Leeds earn three vital points at Ashton Gate
Sunday, 10th Mar 2019 12:22 by Tim Whelan
It was a scrappy game, but Leeds held on to beat Bristol City through an early goal from Patrick Bamford.
Last season this fixture was a great away trip, with a 3-0 win that in retrospect was one of the last decent performances under Thomas Christiansen. This time I missed out due to the reduced ticket allocation, and had to make do with the beamback in the Centenary Pavillion at Elland Road. We were anticipating a difficult game against a side that had been in fine form recently, and as I took my seat clutching my free pint of free cider I thought that a draw might be a decent result.
Before kick-off we had Steve Hodge as guest speaker, giving some insights as to how Howard Wilkinson had managed the tension in the squad during as we reached ‘squeaky bum time’ in the title winning season. During the coverage the camera work was a bit dodgy and a couple of times the screen cut out altogether, so if I’m about to write complete rubbish, that’s my excuse.
Once again Marcello Bielsa had named his squad two days in advance, and the debate continues as to whether that’s a good idea or whether it just gives the opposition more time to prepare. Once again there was no change from the previous game, not even on the subs bench. Due to an injury crisis City had to call on their third choice keeper, Max O’Leary, and if he’s any relation to David he’s kept very quiet about it.
It looked like the game was played in blustery conditions, which were never going to be conducive to flowing football. And it seemed that Leeds were finding it hard to get going in the as Bristol City had most of the possession in the opening stages. The highly rated Callum O’Dowda had switched to play on the right, possibly in the hope of catching Alioski out of position after one of his many runs down the wing.
Yet it was Leeds who took the lead in the 9th minute, with our first decent attack. A long cross-field pass from Alioski found Ayling racing down the right and his ball across the face of goal found Bamford clear but onside. Bamford had to stretch to reach the ball ahead of O’Leary, before his momentum took him on to hit the post, in the way that you really don’t want to hit the post.
Is it just me, or was his shot heading wide of the far post before it hit a divot (in the rough patch right in front of the goal) then changing direction and crawling apologetically across the line? Either way, Leeds were one up, though Bamford needed a few minutes treatment behind the goal before he was able to continue.
After the goal Leeds grew in confidence and began to dominate the game, once we’d survived a dangerous Bristol free kick that was sent across the face of goal without anyone being able being to get a decisive touch. We created numerous chances at the other end, with Harrison getting into several good positions but being unable to convert any of them.
He sent one feeble header wide and another chance went begging as he turned but dragged his shot wide of the far post. Just before the break the Robins almost fashioned an equaliser, with Casilla rushing well out of his area to meet a long ball but Pack got there first and played it to Diedhiou. He would probably have scored if he’d hit it first time, but thankfully he cut inside and gave Jansson the chance to dispossess him.
In the early stages of the second half it was more of the same, with Leeds creating most the chances. Hernandez did very well to get past three defenders despite being fouled and put a great ball into the area, only for Roberts to waste his excellent work by shooting straight at O’Leary.
We also had a few shots from outside the area, with Hernandez sending one just over and Kilch having a powerful effort blocked. But once again we were lacking a bit of a cutting edge to make our dominance count, and Bamford was starting to struggle due to the effects of his early knock. With no strikers on the bench he had to be replaced by Dallas.
I would have had Ryan Edmondson on the bench after his recent exploits for the Under-23s, but in his absence we had to have a reshuffle with Roberts becoming the main striker, a role which doesn’t really suit him. From that point we started to fall further back and invite a bit of pressure. Casilla was forced into a couple of fine saves, first from Pack then to keep out a header from Taylor at close range.
A running feud had been going on between Jansson and Diedhiou, and our man was generally getting the better of it. So Diedhiou was never going to hold back from launching into a tackle as they created another chance in the Leeds box, fortunately conceding a free kick in the process and getting himself booked.
There was another fraught moment when Casilla reacted to a challenge and was seen to make contact with his head as he squared up to his assailant. But thankfully the referee saw it as just handbags rather than a proper headbutt, though our noble keeper seemed to be getting a bit of abuse from the home fans after that incident.
Our two remaining substitutions were used to shore things up at the back, with Douglas coming on for Harrison, and Berardi replacing Klich to return to the scene of one of his three dismissals of last season. All of this meant that Phillips had to battle through to the end with a foot injury that had required treatment in the first half.
We had Alioski booked for timewasting and then had to endure six minutes of injury time. And we were into injury time of injury time (with play continuing beyond the time announced) when Bristol’s final shot went just wide of the post, but finally we had held on to claim the three points.
You could say that this doesn’t change that much in the top three, with Norwich and Sheffield United having already won their matches earlier in the weekend. But our was by far the hardest fixture of the three, so I reckon these results have actually improved our position in the promotion race.
Now we just need to overcome the latest couple of injuries to claim another win on the road on Tuesday at Reading. MOT!
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