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Leeds hold on to seal the victory over Plymouth
Sunday, 12th Nov 2023 22:27 by Tim Whelan

We made this game a lot harder for ourselves than it really should have been, but we came through a nervy finish to earn a 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle and keep the winning run going up to the start of the international break.

There was just one enforced change to make, as Struijk had finally succumbed to the hernia problem he had been playing through in recent weeks. So Cooper came in, which made life a bit awkward for us report writers, as the Argyle keeper has the same name. And Cresswell was restored to the bench, and hopefully the ‘personal issue’ which put his availability in doubt didn’t involve any complaints about his lack of game time.

With this being remembrance day we began by paying our respects to the fallen, though I thought I detected a couple of slightly flat notes from the bugle player as the last post sounded. Once the game began Plymouth were showing plenty of spirit both on and off the field, with an excellent turnout from their fans when it’s such a long way.

And their team seemed to be up for the battle as well, getting a fair bit of possession in the early stages, while also tracking back to deny Summerville as much space as they could, having obviously identified him as a threat after his fine recent form. But gradually Leeds began to take control and force them further back towards their own penalty area.

Rutter had a penalty shout waved away, and then a last-ditch tackle stopped Summerville getting on the end of a cross from James. But our pressure paid off in the 20th minute as we took the lead. Rutter worked his way into the penalty area and went down as Kesler-Hayden cut across him, but as the defender came away with the ball Kamara nipped in to get a touch to knock it into the path of James.

The Welshman took one touch to control the ball, before curling his shot round the man in front of him into the top corner of the net. And a few minutes later Byram rode a couple of challenges as he brought the ball towards the edge of the area, but a slight stumble meant that he delayed his pass for a second too long, so by the time Summerville was able to take the ball and put it into the net he had strayed offside.

But this only delayed the inevitable, and we did go in front in the 27th. Pleguezuelo was dispossessed by Summerville as he brought the ball forward, and Piroe was on hand to take the ball forward, before slipping it back to Summerville on his left. Summerville returned the favour and the shot from his fellow Dutchman went past Cooper’s attempt to keep it out with his legs.

And we could have been further in front before the break, as a misplaced Plymouth pass sent Rutter racing into their half. He skipped past another defender, but his shot was rather feeble and easily gathered by Cooper. If that lad could learn how to finish he might start to look half decent. So we went into the break two up, but it should have been more, and I felt we might need another to kill the game off completely.

The Plymouth manager was later to claim that they should have had a penalty as we came up to the break, but I can’t remember the incident he was talking about, and it didn’t make Sky’s highlights of the game, so it can’t have been that significant. His team had created a couple of half-chances, but their shots were either straight at Meslier or dragged well wide.

And for most of the second half we were still dominating. Summerville cut into the area from the left, and Piroe turned to fire in a shot, but a defender turned to get his bottom in the way. His colleague then reacted to quickly to knock the rebound away before either Piroe or Summerville could pounce on it.

Then Byram picked up an injury, so we finally had the moment we’d all been waiting for for so long, the return of Junior Firpo, and he came on to a great reception! And the chances kept coming, as Rutter put another good chance over the bar, and Piroe was close with a looping header after spotting the Argyle keeper off his line. And on 78 minutes Farke made his now customary substitution of both his wingers, no doubt to have two fresh pairs of legs to run at a tiring defence.

And it nearly paid dividends, as Antony cut onto his right foot, and Cooper did well to keep his eyes on the ball for the save, despite the distractions of Gnonto running across his eyline as the shot arrived. At the time this hardly seemed to matter, but Plymouth were to get a goal back on 85 minutes and the whole mood changed around Elland Road.

Cundle outpaced Ampadu down the Plymouth right, and the cross to the far post evaded Rodon, but not Waine, who was able to steer the ball home from close range. Only a cynic would ask what Firpo was doing when they came down his flank. The goal brought the Plymouth fans back to life, after they had seemed to run out of steam while we were controlling the game.

And their team responded, so suddenly we were hanging on for a victory that had seemed to have been a foregone conclusion for much of the afternoon. They forced a couple of corners, but Rodon stood firm with a couple of vital headers to clear the danger. Six minutes of injury time were announced, and Farke tried to stiffen things up by sending Bamford and Gruev on for Rutter and Piroe.

When six minutes had passed all around me were demanding the final whistle, but the referee was correct in playing on beyond then to allow for our last substitution. But finally he did bring the game to an end, and a huge sigh of relief erupted from the great majority inside Elland Road, and our challenge to the top two was intact.

There was mixed news from elsewhere, with Ipswich beating Swansea, but Leicester going down to a second successive 1-0 defeat due to a goal from a Leeds player. This time it was Greenwood, whose excellent free kick prompted a debate on social media about whether we should have loaned him out. He is undoubtedly the best dead ball taker on our books, but someone asked who he would replace in our current starting line-up?

With Boro having an option to sign Greenwood permanently we’ll just have to develop a free kick specialist from among the players still at the club. Meanwhile, this latest win has closed the gap on the automatic places to eight points, after the first signs that the top two might be starting to stumble. So it’s all to play for when we’re back from one more international break.


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