Rotherham United 1 (Ajayi 28)
Leeds United 2 (Klich 51, 86)
Crikey, if we do get promoted this season, Leeds are going to make us suffer all the way to the line aren’t they? Once again Leeds dominated the possession as we almost always do (just one game still this season when we failed to do that, at Bramall Lane) and once again we created more than double the chances the Millers ground out. AND YET we failed to recapture that sparkling flowing football that took Derby to the cleaners just a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to fathom just exactly what was missing.
In the end, no one can really say we didn’t deserve the three points; Rotherham were resolute and mostly organised but other than a superb first half strike from Semi Ajayi that put the home side ahead and an equally fine long range shot by Will Vaulks that Kiko Casillas turned away in the second half, Leeds were seldom troubled. Leeds were poor in the first half by our own standards but were much better in the second, despite still not firing on all cylinders. Had Roofe or Alioski put away their clear cut chances early in the second period we may have cantered to the line but, as it was, they made us sweat and we needed a little bit of luck to find the equaliser. A pin point cross by Hernandez was expertly brought down by the outstretched toe of Mateusz Klich but he was fortunate then to see the ricochet come off his own shoulder and bamboozle a defender to allow him to pounce and prod it home. There was no luck about the second goal as Klich finally found the touch in front of goal that we’ve been serenading him about all season; a couple of touches and a fine curling shot around the keeper in to the bottom corner.
It’s so difficult to draw too many conclusions about our own performance when we can’t really know how much part in the way a game goes is down to the ability of the opposition. On the face of it Rotherham are a poor side, fourth from bottom and staring at relegation again and yet they have a pretty good record in front of their own fans; 21 of their 25 points in fact have come at the New York Stadium. Leeds are only the 4th side to win there this season and 11 others have failed to do so, including Derby, Stoke, Bristol and Sheffield United. And then there are those match statistics which, give or take, are little different again this week to those we reported at Stoke or even those we posted in the recent mauling of Derby! So maybe we didn’t actually struggle as much today as we are thinking; our thinking was perhaps driven more by our perception that Rotherham are a poor side and we just needed to turn up to give them a right royal battering! We should know better in the Championship.
Having said that though, I think we all know we were not the same smooth running machine today that we were against the Rams, even though in the record and stats books both games will look very similar! Maybe Derby were just rubbish when they came to Elland Road!
Next Saturday, in front of the Sky cameras again, we have another all defining game against one of the form sides – and recently we have tended to look more efficient against that sort of a side than against the Rotherhams and Stokes of this world. We were superb against Sheffield United, Villa and Derby recently and won all those games; let’s hope it’s the same outcome against the Canaries. I’m hoping that, with Pontus reinstated alongside Coops, and Kalvin Phillips allowed, for the first time in 10 league games, to resume his midfield “Perlo” role, we will see more of that exuberant flowing football we know this group of players can deliver. It’s another vital one and another one that will give us a good indication of whether we are looking at automatic promotion or the play-offs. Sheffield United at Bramall Lane was the last time we had two regular centre backs AND Phillips in the same side. That one went OK didn’t it?
Rotherham Utd Leeds Utd
Possession 31% 69%
Shots 5 14
On Target 3 4
Corners 4 5
Fouls 16 13