Exit, Exit, Everybody’s heading for the Exit
Thursday, 8th Mar 2018 12:25 by Tim Whelan
We had all feared that the game against the best team in the division would be a bit of a chastening experience, and so it proved, with Wolverhampton Wanderers comfortably winning the game by 3 goals to nil.
There were three changes to the starting eleven which began the game at Middlesbrough, with the biggest news being the decision to replace Wiedwald with young Bailey Peacock-Farrell. It just shows that the head coach has lost all confidence in the German keeper, when he’d rather select a 21 year-old who was fresh from an indifferent loan spell at York.
The other changes saw Adam Forshaw coming in for O’Kane (who has also had his critics during our recent run of poor form) and Sacko replacing the inconsistent Alioski. Perhaps more surprisingly, Anita continued as a makeshift left back instead of De Bock, who wasn’t even named as a substitute.
We made a lively start, and during the opening stages it looked like we were at least going to give Wolves a bit of a battle. With the league leaders supposedly suffering a dip in form (relatively speaking, having gone three games without a win) and having key player Neves suspended, could we pick up the three points we needed to have at least a glimmer of hope of making the play-offs?
A Jansson header from a free kick forced Ruddy into a save, but it would have been offside anyway. Which is hardly surprising when four of our players stood goalside of the Wolves defence and didn’t move back before the kick was taken. A while later Jansson was to be found in the Wolves box during open play, a sure sign that Leeds had come into this game with plenty of attacking intent.
But it wasn’t long before Wolves started to take a grip of the game, with the hapless Phillips muscled out of most of the midfield battles, Sacko once again ineffective on the wing, and Lasogga isolated up front and losing out on the 50-50 challenges whenever the ball did get anywhere near him. I was wondering how our young keeper would cope on the big occasion, and it wasn’t long before he was called into action.
First he saved well from Cavaleiro, and although the shot was quite close to him, you could say he’d done well with his positioning. And his next save was even better when Jota was put through, not going to ground too soon and getting to the ball when the Wolves man tried to lift it over the top of him. Between these two chances Jota had also missed an excellent chance when he trod on the ball rather than turning Doherty’s low cross into the net.
In the 29th minute Wolves pressure finally told, and it was all down to our appalling defending from a corner. Dallas was left having to mark two players, and when he followed one of them as he ran towards the near post, the other (Saiss) simply had to stand still and wait for the ball to arrive, with plenty of time to guide his header beyond Peacock-Farrell’s reach into the corner of the net.
Seven minutes later our efforts to get on level terms forced a corner, and there were a few shouts as Cooper went down in the area, but in fact he had collided with Berardi. And in the process he had picked up a leg injury that forced him to be carried off and substituted by Berardi, which might please our captain’s many critics.
As the Wolves chances kept coming, N'Diaye went past Anita rather too easily on the Wolves right, and his cross saw Bonatini force Peacock-Farrell into another fine save. But the visitors were to go into the break two up, after another defensive horror show from a corner. A header from Danny Batth hit the bar, and Boly was quickest to get to the rebound to force the ball home.
Apparently our set piece specialist coach tells the players what to from corners when defending as well as attacking, so you have to wonder what he actually tells them. Certainly Wolves have got more than their fair share of tall players, but you’d think we’d be better in these situations. We seemed to be trying a mixture of zonal marking and man-to-man marking, but clearly it wasn’t working.
At half time Hernandez came on for the ineffectual Sacko, and did at least look like he might be able to cause Wolves a few problems, but the general flow of the game was much as it was before. Yet another chance from a corner saw Bonatini have a shot cleared off the line. Early in the second half the crowd did their best to rouse the team by starting a long WACCOE chant and a lot of scarf waving, in the hope of inspiring another revival as per the Bristol City game.
It inspired Berardi to try a spectacular strike which cleared the bar, and soon after a cross came off Dallas’ thigh and bounced comfortably into Ruddy’s arms. That might just count as a shot on target. And I also remember another chance disappearing when Berardi got in Jansson’s way from a corner, when the latter was all set to hammer in a shot from around the penalty spot.
But at the other end Jota crashed a shot against the bar, and he probably would have scored if he’d taken the time he had to place the ball beyond Peacock-Farrell into the corner, rather than whacking it so hard. On 73 minutes Heckingbottom played his final card to try and get us back into the game, with Ekuban replacing Lasogga, but although the Ghanaian gave his usual lively performance, he never looked like getting his first Leeds goal.
And it was a Wolves substitution that was to have a much greater bearing on the latter stages of the game. Benik Afobe came on for Bonatini, and with the latter in the midst of a bit of a goal-less run, you have to wonder why Afobe didn’t start. Certainly Afobe looked the much livelier player, and he duly sealed the game for Wolves when his pace took him onto a long ball from midfield.
Peacock-Farrell made his one error of the night by racing out too far and giving Afobe the chance to chip the ball over the top of him with his first touch. In fact our young keeper had come out of his area yet still tried to touch it as it passed overhead, which would have led to him being sent off if he’d connected. That would have been interesting with all three substitutes already used, but would we rather have had an outfield player in goal than the hapless Wiedwald?
At this point a large portion of the home fans decided they had seen enough and started to head for the exits, which did at least give me the opportunity to use a Morrissey lyric for the title of this piece. Those who beat the rush by staying to the end had to put up with the Wolves fans reminding them they are top of the league, before the referee put us out of our misery with the final whistle.
The result meant that the Heck has only managed one win during his six games in charge, though he has certainly had a tough run of fixtures, with every one of them being against a team in the top half of the table. At least we can finally forget about whatever lingering hopes of the play-offs we might have had, so the head coach can start the serious business of planning how he can start to overhaul his squad for next season.
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