Leeds United 3 (Bamford 48,66, Hernandez 62)
Millwall 2 (Hutchinson 4, Wallace 23 pen)
Pretty amazing game at Elland Road tonight! I was fortunate enough to watch it from the TV gantry too thanks to my very good friend Keith Ingham. From up there we had the best view in the house of one of the most enthralling games of the season… so far!
Before I get too far into this I want to put something straight; already on the journey home I’ve heard fans saying how terrible our first half performance was, why, even Noel Whelan said it was “weak”! Well, for me that wasn’t really the case, and I didn’t see too much different between our first half performance and the second half. During both halves we actually played some blooming decent football, and, as Marcelo hinted at through the vagaries of listening to a translator, it was so similar to most of our games this season. The difference between the two halves was down purely to Millwall not being given chances in the second half whereas we gave them two huge chances in the first.
Let’s dispense with the first goal first: why oh why are we so weak at defending corners? Perhaps that is what was in Noel Whelan’s mind when he used the word after the game. It is something that keeps happening and we seem not to get any better at them. This time again it was a simple long corner from the left wing to the back post, Kiko, rooted to his line or maybe blocked by attackers, and Luke Ayling ball watching and having no idea what was happening behind him. What was happening was that Hutchinson kept his eyes firmly on the ball and had the simplest of tasks to score. At any time in a game it was a dire goal to concede but 4 minutes in when we know it’s an area we are poor at and in such a crucial game…
The second goal owed a bit to sheer bad luck. Once again the officials in this game were, particularly in the first 25 minutes, very poor, even by Championship standards. Something has to be done about this – it is getting worse. We’d already seen referee Darren England give us a corner and then, after words from Millwall players, change his mind! Then we saw Bialkowski make a wonderful save from a Dallas cross shot and, incredibly, the ref didn’t see the touch from the keeper that 34,000 other folk clearly did! And then the one that really hurt us, as the ball appeared to cross the West touchline in the build up to the Millwall penalty. Once that had happened of course we were in trouble and there is no real argument with the penalty award although for me it was in the “soft” category. One point though to make – Millwall didn’t waste their chance…
So those were the differences between the first and second half performances – our age old defending corners issue and a bit of bad luck. For the rest of the game Leeds dominated as we always so and this time we posted a massive 28 shots of which 11 hit the target which is a good ratio, particularly compared with our usual lack of accuracy. OK, we still missed some glorious chances – Cooper’s header and that Bamford left footer in the first half come to mind.
Second half we finally started to get the rub of the green, something you need almost as much as decent officials and getting your shots on target! Goal 1: Pablo’s corner wasn’t very inspiring but somehow it crept through a crowd of players at the near post and Millwall did a passable impression of our defending as they allowed the ball to come to Harrison. Bialkowski made a tremendous save from that one but Bamford was on hand to smack it into the roof of the net from all of, well, all of a few inches! They all count and, you know what, Bamford was a different player after that; inspired again and suddenly full of running and doing all the right things! I don’t think it is necessarily the presence of Big Kev that has done that; the bloke feeds off confidence!
Goal 2: a Harrison cross is headed clear, Pablo collects and, again, not the cleanest strike he’s ever hit, but the merest of deflections helped it on its way on the first bounce into the far corner. Finally the rub of the green turned our way as did the way the ball fell to Bamford for the first.
Goal 3: No luck with this one, Millwall had looked susceptible in their left defensive quarter all night and hence why Helder Costa was getting so much joy out there; maybe his best game to date. Again this time Klich was able to roll the ball straight through the Millwall defence in that corner into the path of Luke Ayling and his perfect cross found the diving head of Pat Bamford and again he could not miss that one!
It should have been sewn up then as more of those 28 attempts should have found the target; Costa was unlucky to see his curler clatter the angle of post and bar and then Matty Klich, somehow, contrived to miss the best chance of the game, ballooning his shot over the bar from 8 yards. This time it was annoying rather than crucial but on another day…
We needed nothing less than a win, and we got it…eventually, but it was too similar to all our other recent games, some of which we’ve lost. Missed chances and that propensity to go to sleep over corners has cost us before and it almost cost us today. We have a couple of new faces who may be better at the first bit but we’re going to have to face the possibility of giving away goals from set pieces for the rest of the season; if it was curable surely we’d have done it by now.
We move onto Wigan on Saturday and that is another must win game – one of the easiest on paper we have left. Another three points there and the hope that our main rivals will continue to shoot themselves in their boots and things will start to look very spring like!
Leeds Utd Millwall
Possession 69% 31%
Shots 28 11
On Target 11 5
Corners 7 3
Fouls Committed 12 10