorway to Molineux on the team bus. All is not lost if we can build on this.
Leeds Utd Middlesbrough
Possession 43% 57%
Shots 12 10
On Target 2 2
Corners 3 10
Fouls 13 16