PATRICK Bamford is a man on a mission – on two fronts.
Having missed nearly five months of the season with two knee injuries, there was no chance, says the striker, of anybody else taking Leeds United’s 16th-minute penalty.
It was a case of mission accomplished after Bamford found the bottom right corner – even if the forward admitted he should have scored at least two more.
Eventually, Leeds successfully passed their latest assignment with victory against Bolton Wanderers, with Bamford confident of completing the ultimate task of getting the Whites promoted to the Premier League.
United began a demanding period of three games in seven days with their 19th victory of the season which kept the Whites eyeing top spot ahead of tomorrow night’s game in hand at Queens Park Rangers.
Leeds looked to be heading top even as it was when leading 1-0 through Bamford’s penalty as Norwich City trailed at home to Bristol City but, in the end, it was a case of as you were at the top.
We know that the way we play and with the squad that we have got here and the way we feel as a squad that we are more than capable of going up. We have just got to keep believing in ourselvesLeeds United’s Patrick Bamford
A 3-2 triumph for Norwich at home to Bristol City and 1-0 verdict for Sheffield United at West Bromwich left Leeds two points behind the Canaries and Blades but having played one game less with Marcelo Bielsa’s men having just 13 games remaining.
Bamford expects further plot twists between now and the end of the campaign in the first weekend in May but the striker is confident Leeds have what it takes to finally end a 15-year exile from the country’s top flight.
“You can only really concentrate on yourself,” said Bamford.
“If we start looking at how other teams are doing and putting too much pressure on, then it starts to affect us a team.
“I think that from now there are going to be a few twists and turns, 13 games is still quite a lot of games and there’s always one person who comes steaming into the play-offs.
“I don’t know who will end up being in the top six and in what order it will be.
“But we know that the way we play and with the squad that we have got here and the way we feel as a squad that we are more than capable of going up.
“We have just got to keep believing in ourselves and showing that on the pitch.”
Bamford showed absolute belief in his own ability to turn away other stern offers from Tyler Roberts and Pablo Hernandez to take United’s penalty, awarded after Roberts was sent sprawling by Pawel Olkowski.
Bamford confidently sent Remi Matthews the wrong way and though Bolton equalised six minutes later as Mark Beevers powered home from a corner, Gjanni Alioski’s deflected cross eight minutes after the hour which dipped underneath the crossbar ensured United bagged all three points.
The game was somewhat soured by a melee midway through the second half, which began when Bolton’s Josh Magennis slammed Alioski to the floor.
Bolton’s Joe Williams attempted to drag Alioski off the ground and Mateusz Klich reacted by spraying water at Williams from a drinks bottle.
Trotters chief Phil Parkinson and Pontus Jansson were then involved in an angry exchange of words and Parkinson was ultimately sent off as part of another frustrating day for the division’s second bottom side.
Yet the Trotters had their chances – with Josh Magennis squandering a free header from close range in the third minute and substitute Sammy Ameobi blasting a raking low shot inches wide in the dying stages.
But Leeds again squandered a plethora of opportunities with Bamford admitting he should have scored a hat-trick.
In the end, the forward had to settle for just one – his fourth of the season – all the more justifying the forward’s insistence to take the penalty. Bamford explained: “It was just one of them where Tyler wanted to take it because he won it and Pablo wanted it as well but there was no chance I wasn’t taking it – as soon as I got the ball.
“It’s one of them things where, as a striker, you want to score as many goals as possible.
“I missed four or five months of the season so I am playing catch-up and trying to score as many goals as I can.
“A penalty is almost a free shot so I am always going to want to take it.
“The boys were good. They took Ty and Pablo away just because I have seen it before.
“It happened before when I was at Middlesbrough where sometimes that distraction can put the player off or whatever but, luckily, it didn’t.”
Reflecting on the fracas in the second half, Bamford mused: “To be honest, I don’t know what happened.
“One of their players was stupid – it’s all handbags really on the pitch because no-one is really going to do anything on the pitch so I don’t know what was going on.
“And I don’t know what their manager was thinking, either.
“He is supposed to be the one who is probably calming his players down. He lost his head – but sometimes it happens and tempers get raised.”
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling (Shackleton 89), Jansson, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Hernandez, Harrison, Klich, Roberts (Dallas 81), Bamford. Unused substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Davis, Brown, Gotts, Stevens.
Bolton Wanderers: Matthews, Lowe, Beevers, Donaldson (Ameobi 74), Noone (Buckley 82), Olkowski, Connolly, O’Neil, Williams (Murphy 86), Magennis, Wheater. Unused substitutes: Williams, Little, Vela, Hobbs.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).