Leeds United 2, Barnsley 1
Routine for Leeds United these days appears to be outplaying determined but inferior opposition, getting into a winning position – and then having a late attack of the collywobbles which threatens to chuck a deserved victory straight down the sanitary facilities. Like that, this win over derby-day foes Barnsley was routine, right enough. It’s just that, lately, the Whites seem able to avoid the khazi part of the equation and grind out a positive result after all. So many times in the past, Leeds at 2-0 up would have been pegged back to 2-1 and had immediate conniptions. Now things are that bit different; now we have Pontus Jansson.
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is quite the fan of our borrowed Swedish colossus. Alongside Kyle Bartley, who took time off from defensive duties to grab the opener against Toby and his Tykes, Jansson is forming an on-loan central defensive partnership for United that is starting to look as good as anything in this league. Surely the most important piece of pending transfer business for Leeds in January is to secure these two on permanent deals. We all know it makes sense.
I’ve said before that increased reliability from a more solid back line would pay its dividend in terms of greater freedom and confidence in midfield and up front. It’s starting to pan out that way, with the team more often able to take the lead and then consolidate with a second goal, as at Cardiff recently. The man who delivered the coup de grâce that day was at it again against the South Yorkshiremen, Pablo Hernandez finding the bottom corner after an assist from Eunan O’Kane. At 2-0, Leeds were dominating the visitors, forcing errors all over the pitch and revelling in this unfamiliar feeling of confidence. And although Barnsley did break through with a worrying amount of time still left, forcing poor Charlie Taylor into an own goal, the Whites held out – and that’s a sign of durability and determination for which we can all be gratefully thankful.
So, three points for Leeds against opponents who have been troublesome in the past both home and away. Barnsley share with just about all the smaller Yorkshire clubs – and a good few further abroad – that “we all hate Leeds” chip on their collective shoulder. It’s served them well in the past, imbuing their play with a Cup Final intensity that has often seen a bewildered Leeds crumble. On this occasion, though, it was just too big an ask in the end – and the South Yorkshire Reds had to trail home empty handed, the banquet and the open-top bus cancelled, the souvenir t-shirts and DVDs on hold, till next time at the soonest.
The latest international break is well-timed too, and three points is the ideal way to go into a time for regrouping, planning and recovering from injuries. And, on a day when we marked the sad loss of the late, great Don Revie‘s son Duncan, a win was a fitting tribute to Leeds United’s first family at a time of such sadness.
RIP Duncan Revie