|Leeds United 2 v 1 Bolton Wanderers|
Saturday, 23rd February 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds scrape through against stubborn Bolton
Sunday, 24th Feb 2019 13:09 by Tim Whelan
In the end Leeds did enough to get the three points against Bolton Wanderers, but it wasn’t the comfortable win that we might have expected.
There was a great atmosphere as kick-off approached, with our mood boosted by the unseasonably warm weather in Leeds, a welcome contrast to our visit to Bolton only two months ago when we had to endure a howling gale and driving rain. It was almost T-shirt weather, with fans enjoying the sunshine in the beer gardens of all the pubs on the approach to Elland Road.
The game was practically sold out to Leeds fans, but Bolton fans were understandably less enthusiastic bearing in mind their recent form and financial state. They only had a small band in the upper tier, 497 out of the official attendance of 34,144, rather than the boisterous crew they brought last season. I presume they didn’t let a smoke bomb off in Drysalters this time, though I didn’t go down there to check.
With Roofe out injured we had Tyler Roberts in the ‘hole’ just behind Bamford, while Alioski continued at left back. Although Douglas had played part of the Under 23s game on Friday (as did Berardi) he is obviously not fit enough to be considered for first team action just yet. I was surprised that Edmonson played in that game, when we might have needed him as an attacking option against the Trotters, but as it was our bench had a rather youthful look once again.
I was also surprised to see Bolton creating the first chance of the game, when a cross from Conolly found Magennis in far too much space, but Casilla reacted well to tip his header over the bar. This wouldn’t be the last time in the game when our defending was a little too lax for our own good.
But after that we got into the game and began to have the bulk of the possession. We went very close when an overhit free kick from Alioski almost went straight in over Matthews’ head, but this time the Bolton keeper managed to tip it over the bar. He wouldn’t be so fortunate later in the game.
We took the lead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute. From my position in the Kop I was directly behind Roberts and it looked like he had just gone over Olkowski’s leg after the defender had already gone to ground. But from the angle the TV camera it looks clear cut, and you can see that at the speed the Roberts was moving at it would have been very difficult to evade Olkowski.
There was then a debate between Roberts and Bamford as to who would take the kick, and apparently we didn’t have a designated penalty taker in the absence of Roofe. Given Bielsa’s obsession to detail about most things, it’s surprising that this aspect had been overlooked. So Ayling intervened and ruled that Bamford would do the honours, and justifiably given the way that he directed the kick perfectly into the corner of the net.
We thought that after that we’d go on to a comfortable win, but Bolton came back with an equaliser only nine minutes later. From a corner a header was headed off the line by Harrison, then in ensuing scramble Casilla made a fine save and we’d thought we’d got it clear. But Klick made a back-header without knowing who was behind him, and as the ball came back in it fell kindly for Beevers to hammer into the net.
Bolton could have taken the lead when Magennis was just wide following a free kick, but after that Leeds got back on top for the rest of the half. Bamford was denied by Matthews on several occasions, one from a deft header towards the corner, and one with a well struck shot from a narrow angle. Roberts was also having a good game, with his tricky footwork causing Bolton problems on more than one occasion.
And it was more of the same in the second half, with Ayling getting forward to curl a shot just wide with his weaker left foot, and Bamford also going close when Hernandez played him in. Phil Parkinson said after the game that he’d sensed a bit of panic at Elland Road, but I thought that we’d been playing with a bit of patience, in the expectation that we’d get back in front sooner or later.
And our moment of good fortune arrived in the 68th minute, when Alioski launched a ball into the area. With a pillar blocking the view from my seat in the Kop I had to rely on the screen to tell me what had happened. It seems that Matthews completely misjudged the flight of the ball, and could only palm it in off the underside of the bar.
The keeper’s howler was surprising after his fine work for most of the game, and most fans are assuming it was a fluke from Alioski, as it must have been an overhit cross he meant to send to the 6 yard line. But was it deliberate after he nearly caught Matthews out with his free kick at the start of the game?
And Parkinson wouldn’t be on the touchline much longer to assess our levels of panic, as he was banished to the stand after an incident in the 73rd minute. It all began when Magennis banged into Alioski near the touchline and Matthews took it on himself to try to pull the Macedonian up while he lay injured. Cooper quite rightly intervened to stop him, bearing in mind that injured people can be further damaged if they are moved too soon by those not medically qualified.
As the argument developed Klick decided to cool Matthews down by squirting water into his ear, which wasn’t spotted by the match officials at the time, but which he might have to explain if the FA charge him after watching the footage. Phil Parkinson got involved and was confronted by the ever-diplomatic Jansson, which eventually led to the Bolton manager getting a red card and still shouting at Jansson as he was led down the tunnel.
Once things had calmed down Matthews atoned for his earlier blooper with another fine save from Bamford, while at the other end Casilla had to be alert to keep out a long distance effort from Williams. Bielsa made his first change with Roberts going off, and I thought we might finally get our first glimpse of Izzy Brown, who had been warming up for much of the game. But instead it was Dallas who took his place, and played on the right as Harrison went over to the left and Hernandez moved inside.
Dallas nearly got the third goal we could have done with another to make the game safe, but Matthews produced yet another fine save. Which we would have regretted had Ameobe’s shot from distance not gone just wide of the post. There were five minutes of injury time to endure, which was extended to allow for the time it took Ayling to hobble off and be replaced by Shackleton, a change well overdue after Ayling had been playing on one leg for some time.
But we managed to hold out for a welcome three points, although we really needed a comfortable win to improve our goal difference, which has slipped below the level of our main promotion rivals. On the balance of play we were just about worth the win, though it was worrying that Bolton could create so many decent chances throughout the game.
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