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Leeds United 4 v 0 Ipswich Town
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 23rd December 2023 Kick-off 12:30
Automatic promotion is back on after Leeds batter Ipswich
Saturday, 23rd Dec 2023 19:51 by Tim Whelan

Before today there was quite a bit of gloom building up on social media as we picked up only one point in the previous two games, but that has now been blown away by a dominant performance, as Ipswich Town were dismantled at Elland Road.

I must admit that on the way to the game I was feeling a lot less optimistic than I had been at the time I bought my ticket, with the gap below the top two remaining at ten points after we failed to beat Coventry. Perhaps I should have just watched on TV rather than travelling to the game, as it’s not as if I’m short of other things to do just before Christmas.

But how my mood was to change by the middle of the afternoon! If we were to stand any chance of automatic promotion then a win today was an absolute must, even with half the season still to come. So although Daniel Farke has indicated that he might rotate the squad a little over the busy holiday period, he was always going to select his strongest starting eleven for this game, so there were no changes.

The Ipswich contingent in the crowd were in good voice at the start, and I was concerned at the way that their team began the game in a very determined manner, being very aggressive in the way they closed us down very quickly as we tried to play out from the back. But time would tell that his approach would simply give us the opportunity to pick them apart on the break, so they would have been better served by the defensive approach we usually find much harder to break down.

Whenever I’ve seen Ipswich on TV this season I’ve paid most attention to our old boy Leif Davis, and noted that as good as his attacking play is, the fact he spends so much time going forward should give Dan James plenty of opportunity to get in behind him. And Farke must have had similar thoughts, because our first couple of moves came down that side of the field, though it was an attack down the left that was to bring us the lead after eight minutes.

Djed Spence was again showing signs of wanting to cut inside onto his right foot every time, but the first time he tried to cross with his weaker left it was deflected behind for a corner. And from it we were to benefit from some poor defending after Piroe rose highest to direct his header goalwards. Although Hladky got down to make the save, the unmarked Struijk was quickest to react and he completed the simple task of heading the ball over the line from a couple of yards out.

Ipswich could have hit straight back after the ref played advantage after a foul by Ampidu, but Broadhead sent his shot past the post. And they kept pressing, but our second goal arrived after another of their attacks broke down in the 25th minute, with five players involved as we swept downfield.

Summerville was sent free down the left, but with Piroe having to check his run in the centre to avoid being offside, he ended up a yard or so behind the cross as it came in. But when it evaded the first defender Davis had no time to adjust his feet to avoid it, and it cannoned off his legs into the net. This was not the return to Elland Road he would have dreamed off, and it would soon get worse.

But not before Ipswich had another chance to get back into the game, as Chaplin tried a fierce shot from distance. It curled a little bit too much and hit the outside of the post before going wide, but Meslier had read the flight of the ball, and could well have made the save anyway had the shot been on target. We needed a third goal to see them off properly, and it arrived just before half time.

Rutter’s ball forward saw James just beating the offside trap, and he flicked it on as Summerville raced into the area. The response from Davis was to come across and lean into Summerville after the ball had gone, with enough force to knock him over and for the referee to give the penalty. I thought Piroe was now the designated penalty taker, but Summerville insisted that he was having it, possibly because he was the one to have been fouled.

If you’re going to do that you need to make damn sure that you’re going to convert the spot kick, but Cree made no mistake. He stepped up and blasted the ball high into the corner of the net, and I’m not sure Hladky would have got close to it even if he’d gone the right way. All three first half goals had come from former Leeds under-21 players, including Leif’s kind contribution.

Ipswich were out early for the start of the second half, but if they had been fired up by the half-time team talk, there wasn’t much evidence of it in the early stages of the half. Piroe cut into the area from the right and his powerful shot hit the underside of the bar and somehow spun out of play for a goal kick rather than going in.

But he wouldn’t have to wait too long, before his goal arrived in the 52nd minute. Rutter took possession and some of his usual trickery took him into space, but his shot came back to Piroe off Clarke's heel. The Dutchman showed some excellent close control to take the ball past the Clarke, and then set himself up to fire his shot into the corner of the net.

After that Ipswich’s heads seemed to drop completely, and as they got rather tetchy they picked up four bookings, with one for a particularly savage tackle on Archie Gray. Dan James was the only one of our players to pick up a yellow after a first half tangle of legs had interrupted Davis’ progress down the left as Ipswich tried to break.

That might have been the reason he was our first player to be substituted, being replaced by Gnonto. The Italian was lively once again, but it was Rutter who went closest to scoring a fifth goal. Spence came in from the left and played the ball inside to Summerville, but when he pulled it back for Rutter to shoot from outside the area, a deflection off a defender’s leg was enough to send the ball up to clip the top of the crossbar and go behind.

With the game safely won Farke made a few more changes. First Kamara and Spence were replaced by Gruev and Firpo, then nine minutes later it was double blond up front once again, with Bamford and Joseph coming on for Rutter and Piroe. And with these subs we seemed to lose a bit of our momentum, with a couple of moves breaking down due to misplaced passes.

Against a direct promotion rival there was a case for keeping going to try to do even more damage to their goal difference, but with the game already won you could see why the manager wanted to give some of his key players a bit of a break. Once the final whistle had put Ipswich out of their misery, the team and Daniel Farke could celebrate in front of a home crowd who were ecstatic not just because of the result but the manner of the performance.

And so tonight our chase for second place looks very much back on, not least because of the hope that this might produce a huge knock to Ipswich’s confidence just before they have to face Leicester on Boxing Day. We’re now exactly half way through the season, and though we’ve still got an awful lot to do before it ends, we do at least have a glimmer of hope once again.

Oh, and I’m glad I did decide to attend this game in person. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world! Christmas can wait.


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