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Leeds Utd                1 (James 33)

Stoke City                 0                  

5th March, 2024, EFL Championship.


With only the odd exception, the toughest games we’ve faced this season have been against the relegation threatened sides and Stoke City continued to prove that point in another battle of Elland Road tonight. Perhaps it is a sign as to just how important it is to try retain a place in the Championship for these sides rather than sink into the oblivion of League One. Thankfully we came through it with a Dan James goal, but there were times in the second half when Stoke looked likely to nick an unlikely point from this game.

In the first half Leeds were almost back to their most fluent best, not quite, but almost, and a first start since January for Dan James and bringing in Connor Roberts and Sam Byram seemed to have refreshed the parts not being reached by Willy Gnonto, Archie Gray and Junior Firpo who were left on the bench. Leeds had a good shout for a penalty early doors when Daniel Iversen appeared to bring down Dan James but, it seems only an example of GBH will cause refs to give Leeds penalties these days!

It was Dan James causing all the problems for Stoke and next, he had a couple of shots both saved by the busy Iversen. Patrick Bamford rasped in a left-foot shot too and that was also pushed away by the Stoke stopper. Then Connor Roberts crossed and Georginio headed over, causing Daniel Farke to make an exaggerated show of disapproval over on the touchline; I guess Mr Farke thought Georgi should have scored from that one. There were odd chances for Stoke too – Laurent hit one that Meslier stopped easily enough and our old friend Lewis Baker was often involved, crossing for Hoever to head over and then hitting a cracker that Meslier tipped over the bar. But it was mainly Leeds going close and as chances came and went it seemed only a matter of time before we got one right. It came in the 33rd minute and it was that Welshman Dan James again; surely this is his best season ever isn’t it?

It was pretty much a solo effort as he twisted and turned on the right side of the box before lashing a right foot  shot across the keeper. It took a bit of a deflection off a defender and that was enough to deceive Iversen and the shot found the bottom corner of the net.

Stoke made two changes not long after the break – Ben Pearson replaced Wouter Burger and Tyrese Campbell replaced Niall Ennis. It seemed to galvanise Stoke and they were far more in the game in the second half but without creating too many real opportunities close to goal. Lewis Baker had another shot saved but that was about it. Person got himself a yellow card 15 minutes after coming on when he fouled Dan James. Leeds waited until the 71st minute to make their first changes – Joseph and Piroe replacing a tired and ineffective Georginio and a lack lustre Patrick Bamford. Both Joseph and Piroe looked sharp. Stoke made two more changes and Leeds followed suit as we moved into the final ten minutes  sending on Willy Gnonto  for  Cree Summerville.

Stoke were still giving it a go though but then they looked to have blown any chance they had when Pearson barged over Dan James off the ball and got a second yellow and an early bath. In fact Stoke still wouldn’t lie down and we couldn’t finish them off. Mat Joseph came closest with one shot that flew wide and then one after rounding  Iversen was scrambled off the line. The ref’s final whistle came as something of a relief!

These last two performances have felt very much like we are dragging the last bits of energy out of our bodies in this relentless series of two games a week. We have to summon up one last big effort on Friday night now before we get a week during which we can recharge the batteries. It will be another very tough game though at Hillsborough, another physical battle,  as the Owls have started to flex their feathers with four consecutive wins that have got them in within spitting distance of safety. Two of those wins against teams at the bottom. The battle to avoid the drop is as close as the battle at the top with eight teams covered by just two points and only Rotherham really looking already doomed. We have to find a way to get three points from the Owls and we have three more of those eight relegation-threatened sides also still to play – Millwall, QPR and Blackburn.

With Leicester and Ipswich also winning tonight, another game has passed with no one blinking. Ten to go and you get the feeling just one or two dropped points during the run in might settle the automatic promotion race. Hence nothing short of three points will do on Friday.

        Game Statistics:


              Leeds U    Stoke City


  Possession    59%         41%

  Shots             15            13

  On Target        7              6

  Corners           8              2

  Fouls               7             13

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