Preston North End 0
Leeds United 2 (Bamford 62,76)
To be quite honest, we all know that the only thing that mattered in this game was that Leeds emerged with all three points; it’s all that will matter in the next five games too as we try to extract a few more points than Sheffield United manage from their final games. We’ll all no doubt be watching them as they take on Garry Monk’s Blues tonight.
At half time I think most Leeds fans were satisfied with the performance – we’d dominated the game and played the better football although we hadn’t managed to turn that into goals and that’s always a dangerous situation to be in. The only other observation was that Patrick Bamford still appeared to be suffering a lack of confidence and any sort of conviction in front of goal and wasn’t exactly proving to be a great deal of use anywhere else on the pitch. That will, and indeed already has been, glossed over by many “commentators” on social media this morning.
In many ways the game was similar to the home encounter with Bristol City and if you are that keen, just scroll back to my comments on that game (click game reports in the yellow task bar); the statistics are uncannily similar. That game was level 0 – 0 at half time too with Leeds the better side but unable to break through despite some pretty football in the first half. Then, in the 55th minute, Josh Brownhill was sent off and then Leeds quickly scored and took control of the game. And so it was last night as well; It was in the 49th minute last night that Patrick Bamford looked to have got away from Ben Pearson but then didn’t have the legs to maintain his advantage but was clever enough to get his body between him and Pearson and Pearson stumbled into our misfiring striker causing him to collapse in a heap as all strikers should…err, will. There were mumblings that Bamford should have been stronger…until we saw the red card.
As Preston manager Alex Neil said after the game: "If there's a team in this league that you don't want to go down to 10 men against, it's Leeds. They used the pitch and the ball very well." And it was as true last night as it was when Lee Johnson said pretty much the same thing last November. Leeds have so much possession, are so fit and move the ball so quickly that having one man less is almost impossible to survive. That is of course in stark contrast to the Leeds of old when we built a reputation on losing to ten men! And so it was, Patrick Bamford finally found the target with a rasping left foot shot in the 62nd minute and then 14 minutes later was in exactly the right spot as Mateusz Klich lifted the ball into the middle for Bamford to powerfully head home.
As with the Bristol game we will never know if we’d have won had the opposition kept all their men on the pitch; I suspect the way things go we’d have drawn one and won the other. As it is you can only win against what is in front of you and the way we put Preston away eventually was efficient enough. At 1 – 0 Preston were still in with a glimmer of hope but not at 2 – 0. Bamford got himself clean through on goal again late in the game and once again made a complete Horlicks of his effort as he stubbed his toes into the turf as he waited and waited before trying and failing to dink the ball over the keeper. In his post-match interview Bamford accepted he should have scored but said by then his legs were “tatered”. Maybe that’s the fundamental issue Bamford is struggling with; having been out for so much of the season maybe he just isn’t fit enough still; the two goals last night at least confirmed again the one thing we do know about him, he is a finisher…usually.
Overall Leeds played well against eleven and, in the second half against ten, some of our football was sublime again although we still waste so much of it through a poor cross, a loose final ball or poor control and of course our shooting remains generally weak. 22 times we tried our luck last night but found the target just 7 times; again, the figures against Bristol 5 months ago were 20 and 6. It is something that we just don’t seem able to correct. Every now and again this profligacy will cost us as we saw at Birmingham at the weekend.
We’ll all be glued to the TV tonight to see if this round of games is going to see another change of occupant of 2nd spot, with Leeds having leapfrogged the Blades last night, but whatever the result at St Andrews we’ll still be none the wiser as to how this season is ultimately going to end for us. It might be a bit clearer on Saturday night after we’ve played the other Sheffield side and the Blades have gone head to head with Millwall. Five to go…or maybe seven…or even eight!
Preston NE Leeds Utd
Possession 41% 59%
Shots 5 22
On Target 0 7
Corners 3 6
Fouls 7 16