It was a different sort of game at Elland Road last Tuesday evening, with Leeds United‘s opponents, for once in a very long while, actually shading possession over the ninety-four minutes. All credit to West Bromwich Albion for that notable feat, though it would probably have been cold comfort for the Baggies as they made their weary way home pointless, having sustained a 0-1 defeat for their first reverse of the season. Leeds, on the other hand, will take plenty of encouragement from getting the job done despite a rare failure to dominate. It was a gritty display by United, necessarily more so the longer the game went on, with Albion trying their hardest to salvage something. That they were kept out, and made to suffer a season’s first defeat, reflects immense credit upon Leeds, who’d had to make do without injured skipper Liam Cooper for the last hour of a fierce contest.
A look beyond the possession statistic is instructive, for all the post match talk of United being dominated. In reality, it wasn’t quite like that, with the Whites carving out more chances than Albion, with more on target as well. Leeds’ chances were also more clear-cut, with Sam Johnstone in the Baggies goal being far busier than Kiko Casilla at the other end. Overall, United did what was needed, coming back from a disappointing display in London, for the second season on the trot, to beat West Brom and get back on track.
Now, it’s time for another daunting away appointment this weekend, with a trip to Millwall – never an easy task for Leeds. There’s something about the place which seems to sap United’s morale; doubtless it’s because the locals do not exactly hold our heroes in high esteem, a fact they make vociferously clear at every possible opportunity. Millwall’s team and fans just love to get stuck into what they clearly see and resent as the division’s aristocrats. They style themselves “the biggest small club in the world” down there, and revel in their repeated refrain of “No one likes us, we don’t care”.
That particular sentiment will strike a chord with many a Leeds United fan, but for us it’s repeated plaintively, with a sense of grievance. At Millwall, it’s a battle cry, and there’s no other club that has the Lions sharpening their claws with quite the same bloodthirsty zest as they do for our lads – this is Millwall’s cup final, make no mistake.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Millwall’s manager, local legend Neil Harris, parted company with the club on Thursday. The effect of this is hard to predict; Harris epitomised Millwall’s chip on the shoulder approach to eagerly-anticipated games like their clash with Leeds. But that approach is unlikely to be ameliorated by the departure of Harris; rather, it’s in the fabric of the club, so it’s highly unlikely that Leeds will find their path smoothed by a managerial upheaval, even though the timing might be seen as unhelpful to Millwall, only two days before United roll into town.
In summary, the grittiness of Leeds United’s showing against their peers in West Brom will certainly need to be reproduced for the looming clash with notional inferiors Millwall. Any failure to do just that could easily be punished; that’s happened before against opponents United take lightly at their peril.
Last season, Leeds escaped The New Den with a precious point earned by Jack Harrison‘s late equaliser – and even then, they had to weather a late storm from the nettled Lions. I’d be a lot more confident against many other opponents – as it is, I’d love a win but wouldn’t be too upset with another draw.
Hopefully our “gritty” performance against the Baggies will be the shift in mindset needed if we are to finally get promotion. Teams need to win ugly as well as playing some sexy football whenever we are able to coast to victory and Bielsa has revolutionised our displays. But if Tuesday proved anything Rob it was that “possession” is NOT nine tenths of the law and that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Its an unforgiving league as we found to our cost yet again last season but lets build on Tuesday’s morale boosting display and get the job done at the Den today courtesy of a Bamford hat trick!! ALAW
A Bamford hat-trick. Boy, that would be delicious.
Always a very tricky away game in that hostile atmosphere & cup final mindset of our opponents. That said we have to admit that London is simply not a happy hunting ground for Leeds and our record last season proved it.
Marcelo doesn’t pay any heed to historic hoodoos however and he will just be 100% focused on the 3 points & with our recent goal drought hopefully today is the day the floodgates open & Paddy bags a couple for himself that his overall performances this season have deserved.
The decision to bring on Ayling as WBA upped the pressure in the 2nd half was interesting and not the usual Bielsa approach. This kind of thinking may be needed against dogged opponents today.
Having said that I think this Millwall team is struggling a wee bit and if Leeds get the crowd to pick on their own team by taking a couple of early chances we should go ok.
BTW I see Fwankie is obsessing over Leeds again with his comments re our fair play award. What is it with him? Leeds have been off the top tree football radar for yonks. His Direby team put one over us in the the play offs and he still feels the need to spout cobblers!
Could it be he is just a bit jealous of the passion and atmos around ER that is lacking at his current club? MOT.
‘Cup final mindset’.
We always tend to win that particular final.
Not last season, if you’ve not banished that from your mind. I guess it helps in any cup final though when you get a well dodgy penalty and the opposition unfairly reduced to ten men early doors 🙄