|Leeds United 2 v 1 Bolton Wanderers|
Friday, 30th March 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Leeds United v Bolton Wanderers - a Good Friday fillip or an afternoon to forget?
Friday, 30th Mar 2018 11:14 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United return to domestic action this afternoon - as they play host to relegation threatened Bolton Wanderers in their first match since the conclusion of the international break.
This season has been one of great anguish for Leeds United; one encapsulated by their last fixture, which saw them lose late on at home to Sheffield Wednesday on a dour day punctuated by ephemeral bouts of heavy snowfall. In an 86th-minute Jay-Roy Grot equaliser, the youthful Dutchman’s first goal of the season, United’s suffering supporters glimpsed promise. That promise, as did the flurries of snow, soon dissipated, when Atdhe Nuhiu completed his brace after bludgeoning his way past the meek Matthew Pennington. Soon thereafter, a match to perfectly encapsulate another season abandoned to mediocrity was brought to an end.
Since, the international break has presented to United head coach Paul Heckingbottom a welcome opportunity to attempt - attempt being the operative word - to remedy some of his team’s foibles. They include a seemingly incurable defensive malady, the sorely felt absence of a backbone and general incompetence all over, and if Leeds are to secure just a second victory since Boxing Day this afternoon, Heckingbottom will have had to conduct some miraculous footballing alchemy.
Peculiarly, this particular visit of Bolton Wanderers, themselves in the throes of a valiant battle against relegation after securing promotion from League One at the first attempt, will attract a bumper crowd. This is easily attributable to the equally peculiar generosity of the Leeds management, who have allowed season ticket holders from both clubs to bring a friend free of charge.
A packed Elland Road, looming large, was a source of paralysing intimidation for myriad teams in the past - but Wanderers will be quietly confident of subduing Leeds in spite of today’s gargantuan attendance and the febrile atmosphere it is likely to engender. A disciplined, direct and workmanlike outfit, Bolton earn points not in a style consummate but in one practical, structured and robust. Occupying 19th place in the table, the Lancashire side are six points above the relegation zone and on course to evade relegation despite the departure of leading scorer Gary Madine to Cardiff City in January.
They know their limits, and play to their strengths accordingly. It is this approach that has seen them vanquish some particularly stern opposition, such as promotion aspirants in Aston Villa (1-0) and Cardiff City (2-0). In particular, that commendable victory over Villa made plain the potential of this Wanderers team to spring shocks.
Make no bones about it, United are in for a tough match today against a side toiling admirably, led by Phil Parkinson and assembled with a derisory playing budget, to secure survival.
Will United produce the goods on this Good Friday? Or will Wanderers battle their way to an invaluable three points in their quest to beat the drop?
Have your say by leaving a comment below!
Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom will have to be mindful of a smattering of injuries that continue to plague his squad when he selects his matchday squad for this eagerly anticipated fixture.
Defenders Luke Ayling, Conor Shaughnessy and Liam Cooper remain sidelined, as do attackers Tyler Roberts and Kemar Roofe.
Attacking midfield dynamo Samuel Saiz could feature after being cruelly deprived of a place in the lineup that took to the field against Sheffield Wednesday by injury.
Bolton Wanderers boss Phil Parkinson will almost have a full complement of players from which to assemble his squad for this game, with German colossus Jan Kirchhoff unlikely to feature due to a knock.
Will Buckley, who made four appearances for United in a loan spell in the 2015-16 season, is likely to be deployed on the left flank with Sammy Ameobi, brethren of Tomi, another erstwhile Leeds man, on the right, as Wanderers seek a second win in succession.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Berardi, Jansson, Pennington, De Bock; Forshaw, Phillips; Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez; Lasogga.
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Alnwick; Flanagan, Beevers, Burke, Taylor; Henry, Derik; Ameobi, Pratley, Buckley; Le Fondre.
The hosts enter this match in egregious form, having obtained a measly five points from the last 18 available. Comparatively, Wanderers have fared a tad better, taking nine points from their previous six matches.
Leeds United: DWLLDL
Bolton Wanderers: WDLDDW
Leeds United (14th)
Record: 14 wins, eight draws and 16 losses.
Top Goalscorer: Pierre-Michel Lasogga (10).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (7).
Shots Per Game: 11.7.
Average Possession: 50.2%.
Average Pass Completion: 72.5%.
Average Aerials Won: 21.7.
Bolton Wanderers (19th)
Record: nine wins, eight draws and 16 losses.
Top Goalscorer: Adam Le Fondre and Sammy Ameobi (4).
Most Assists: Antonee Robinson and Josh Vela (4).
Shots Per Game: 10.5.
Average Possession: 42.9%.
Average Pass Completion: 64%.
Average Aerials Won: 28.9.
Kick-Off and Coverage
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham), who officiated a 4-1 defeat of Leeds by Wolverhampton Wanderers in November. He has shown 77 yellow cards and two reds in 21 matches this season.
Assistants: Philip Dermott and Shaun Hudson.
Fourth Official: Graham Salisbury.
Previous Meeting: Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Leeds United
Writer's Verdict: United’s season might be competitively over - but for once the players should stand up and be counted.
The international break, and its concomitant tedium, was hardly a suitable panacea for the mental scars inflicted upon Leeds United fans by a dismal defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in a Yorkshire derby two weeks ago.
It did however allow us to ponder some of the most critical issues facing the Elland Road club at this moment. Pablo Hernandez’s contractual situation, the possibility of Paul Heckingbottom adding a further dash of energetic juvenescence and season tickets were all topics of impassioned discussion.
But, for me, the salient issue is that of the team’s mentality: it has a losing one. Thomas Christiansen was no austere general, for he was a feeble figure unwilling to alter his methods, never deviating from his preferential 4-2-3-1 formation, stubbornly eschewing the radical in favour of the pragmatic, but there has been no discernible improvement in the team’s performances since Heckingbottom was appointed head coach. Expectations of a short-term uplift were perhaps unrealistic; his record at Barnsley indicated that he is a coach for the long-term, nurturing young talent and developing a strong ethos by which each player abides. He can thus only be fairly judged, in my view, after a full season at the helm but one would have hoped that he would elicit better performances from the team than he has, given the fulsome praise he was afforded at Oakwell. I must say, I am rather disappointed with him.
Of course, the players must also take their fair share of the blame. They have been utterly feckless for months and most certainly cost Christiansen, for all his imperfections, his job. They now appear to be endeavouring to their utmost to seal a similar fate for Heckingbottom. As many Leeds fans would like to tell the likes of Eunan O’Kane, it will not do. I am certain that Heckingbottom holds similar sentiments and, if he has been truly candid in his interviews with the local media after recent matches, it would appear that O’Kane and his ilk are playing for their Leeds United futures.
Incidentally, today is the deadline for season ticket renewals. The final figures will be intriguing to peruse, because although this season has not been an unmitigated disaster - à la Sunderland - it has been a failure by Leeds United’s standards. We deserve better; we pay our admission; we stand on the terraces; we sing; we shout; we sometimes question the referee’s parentage. All this we undertake voluntarily as we follow our club across Britain. For once, it would be nice to be rewarded for our steadfastness. Next season can not be abandoned to mediocrity as this one has been.
I believe Andrea Radrizzani to be as every bit as desirous of success as we are. I do not believe that he is here to merely make a profit, as most football clubs do not. I have therefore renewed my season ticket, and I am confident that we will be competing in the division’s upper echelons in the next campaign. It is high time that these players decide whether or not they wish to be a part of it. They can begin with a victory today, over a plucky Bolton, in front of a full house. If they lose, they will not have to answer to me, but to their head coach and more than 30,000 enraged supporters.
The ball is firmly in the team’s court now. Football is ruthless; those who do not perform are expendable. The time is now for opinions to be altered, minds to be changed and players to stand up and be counted.
Prediction: Leeds United 1-0 Bolton Wanderers
The visitors recorded a marvellous triumph over Aston Villa in their last match, but United's home advantage should be enough for them to prevail against Phil Parkinson's goal-shy Wanderers. Samuel Saiz, should he return, may just prove the catalyst for a rare victory.
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Photo: Action Images
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