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Much improved Leeds take a point from Brentford
Wednesday, 12th Feb 2020 22:49 by Tim Whelan

I was dreading this game, not least because Brentford was the scene of one of the crucial defeats in our implosion at the end of last season. But as it turned out we could count ourselves unlucky not to have brought all three points home from Griffin Park.

There was a complete sell out for this game, and on the approach to Griffin Park I overhead a Brentford fan saying “we must be doing well if we’re attracting touts”. I quietly laughed at him for thinking the big crowd had come to see them, only to have a moment of complete panic when I couldn’t find my ticket.

But just when I was thinking I would have to race back in search of said tout, my ticket emerged from the deepest depths of my wallet, and I got in. Is it just me or is Brentford’s fanbase quite youthful? Perhaps a generation attracted by their recent relative success, as when I was growing up they were strictly lower division, and older West Londoners have plenty of options as to who to support.

Despite the hostile chorus on social media calling for several players to be dropped, Bielsa made just the one change to his starting line-up, with Phillips back from suspension and replacing Alioski, with Dallas moving to left back. Our former talisman missed the game through injury, but that didn’t stop the home fans giving a rendition of the Pontus Jansson’s magic song they’ve pinched from us.

There was a great atmosphere as the game began, and Leeds were clearly determined to put the last two results behind us and come out fighting. Phillips started to dominate the midfield ,and there were some great crossfield balls out to Harrison to get us going, and our best chance of the opening stages came from one such move.

Harrison cut in past a couple of defenders and really should have slipped it to Bamford, who had made a run into a great position. Instead Harrison tried to turn and shoot from the edge of the box, when he was never going to generate enough power to trouble Raya. But after we dominated the first 25 minutes, the game took an unfortunate and unexpected turn.

Norgaard produced Brentford’s first decent opportunity with a shot that curled just past the post, but there seemed to be no danger, with Casilla left to deal with a routine backpass. But our calamity prone keeper missed the ball altogether and then compounded his error by falling over, leaving Benrahma with the simple task of rounding Casilla to put the ball into the net.

Cue an explosion of anger from Kiko the clown’s many critics on social media, how his confidence is completely shot and we urgently need to be dropped. The Brentford fans treated us to the inevitable “Leeds are falling apart again” and I thought that goal was just typical of our season after our great start, and that Brentford would no doubt go on to win the game.

But Kiko managed to pull himself together and kept passing out with his feet, while more importantly managing to nothing calamitous for the remaining 65 minutes. And Leeds refused to be downhearted and got right back to putting Brentford under pressure. I thought we could do with equalising right away, and Hernandez produced a great dipping volley, but Raya was there to tip it over the bar.

The referee helped by giving us free kicks at every opportunity, which hasn’t been a feature of our season so far, but it’s always nice to see something new. We also managed to win a series of corners, and just when I was thinking we hadn’t scored from one since John Charles was a lad, another pleasant change was that we managed to do just that, six minutes before the break.

Harrison swung the corner in, and when Raya unconvincingly palmed the ball out, it fell kindly for Cooper to smash the ball in from close range. Let’s hope that proves to be a turning point of our season after our dismal run. We didn’t sit back after equalising, and a curling header from Costa ended up missing the far post by a whisker.

And we started the second half the way we finished the first, but as so often this season we failed to capitalise when we were well on top. A cross from Ayling found Bamford with a free header, but he could only put it over the bar, though you could say the ball was a bit too high for him. Then Costa had a good shooting opportunity, but could only put the ball straight at the keeper.

Finally Bamford shot over the bar from the edge of the area, so obviously I was wrong to curse Harrison for not passing to him in a similar position in the first half. Eventually Bamford was taken off for Augustin in Bielsa’s only substitution of the evening, and the new man never managed to shake off the defence to get on the end of any chances. Is he still not fully fit?

We could have gifted them a goal in the last 15 minutes when a clearance went into the back of another Leeds player and rebounded to the lively Watkins, who was then brought down on the edge of the box. I thought it would be typical if we were to lose the game through such a piece of misfortune, but Benrahma was kind enough to put the free kick straight into the wall.

There were four minutes injury time, but that wasn’t enough for either side to force a winner, though Ayling got very animated after a contentious throw-in decision in a dangerous position right at the end. Before the game I would have gladly accepted a draw, but in the end I was disappointed after we’d dominated but missed out on the win through a daft mistake.

We would have gone below Brentford in the table if we‘d lost, but hopefully this result will get our season back on track. And we stay in second, thanks to Forest’s surprise home defeat by Charlton and Fulham’s failure to win at Millwall tonight, thanks to a contentious Millwall equaliser that could well have been offside.

The table has got much tighter than it should have done, but from now on our fixtures are slightly easier than any of our main rivals, on paper at least. It’s going to be a close run thing, but I’m starting to feel something like optimism returning to my veins. Bring on the Bristol!

Reuters Media Express

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