Queens Park Rangers 1 (Freeman 49)
Leeds United 0
Hard to know where to start with this one – a few hours after a long drive home and it still feels very raw. For me, Leeds had to win this game, QPR had just lost seven on the spin for goodness sake and worse sides than us had found a way to turn them over recently. We also needed to build on the Boro draw and wins against Swans and Trotters to get that momentum and confidence behind us to take into what we all know is one of our toughest challenges in the run-in; the Friday night clash with West Brom. I also thought we’d be more fluid, this latest XI with both Roberts and Bamford in it having now bedded in.
We failed and so inevitably most of us now have those nagging doubts back in our heads. A look at the match stats tells us that, as always, we bossed the possession – 64% on this occasion – but, unusually, despite that superiority on the ball we managed fewer attempts at goal than QPR did; they won that battle 13 to 11 and got one more than us on target, 5 against our 4. It was pretty much evident watching from the stand too that we just were not creating enough and, when we did, too often that final ball was a poor cross that came to nothing or a wayward shot. Bielsa knows what the issue is but has been unable to solve it and that lack of a clinical cutting edge up front is starting to cost us as games get tighter and chances are fewer and further between. Last night we saw Bamford inches from sliding one in at the far post from a perfect little ball from Pablo; we watched in horror as Douglas blasted a shot over when unchallenged and we saw Dallas just too careful when trying to complete the most impressive move of the game; so near and yet so far. We also won a massive 13 corners to QPRs meagre two but can anyone remember a decent one that came to anything? I can’t, apart from Phillips’ early glancing header that forced a good save; that’s just not good enough. Our best chances came near the end but was that due to the different personnel on the pitch or Leeds legendary fitness? The journo who suggested Leeds lacked energy in the latter stages was rightly shot down by Bielsa after the game, there was no evidence of that at all and neither is there any evidence of the Bielsa burn out often trotted out by the uninformed.
The other side of our game that has been evident for too long is the manner in which we are still giving away soft goals. Again last night the QPR goal will be giving Bielsa and his coaches nightmares for weeks. Our own throw-in, deep in our own half, poor, almost lazy control from Roberts allowing him to be easily robbed; the QPR winger able to skirt around the outside of two Leeds players to cross and two QPR men unmarked at the near post. Not our finest piece of defending this season and in tight games such moments cost us big time.
I’m still undecided as to what the outcome of this season will now be; too many folk on social media are just writing us off as now suddenly being a poor side and yet my over-riding feeling is that there isn’t much that’s different. We are still producing very similar match stats, dominating possession; we are creating some decent openings albeit I accept we are missing too many. Is that because we are missing Roofe and Bamford isn’t as useful to us? Or is it just that last night we didn’t get the rub of the green? It’s hard to say with any certainty. I don’t believe we have to play too much differently to beat West Brom but we do have to take our chances, which I’m sure we will make, and we do have to be tighter in defending the ball.
It is tempting to be swayed too much by a result; lose to a team that is on a seven game losing streak itself and the temptation is to say we’ve blown it, we’re not playing very well, West Brom will wallop us. But I’m not convinced it’s as simple as that – had Roberts been able to control that throw-in and had the rest of the game’s best chances all gone in and we’d have run out 3 – 1 winners… but then again had my Auntie been a bloke she’d have been my uncle….
Q.P.R. Leeds Utd
Possession 36% 64%
Shots 13 11
On Target 5 4
Corners 2 13
Fouls 14 14