Leeds Utd 3 (Piroe 67,Byram 70, Anthony 89)
23rd September, 2023, EFL Championship.
Leeds have finally started to fulfil the promise that many of us felt this squad was capable of. It’s taken a while to find any consistency and to covert that into regular positive results but, in the circumstances that we found ourselves in the summer, and with the uncertainty of the recent transfer window, I guess in hindsight that was only to be expected.
Many fans will have predicted a win for Leeds today – yours truly even predicted a 3 – 0 scoreline in my YEP piece - but, by the 67th minute I’m sure like me, many were starting to think that maybe we didn’t still quite have the armoury to consistently break down teams like Watford. Before the game I felt that any failure to win well today would suggest that we were not yet good enough to push for a spot amongst the top two or three in the table, it would have suggested that we weren’t yet consistent enough to regularly do what we know we are capable of sometimes; beating these mediocre Championship sides. I was hoping this game would convince me we were though and it was with fingers crossed I made that prediction. It proved to be the correct call and I am now convinced this squad can do special things this season.
We’d huffed and puffed for an hour or more but on a couple of occasions when we got decent efforts on target, the Watford keeper was alert enough to deny us and when Georginio should have scored when he latched onto a lovely little diagonal ball into the area from Dan James, he showed us again that he is perhaps not the most natural of goal poachers. No matter, he’d later show us what his forte really is!
Watford are another poor side, as have been all bar Ipswich that we have faced so far and we hardly gave them a kick. Yet it looked for a long while as if the moment or moments of brilliance needed to crack the Watford code were not going to appear, much as we saw against Sheffield Wednesday recently. The thing is, we know we now have players who are capable of such magical moments, we’ve seen them do it and, thankfully, having waited for over an hour they finally came along.
Dan James had already provided one magical moment in the first half when Georginio fluffed his lines but then, in the 67th minute Dan did it again, this time with a perfect cross to the unmarked Piroe at the back post and the ace finisher that he is meant a) he was on the spot and b) he made no mistake. It was a fine goal and once again we can only rejoice that we do now have one natural finisher in the squad; he’s done it all his career and he’s now doing it for us.
Then a Dan James corner was met perfectly by the head of Sam Byram and he thumped the ball past Bachmann. Not the first time this season that we have scored from a corner – something else that we have rarely done regularly in recent years.
But the best was saved ‘til last and, after thrilling us several times with his incredible trickery, the ball seeming tied to his laces sometimes, Georginio showed us again what he brings to our party as he glided around three Watford players in midfield before looking up and spotting Jaidon Anthony running through. Georginio’s pass was perfection and, having missed one minutes earlier, this time so was Jaidon’s finish, calmly slotting the ball inside the post with two defenders closing him down. Three moments of brilliance, three goals and three points.
Daniel Farke was asked in his press conference this week how he would go about breaking down teams that “park the bus” – and the three goals today really show how it’s done. We need patience and we need belief that, these days, we have the tools to do the job. We have pace with the likes of Dan James and Crysencio Summerville, we have the brilliance of those feet of Georginio and we have the Johnny on the Spot opportunism of Joel Piroe.
We should also give a nod of thanks to Illan Meslier again, okay, the game was won by then but he showed again just what a phenomenal shot-stopper he is with a last-minute save. The defence was completely unworried today by Watford and they will face sterner tests in the weeks to come, but even without the undoubted prowess of Joe Rodon, we looked like a solid unit back there and with a 4th consecutive clean sheet that too can only boost confidence going forward.
In midfield there was an assured performance from Glen Kamara too, slotting in seamlessly where we are now used to seeing Archie Gray. We will need them all at times in this relentless churn of a division.
We have some real momentum now and should also have a real belief that however long it may take in some games, we now have the tools to unlock these Championship defences.
One defeat in ten games this season shows we are hard to beat too and we now have some proven cover for several key positions. I for one am confident that we can now push on and we ought to give any side in this division a tough game. This is as good as we’ve had it for quite some time but I’d hazard a guess that there is so much more still to come! It could be a thrilling ride!
Leeds U Watford
Possession 67% 33%
Shots 17 4
On Target 10 1
Corners 8 1
Fouls 13 15