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All’s well that ends well as Leeds find a way to beat Hull
Tuesday, 2nd Apr 2024 21:29 by Tim Whelan

There’s a saying that the good teams are the ones who still manage to win matches when they haven’t played well. For long periods of the game this looked like another tired performance as Hull City enjoyed far more of the possession, but in the end the quality of the forwards at our disposal was just too much for them.

The first business of the day saw Leicester getting back to winning ways, and my mate in Norwich has sent me a message saying “I assume that Wagner will be contacting Leeds to apologise for that pathetic spineless Norwich performance”. And as the Ipswich/Saints game approached the final whistle I thought a draw would suit us fine, only for an Ipswich player to score the winner after falling over. That was so annoying it had me swearing at the screen!

At Elland Road the evening began with a minutes applause in memory of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, with this being the nearest home game to the 24th anniversary of their murders in Istanbul. And as a nice touch the referee allowed play to stop for another minute as the clock reached 24 minutes of the game, and it was good to see the occasion being respected by both sets of fans.

There was just one change to the starting line-up, with a suitably rested Firpo coming in for Cooper, as Farke went with the formation we had after his mid-game reshuffle at Watford. After the earlier results we needed a win to keep pace with Leicester and Ipswich, and it all seemed to be going well in the early stages. Gray sent a shot just over, before a fine piece of skill from Rutter began the move that led to our opening goal.

He played the ball forward to Summerville on the left hand side of the box, and the Dutchman cut inside to shoot from a narrow angle, but Allsop got behind it. Just when I was cursing Summerville once again for not playing the ball across the face of goal, it looped up in the air and Byram got to the far post to meet it. He bundled the ball in as it came off his face and rolled down his chest, but however he got the ball over the line, what mattered was that Leeds were ahead.

Byram then had to make a quick interception at the other end of the field to stop Hull’s first decent attack, but Leeds should have gone two in front soon after. Bamford got to a cross from James right in front of goal, but somehow managed to send it over the bar for the proverbial ‘it was easier to score’.

He might say that he expected Alfie Jones to clear before the ball reached him and that it bounced higher than expected, but that hasn’t stopped his social media critics from reaching for their keyboards for the first time in months. A two goal lead might well have sealed the game there and then, but after that let-off Hull began to pass the ball around with increasing confidence.

Our midfield was beginning to look a little bit lightweight in the absence of Gruev and with Ampadu on defensive duty. Is it time to give Charlie Cresswell a game so that Ampadu can play in midfield while Gruev is out? For all their neat passing Hull didn’t seem particularly threatening, but if you keep allowing a side to come at you, it’s always likely that sooner or later they will create a big chance.

And on 34 minutes this came to pass. They got a lucky break of the ball in midfield before Morton went down the left, and Carvallo nipped in front of Ampadu to get the flick he needed to bring the Tigers level. Was it just me, or could Meslier have reacted to the shot a bit sooner? In response we managed a couple of half-chances from Rutter and Summerville, but we would need to step up a gear in the second half.

But what we got was more of the same, with Hull continuing to have more of the game, and there were a few anxious moments as Philogene and Omur shot just wide and Tufan headed over from close range. A bit more energy was needed and Farke decided that Joseph could be the man to provide it, and the young striker was very close to repaying his faith almost immediately.

Firpo got down the left, but we could have done with him sending the cross in a fraction earlier. By the time it arrived Joseph had run a little too far forward and had to step back, so he wasn’t well set to take the shot. He did make contact but could only direct the ball onto the post and it came out again.

With time running out Farke decided it was time to go for broke once again, with Prioe coming on for Kamara as an attacking substitution. At about the same time Hull captain Lewis Coyle was forced off with an injury. It’s a bit of a shock to see him as a grizzled experienced player when it seems only yesterday he was a fresh-faced young full back who was unlucky not to make the breakthrough at Leeds.

Hull began to run out of steam in his absence, though a draw seemed the most likely outcome until we finally were awarded a penalty in the 88th minute. We’d had two shouts earlier in the game, but TV replays would show that the Hull defender had played the ball both times. This time the referee did point to the spot after Summerville raced past Slater, and the defender made contact after the ball had gone.

It looked like Piroe was going to take the penaly, but Summerville also wanted it, and for a moment it looked like a row might develop when we didn’t need one. But Ampadu stepped in as captain to sort it out, in the way that Stuijk had failed to do in an identical situation when he had the armband in an earlier fixture.

The upshot of all that was that Summerville was nominated to take the penalty, and when you go and seize the ball like that, you have to score. But if Cree was feeling any pressure he certainly didn’t show it, as he waited for Allsop to dive and then confidently sent the ball right down the middle.

We still had seven minutes of injury time to hold out for the win, and Allsop came up for a last minute Hull corner. I was cursing Rutter for losing possession as he tried to dribble out, but the ball was cleared a second time and came to Piroe, who played it forward to James rather than smashing it downfield.

James had the pace to get past the last defender, and took the shot on from just inside their half, with the keeper well short of getting back into his goal. If James got his shot on target it was always going to be a goal, and after one bounce it rolled into the corner of the net. There was no coming back from that, and we’d managed to seal a vital win which had been in serious doubt for long periods of this game.

All of which leaves us in second place but with Leicester having a game in hand just behind. The best you could say about the day’s results is that Southampton have probably been knocked out of contention now, so it’s just three clubs going for the two automatic places. And with the luxury of five days break before our next game, we can hope for a rejuvenated performance on Saturday, so we don’t have to go through this anxiety-fest yet again.


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