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Crisis, what Crisis?
Tuesday, 23rd Apr 2024 20:32 by Tim Whelan

As Mark Twain might have said, rumours of the death of our promotion hopes have been greatly exaggerated. Last night’s win at Middlesbrough was a hard watch towards the end, but the vital three points has got our campaign back on track.

There were two changes to the starting line-up, with Bamford coming back in as Daniel Farke thought we needed a bit more experience, and an injury to Roberts meant that Byram stepped in at right back so that Archie could continue in midfield. Greenwood and Bill were unable to play for Boro against their parent club, so the hapless Dijksteel had to play right back for them. A glance at their fans’ forum will tell you Dijksteel is off at the end of the season and won’t be missed!

We made a bright start to the game, but only to fall behind after seven minutes. There was a possible foul on Gnonto as he was dispossessed just inside our half, and when the ball was played through towards the penalty area a deflection took Ampadu out of the game and it fell right into Latte Lath’s path. Although Meslier managed to block his shot, Firpo was caught napping as Jones came in from behind him to knock the ball into the net.

At that stage I thought this might go on to be yet another poor result to continue our bad run, but we’d been unlucky to go behind, and we responded very well to the setback. The nine-day interval since the Blackburn defeat seemed to have been enough time to allow for a bit of a reset and we were mentally stronger last night, determined to get back into the game. And the turning point came seven minutes later.

Rutter collected the ball on the left flank and took the ball past Dijksteel, and the Dutchman got a bit too close as he tried to keep up, ending up ploughing into the back of Rutter as the pair moved into the box. Summerville stepped up to take the penalty, and although Dieng went the right way, his shot was perfectly placed and curled away from the keeper into the corner of the net.

And in the 18th minute we were in front! Firpo went down the left and sent over an excellent cross. Dieng failed to deal with it, but when the ball bounced onto Bamford’s thigh I thought for a second it would be another close-range miss. But he knew what he was doing, and it was another case of just having to ‘get something’ on it, and he was able to direct the ball into the net.

But just as it looked like we were getting on top, Boro got back on terms on the half hour. I had thought Rutter was showing signs of getting back to the form he showed before his operation, but it was his mistake that started the move for their goal, as he lost the ball tying to beat a man inside our own half. Azaz was able to find Latte Lath on the edge of the area. The Ivorian deceived Ampadu with a clever sidestep, to make space for a half-turn and fierce shot into the corner of the net.

Even that wasn’t the end of the scoring in the first half ,as we were back in front six minutes before the break, with the goal that was to be the biggest talking point of this eventful game. Gray fed Summerville on the edge of the area but the Dutchman had to stop and check back to collect it, so by the time he was able to send the through-ball into the area, Gnonto had already made his run.

Willy was at least a yard offside, but the linesman’s view might have been blocked by Bamford, so he didn’t flag offside. And Gnonto took full advantage, smashing the ball into the net from close range. Boro boss Michael Carrick was later to moan that this goal would change the whole complexion of the game, allowing us to adopt a completely different approach in the second half.

There was still time for one more chance each before the break, with Dieng reading Bamford’s attempt to place a left foot shot past him into the corner, and Meslier getting down well to save from Silvera. As we drew breath at half time, Farke was instructing his team to tighten up a bit at the back, so it looked like we were sitting on our lead, but it might just have been a response to the chaos of the first half, and the need to cut out some of our defensive mistakes.

So Boro were allowed to have a lot more of the possession, but rarely looked like doing anything with it, before we broke away and put ourselves two in front just after the hour. And it was possibly the best goal of the night, a superb team move with several players involved. Gray and Bamford got the ball to Firpo, who spotted Summerville running into space down the left.

As he cut inside two defenders tried to get into position for his trademark right-foot shot, but he took it early and curled it delightfully inside the post. Cue scenes of delirium as he ran over to celebrate in front of the nearby Leeds section. At that stage it looked like we were going on to seal a comfortable win, and we created several chances to go 5-2 in front.

Summerville was close to a hat-trick from a narrow angle, with Bamford just failing to get a touch as the ball flew across the face of the goal. Then Gnonto was came into the box after another fine move, only to be denied by a superb tackle. But then I thought we started to get a bit casual, with only a two goal lead and plenty of time left in the game.

There were three like-for-like substitutions which didn’t seem to be necessary on the face of it, unless the players removed had started to run out of puff. Piroe, James and Kamara came on for Rutter, Bamford and Gnonto.

James was the next to be denied by a superb late challenge after being sent through. It’s been said that Leeds miss so many chances because we keep rushing and need to steady ourselves before shooting, but that’s just what James was doing when he was dispossessed, the defender catching up with him as he slowed down.

And out of the blue Boro pulled a goal back with three minutes of normal time to go. As a long ball was sent down the middle Latte Lath evaded Rodon and Ampadu to get to it, and he judged his back header superbly to catch Meslier off his line, as the ball looped over his head into the net. All of a sudden the mood completely changed, and we were left hanging on for the win we so badly needed.

Five minutes additional time was announced, much of it due to the length of time we took to celebrate our fourth goal. I was counting the seconds as Boro forced a series of corners and free kicks, most of which were dealt with by Rodon and Kamara, with Meslier producing one good flap and another fine save.

When we did get a break downfield Dan James was pulled down, leading to unfair comments on a couple of forums that he stayed down for a minute to waste time. It’s obviously beyond some people to think that he might have been genuinely injured, even though he went down again after the final whistle. Today the official site has confirmed that he has a costal cartilage injury and an oblique abdominal muscle tear, and will definitely miss Friday’s game at QPR.

It was a hard watch, right up to the point when the referee blew the final whistle, and we had won this memorable game. As vital as the three points are, the win was also much needed to take us out of the bad spell and set us up for the final two games. We still need Ipswich or Leicester to drop points to give us a chance, but once again there is a feeling that we can still do this.


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