|Leeds United 1 v 1 Luton Town|
Tuesday, 30th June 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Leeds have to make do with a draw against Luton
Wednesday, 1st Jul 2020 22:04 by Tim Whelan
Leeds had almost all of the possession but didn’t make it count, while the opposition scored with their one decent attack. This could describe too many of our games under Bielsa, but last night this happened against Luton Town.
With this being our first game in the crowd-free era to fail to be covered by Sky, the stage was set for a record audience to tune to see Emma and her charms live on LUTV. And at £10 a time this must go some way to compensate the club for the loss of normal matchday income, especially as many of the fans in other parts of the country and abroad wouldn’t have been able to get to Elland Road anyway.
When we surveyed the nine fixtures for this nine game final phase we might have thought this one of the easier games, but Luton have been on a fine run since Nathan Jones returned to their hotseat. And they certainly needed the points in a tight relegation battle, so despite their lowly position in the table this wasn’t going to be the stroll we might have expected.
Despite the improved second half performance once he’d changed the team against Fulham, Bielsa kept faith with the starting line-up from that match. And it nearly paid off within a couple of minutes as Bamford made space with a fine turn, but couldn’t beat Sluga as the keeper came quickly off his line. Bamford really needed a slight chip as Sluga went to ground, rather than shooting straight at him.
And there was a scare at the other end, as Meslier,came for a cross but didn’t get it, though thankfully the ball dropped to a defender behind him and was scrambled away. But at some cost, as Cooper had to hobble off after picking up an injury, to be replaced by Berardi. The latest is that Cooper had suffered no more than a ‘dead leg’ and is hoping to be fit for Saturday.
And Meslier did better with Luton’s next attack, reaching out to make a comfortable save from Bradley’s header. The only other dodgy moment of the half came when Berardi lost possession and possibly had a bit of a tug at McManaman as the Luton made his way into the box, but the ref thought McManaman had made a bit too much of it, so nothing doing.
In between these incidents Leeds had far more of the possession, but struggled to make anything of it, with too many moves breaking down through sloppy passes. It was clear that Luton regarded a point from this game as a good result, and we tend to find it harder against opponents who sit back rather than teams who come forward and leave space for us to get behind them on the break.
We forced a series of corners but Phillips’ delivery was usually wasteful, as was Costa from close range when a good neat piece of skill set him up for a chance. Our final opportunity of the half came from a well-struck shot from Klich from outside the box, but it was straight at Sluga, whose positioning was excellent once again.
Once again Alioski came on at half time, and quite strangely it was Berardi who went off, which I thought might leave us a bit short at the back. I would have replaced Costa who had been anonymous, though he was to get into the game a little more in the second half. Alioski was nominally at left back, but as usual was to spend most of his time in the attacking half of the field.
It helped that he wouldn’t be tested by Luton’s dangerous McManaman down that flank, but he might have been substituted because he’d picked up an early yellow card and could have been in danger of picking up a second. Even so, it was the visitors who took a surprise lead only five minutes after the restart.
Roberts lost the ball on the edge of their box by trying to be too clever, and an excellent long pass sent Cornick racing into space. Even then I didn’t thing there was much danger as he was heading quite wide with no support and couple of defenders were on hand. But Cornick surprised everyone by curling his shot round White and into the far corner to put Luton in front.
Here we go again I thought, and for the next 13 minutes I might have gladly accepted a draw from this game rather than go down to another Wigan-style defeat. If Leeds were going to get back into this game we would need to improve to improve on our rather anaemic showing in the first half, and finally we did begin to pick up the tempo.
Bamford had a shot deflected into the side netting and Sluga continued his fine evening’s work with saves from Harrison and Costa. Then a free kick presented an excellent opportunity, but when Sluga pushed Phillips’ shot away Costa couldn’t’ quite profit from the rebound. We really need a free kick specialist in the side who could have chipped the ball over the wall into the other corner.
As expected, Hernandez came on after an hour in place of Klich, but for once the Spanish magician wasn’t quite on the same wavelength as his colleagues, with a few of his passes going astray in promising positions. But finally Leeds were to draw level on 63 minutes, when Alioski again raced down the left and Dallas just found enough space in the centre to force the ball home.
After a moment to draw breath we got to the serious business of trying to force a victory from this game. A good cross from Costa found Alioski just beyond the far post, and perhaps the Macedonian should have headed back across the box instead of going for goal, when he could only put it into the side net from a narrow angle.
At the other end we survived another anxious moment when Meslier had to race a long way out of his goal to head the ball into the stand, and for his pains he got a whack from a very late challenge from Cornick, for which the Luton man was rightly booked. Then Bamford shot narrowly wide, but his best chance of the night was yet to come.
Harrison’s cross from the left found Bamford in plenty of space right in front of goal and it seemed he just needed to get a touch on it to guide it into the net. Yet even that was beyond him as he misjudged the flight of the ball completely, though apparently he blamed the glare from the lights in the West Stand for causing him to lose sight of the cross, so it went behind him.
Still the chances kept coming in the closing stages, with Alioski and Dallas both having shots deflected wide and Ayling having a go, but again Sluga was in the right place at the right time. And right at the death we had another great chance from a cross, but this time it was Costa who failed to connect right in front of goal.
Costa also used the Bamford excuse that the West Stand lights caused him to lose the flight of the ball, but surely they are in the same place they have been for a number of years. And so it was that Leeds had to make do with a frustrating draw, losing ground on our rivals while Brentford, West Brom and Fulham all won in this set of fixtures.
But we’re still six points clear of the dreaded sixth place going into Saturday’s game at Blackburn. We won’t have the usual backing of the 7,000 Leeds fans at that game, but let’s hope we can get some of our momentum back and actually make our possession count that time. MOT!
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