Leeds United 1 Sheffield United 2
Another disappointing night at Elland Road in front of a full house; we seem to save our poorest performances for these sort of nights. Having said that, Championship games are decided by fine margins and this was a case in point. With ten minutes to go and Leeds looking bright with both Hernandez and Saiz pulling the strings, a 1-1 score line looked the least we could expect from the game although we’d have had to admit we could have gone in at half time three or four goals down had it not been for two fine saves by Andy Lonergan from Billy Sharp. It might also have been a different outcome had that swerving Saiz shot been an inch further left. Yes, fine margins indeed.
There was another reason though why I thought the Blades shaded it overall; they were just that bit more match savvy than we were, more street wise. Make no mistake they are a decent side and they are clearly well organised and work hard to close their opponents down but more importantly they have a “thou shalt not pass” mentality that we’d do well to adopt ourselves. Time and time again, particularly in the first half when referees are traditionally a bit more generous, the Blades had no hesitation in tripping or pulling back any Leeds player who looked like he was getting past them. I counted at least six in the first half alone and only once did referee Scott Duncan show a yellow card. Far more, six in all, would be shown to Sheffield men in the whole game and they’d have a foul count double that of Leeds. Maybe we need to find a bit more steel for our game too. Our two cards for Phillips (now banned of course) and Vieira came more due to our being stretched trying to get something from the game.
And then there were the substitutes. I have lost count of the number of times a substitute scores against Leeds – it’s almost as if we are flummoxed when a new face appears despite having dealt with the starting XI OK. Again today, David Brooks looked a far more useful sub than did our own Jay-Roy Grot and it was Brooks who grabbed the late winner for the visitors. Although we used to think we have great strength in depth this season I think most of us have now changed our mind and our bench, Pablo apart, looked very thin tonight, particularly for attacking options.
The way Leeds have stumbled in the last nine games, losing six of them, suggests to me that automatic promotion is a forlorn hope and that we are clearly struggling against the better or more physical sides we come up against and we’ve a few more to play yet before we’ve seen all of the Championship teams at least once. Conceding a goal inside a couple of minutes is never going to help either and on a few occasions tonight our once watertight defence looked decidedly sieve-like and sometimes downright asleep. That needs work but still, we have to accept that we didn’t suddenly become world-beaters at Bristol and neither have we become relegation fodder after tonight. TC does need to find the optimum XI though as I’m not sure he’s yet certain about what it is and neither am I!
Leeds Utd Sheffield Utd
Possession 51% 49%
Shots 8 12
On Target 2 6
Corners 0 5
Fouls 9 18