Leeds United 0
Sheffield United 1 (Basham 71)
Football games are won by sticking the ball in the net and stopping the opposition sticking it in yours! This was always going to be a close affair and I didn’t ever think there would be many goals – the Blades came into this game on the back of a run of 6 consecutive clean sheets and we hadn’t done so bad recently either, having not conceded in three.
Leeds dominated the possession in this game as much, if not more, than any other game this season, with the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane remaining the only occasion this season when we have not had the lion’s share of the ball. Our play when on the ball was pleasing on the eye too, so what went wrong?
Well, it’s that opening line really isn’t it? 17 times we tried our luck at the Blades’ goal and 17 times we missed it and that just is not acceptable however well you play the game in the other areas of the pitch. It is a malaise that has dogged us all season and Marcelo is fully aware of it, often citing that our efficiency in taking chances is no better than the teams languishing at the foot of the Championship. It is something I was pondering down at Reading – about the only time I’ve arrived in the ground early enough to watch the players warm up. I was gobsmacked by the lack of quality from our forwards as they sprayed the ball everywhere bar in the temporary net that Bailey Peacock-Farrell was protecting! It is not to say we are missing open goals every week during games it is more that the chances we are creating are seldom giving us a clear shot on goal. Although when they do we usually miss ‘em! Today’s chances were never clear cut; Bamford’s early effort was well blocked by a defender, Roberts’ header should probably have at least given the keeper some work and Harrison’s early chance when he put it over the bar was no more than a half-chance under pressure. Similarly when Roberts hit the post – it was a snap shot that was only an inch or two off target. Pontus had the one big chance and he put that wide. Perhaps we have to give credit to the Blades’ defence and now we can see how they have gone 7 games without conceding.
Not finding the target wasn’t the cause of the defeat of course, that came because of the other aspect of the game; stopping them scoring. Our two defensive mistakes today were very costly. The Blades, with their sole real scoring opportunity that resulted from Coops inability to deal with Billy Sharp, did the business clinically. Coops and Kalvin Phillips then contrived between them to create another disaster that resulted in Casilla getting himself red carded. That may well have further repercussions when we face Millwall as Kiko has been a rock since he arrived. I’m not going to lambast Coops, he’s had a fine season and the conditions were a nightmare for defenders today with the rain and the wind and the heavy pitch although we have to acknowledge that the Blades got through with no mistakes. Perhaps we have to give Billy Sharp credit too for the nuisance he caused.
So we can only blame ourselves for not getting at least the point that we probably deserved and now we have to forget it and move on. Promotion is, at least for now, out of our direct control but we have to come out fighting in each of the remaining 8 games and see where it takes us. We know that we are good enough to get positive results from all the remaining games but only if we can stay strong in defence and be clinical in attack; we’ve done that in most games so we can do it again.
Oh, one last thing. To the bloke in the gents at the end of the game who was trying to tell us all that “We were f***** shit today”…. Go find another sport to follow mate yeah?
Leeds Utd Sheff Utd
Possession 70% 30%
Shots 17 10
On Target 0 1
Corners 3 6
Fouls 9 12