Leeds United 1 (Bamford 17)
Wigan Athletic 2 (Massey 44, 62)
If ever there was a game we should have won – it was this one. Looking at Wigan’s away record and our home record, we should have won it. Looking at our league table position and looking at theirs you would have thought we’d have won it. And yet we thought that at QPR and Birmingham too and we failed in those like we failed today.
We lost this one not because we have a team full of shirkers with no heart as some “fans” near me today were trying to tell the players at full time, but because we have some flaws in this group of players that have not been fixed all season. We know what they are and Marcelo Bielsa knows what they are and he has known for months; I think I’ve probably written about them in almost every one of my match comments so far this season!
The prime issue is that, in general, none of our forwards can hit a cows arse with a banjo. OK Pablo missed the penalty – wasteful, but not critical, especially since we scored anyway a couple of minutes later – but we only hit the target today 10 times even though we amassed 36 attempts at goal. 14 shots were blocked – credit to the Wigan defence for that - but another 12 flew either high, wide and never handsome. We’ve gone on about this all season. Our official conversion rate today was 2%... 1 goal from 36 goal attempts! Wigan, bless their cotton socks, had only 8 attempts but they hit the target with 2… and scored with both! Of our 12 shots that missed the target completely, some were decent openings – but they all went begging. If we do fail to go up this season, this lack of regular clinical finishing will be the reason.
The second problem we have had all season is that we cannot cross a football to save our lives. It started to become comical today watching both Alioski and Harrison out there on the left wing a) trying to get the ball past the first man or b) lofting it over everyone in the middle and landing it regularly just inside the opposite touchline. It was pretty much the same with the 15 corners we won and wasted. We cannot expect to go up with such a lack of finesse in these two key skills.
I’m fascinated by match statistics as you will have gathered and it was no surprise that the Wigan stats from today are identical to those of Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday; 8 attempts, 2 on target and 2 corners. Whereas Casilla saved the 2 attempts last week, this week Wigan clinically buried their opportunities; it’s what you have to do in this league. Had we been even marginally better at converting our own chances, giving Wigan 2 wouldn’t have mattered a jot!
We have to admit that today Sheffield United did a far better job than we did in playing against ten men. At Bramall Lane the Blades faced the ten men of Forest for the majority of the second half and they scored two goals during that time. We faced ten men for more than 76 minutes and scored one! Blades only managed 14 goal attempts and only 4 were on target but two of them went in!
So the big question is “What damage has this result done?” The obvious damage is that we have handed back the initiative to the Blades; if they win their three games they will go up automatically unless we can somehow win our three and whittle away a 6 goal advantage they currently have over us as well. I don’t actually think Sheffield United will win all three of their games but equally, unless we find our shooting boots, I find it hard to see how we can win at Brentford or beat Villa at our place with the morale depleting loss to Wigan today in our minds. Bielsa has in the past found a way to get his troops fired up after a defeat – we’ve only lost two consecutive league games once this season – so all hope is not gone but Brentford looks a big ask. So does the task facing Blades on Monday as well though as they travel to Hull. There is no point speculating further than those two games, let’s just see how they go and then see what things look like on Monday night! However we dress it up though, we set off this morning believing that we could be celebrating promotion on Monday night. Now though, defeat at Griffin Park and a win for the Blades and no one will be thinking anything other than… “What date are those play-off semi-finals?”
Leeds Utd Wigan Ath
Possession 77% 23%
Shots 36 8
On Target 10 2
Corners 15 2
Fouls Committed 11 7