Here’s five things we learned from Blackburn Rovers v Leeds United.
1) A decision on Mirco Antenucci’s future is not quite the easy call it might have been
Leeds United were not adverse to the idea of letting Antenucci go in January. Common sense simply told them that they had nowhere near enough strikers without at least one other forward arriving to replace him. In the end, they did the right thing by resisting pressure to sell the Italian and Antenucci’s goals in the past week have lanced the boil caused by a 4-0 defeat at Brighton. So do Leeds keep him next season? That probably depends on a combination of money and Antenucci’s own desire to stay but United should remember one thing – if they release one of the few players who does score goals, their forward line will need serious work this summer.
2) Consistent form makes a huge difference to the Championship table
It doesn’t even need to be long-term form. The middle of the division is so congested that little bursts and tallies of wins can take a team like Leeds from the verge of the relegation battle to within a few points of the top 10. Realistically, United have always been on a par with the large mid-table group and there was no reason why a side like Preston should be outrunning them easily. But the 12-point gap to sixth is an example of the standards Leeds need to reach if the play-offs are to be more realistic next season. That is no small margin with 10 games to go.
3) The permanent signing of Liam Bridcutt should still be on the agenda
Bridcutt was superb at Ewood Park; snappy, full of energy and constantly on top of Blackburn’s midfield. There is probably some truth in Paul Lambert’s claim that Rovers ran out of steam on Saturday but they did so partly because Leeds turned the screw on them. Bridcutt’s form was more impressive before Christmas than it has been since but games like Saturday’s show how effective he can be in the Championship. Leeds will need to push the boat out financially to keep him. They might also need to convince him of their general ambition. But the merit of that signing speaks for itself.
4) Leeds don’t often take the easy route
Cardiff is a very rare occasion when United have put a team away by two clear goals. At 2-0 up, they were in a position to take Blackburn to the cleaners but true to form, Simeon Jackson pinched a goal from nowhere and caused a tense finish through a long stretch of injury-time. The nine minutes which followed went way beyond the six indicated by referee Keith Stroud but it was more anxious than it should have been. No wonder Steve Evans is rapidly losing weight.
5) Groundsmen in the Championship will be earning their corn this summer
The weather over the winter has clearly done immense damage to pitches across the country. Elland Road is in a bad way and has been for some time and the surface at Cardiff last Tuesday was not exactly a bowling green. Ewood Park has been suffering too and it did not make much of a positive contribution to Saturday’s contest. Turf-laying companies might find themselves raking in a few quid when the season ends.