Leeds sink to another Wigan defeat
Sunday, 2nd Feb 2020 22:28 by Tim Whelan
Yet again Leeds dominated most of a game nut had nothing to show for it, this time losing to Wigan Athletic once again.
Like most of the crowd I walked towards Elland Road full of optimism, thinking that the stirring comeback against Millwall had got the season back on track. It was time to get revenge for that shocking crucial defeat of last season, and surely that wasn’t going to happen again, was it?
In the continued absence of Phillips Marcello Bielsa stuck with the same eleven who started the game against Millwall, with no place for new signing Ian Poveda. And despite making all the right noises about how he was inspired by the crowd’s reaction to the Millwall game, Kevin Augustin didn’t even get a place on the bench.
But the eleven players entrusted with this game made a lively start, creating a couple of great chances in the first ten minutes. Costa cut in from the byline and sent in a fierce left foot shot which might have troubled Marshall if it hadn’t been straight at him. Then Harrison produced a great bit of work, beating a couple of defenders then cutting back onto his left, only for his shot to come crashing back off the post.
But as we moved towards the middle of the first half, I started to get a little concerned that Wigan were starting to get a little bit more of the ball down towards the Kop end they were attacking. Morsey produced a great shot from distance and Casilla had dived past it as it swerved, but just managed to throw up a hand in time to keep it out.
And some of our crossing was starting to look awful, with Alioski overhitting it on more than one occasion, though perhaps the swirling wind was more of a factor than I could detect from the back of the Kop. But we kept creating a few chances as we moved towards half time. Bamford looked really awful as he slipped and knocked the ball backwards when it came to him in front of goal, but it fell to Costa, who sent a curling shot just over the bar.
And we really should have gone in front when Klich did well to get to the byline and play it across the face of goal, but Harrison failed to control it and it spun away from him, and by the time he caught up with it to try a backheel at the far post it was too late. But at the break you would have thought it would be only a matter of time before we got the breakthrough.
But of course with this Leeds team you can never be sure if we are going to make our dominance count and actually put the ball in the back of the net. I was cursing Bamford a couple of times, once when he put a header wide, and once when he got only a faint touch on a cross to send it wide, when he could have placed it in the far corner.
Yet you have to say Bamford did well with one diving header that beat the keeper only to be headed off the line by Kipre. And the way this season has gone there was always the danger we would let in a soft goal at the other end. So it came to pass just before the hour, when once again we demonstrated our inability to defend from set pieces.
A corner from Williams looped up off Hernandez (who was standing ten yards from it) and as it curled towards the goal Casilla failed to get a touch on it and it went straight into the far corner of the net. It looked like he was blocked off by two of their forwards, but should really have been stronger or got himself into a better position. And on the TV replay it looked as if he changed his mind which hand he was going to clear it with, instead of just tipping it over the bar.
There was still plenty of time to get ourselves back into the game, but from now on we would have to do so against a packed defence, with Wigan keen to delay the game at every opportunity. Soon after going behind we brought Tyler Roberts on for Alioski, and he at least gave a lively performance on his return to full fitness. Dallas went to left back while he played down the middle.
But I was getting frustrated with Costa, who never seemed to try to beat his man, and seemed unable to get any of his crosses beyond the first defender. I wondered if Poveda was going to get an opportunity to unlock the Wigan defence, but Bielsa opted to make no further changes for the rest of the game.
Roberts had an immediate opportunity from the edge of the box, but the ball was a bit too close to him for him to get any real power in the shot, and it deflected wide. Shortly after that our former player Tom Pearce went down after a challenge from Bamford, and as he received treatment the crowd shouted “you’re too shit to play for Leeds”. At least, I think that was aimed at Pearce, rather than Bamford.
Pearce recovered to race the length of the field as Wigan broke away, and it really would have topped things off if he had scored, but Dallas got back to make a great saving tackle. A few minutes later Pearce was substituted, and that sprint down the field must have really worn him out, as he took about a month to walk off the field.
As we pressed in the closing stages Bamford was unlucky a couple of times as Kipre just managed to get a touch on a couple of crosses that would have fallen for him nicely, and when Bamford did manage to make a decent contact the same player was on hand to clear off the line once again. Only four minutes injury time were added, and I thought it should have been much more, given the number of stoppages we had had.
Our final change fell to Costa, but with so many other Leeds shots on the day he couldn’t keep it down, and it went sailing over the bar. And so Wigan were our bogey team again, at least at home, although we’ve beaten them away both this season and last. An amazing statistic is that they have only won 3 of their last 37 away games, and two of them have been at Elland Road!
With two difficult away games to come this was a game we really had to win. And if we had done I would have said drawing at both Forest and Brentford would be good results, but now? This defeat saw WBA go back above us and Fulham close the gap below to just three points, while Brentford shrugged off their midweek defeat with an ominous 5-1 victory at Hull.
So once again the Leeds social media sites are awash with criticism, and for the first time Bielsa is starting to get it in the neck for his stubbornness and unwillingness to change things when it’s not working. This might have been the ideal time to give Augustin a chance had he been on the bench, so we can only hope his early enthusiasm doesn’t run out while he is left sitting in the stand.
At best it now seems certain that a season which once looked like being a comfortable automatic promotion will be a close run thing. Bielsa can keep giving press conferences talking about how we had all the possession, but it’s time to see if our new signings can give us the lift we need to make our dominance count.
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