Leeds United 3 Birmingham City 0: Shrewd Patrick Bamford call reaps dividends for Leeds United to pile on woe for Wayne Rooney

HARRY LAUDER’S song Keep Right On Till the End of the Road has been adapted by Birmingham City into their club anthem, but at the start of January, it is also a reminder for football teams everywhere to journey on amid a tough nine-month marathon even when they are tired and weary.

The course of Championship seasons rarely run smoothly and after a jittery run of one victory in five, Leeds United needed a settler and they got it at the expense of an out-of-form Birmingham City. They journey on.

Leeds – who handed a shock full debut to Norwegian keeper Kris Klaesson – with Illan Meslier suspended and Karl Darlow out after dislocating his thumb – calmed things down rather nicely indeed in a perfect way to start the new year.

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On one of the milestone match dates in the domestic calendar, there was significance in Patrick Bamford being the player to make the breakthrough in his first start of the campaign after 16 substitute appearances.

Leeds United's Patrick Bamford heads home the hosts' opener against Birmingham City at Elland Road. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.Leeds United's Patrick Bamford heads home the hosts' opener against Birmingham City at Elland Road. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Leeds United's Patrick Bamford heads home the hosts' opener against Birmingham City at Elland Road. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

In for Joel Piroe, Bamford scored the sort of goal which United have not scored enough of this season, a classic centre-forward’s contribution.

He rose above Emanuel Aiwu at the back stick to provide a relieving opener on 34 minutes from a right-wing cross from Dan James – with the forward providing a highlight which had nothing to do with his striking peroxide hair.

It was Bamford’s first goal at Elland Road since April 9 and Daniel Farke’s decision to start him reaped a dividend and proved the soundest of moves. The applause when he left the fray on 75 minutes said it all.

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Farke showed his shrewd side to start Bamford. Good managers truly earn their money by making such decisions over the course of the season.

James’s eighth goal of the campaign just before the interval following an excellent low cross from substitute Junior Firpo – who had replaced Sam Byram early on – looked to end the game as a competitive entity, with Blues looking what they currently are, a side anxiously looking over their shoulders towards the drop zone.

Firpo also assisted for the third – from Crysencio Summerville – midway through the second half as Leeds made the most of home comforts once again. At LS11, they look pretty impregnable, the issues are elsewhere.

New Year’s Day crowds can be notoriously muted and this was no exception in the first half hour of the game, even if the South Stand did try and provide some sport at the expense of Rooney. Thankfully for his sake, Leeds’s offerings did not provide their supporters much to get their teeth into early on, with the hosts looking a side grappling for a bit of form. They would find it and the Rooney baiting increased.

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Bamford’s goal, well-timed on a number of levels, provided some balm and James’s strike ahead of the break further sweetened the mood.

Georginio Rutter was denied a goal from a rebound following a heroic block from Blues defender Emmanuel Longelo. It came midway through the first half, straight after keeper John Ruddy had been called into his first piece of work to keep out Summerville’s strike with the loose ball then falling invitingly for Rutter.

The early incident of note saw Sam Byram exit the fray with a muscle injury, with Blues providing Leeds with just one scare, when Siriki Dembele getting away down the right, only for a heavy touch to let him down, enabling the immaculate Joe Rodon to cover and clear in the nick of time.

James’s strike ahead of the break – which took a slight deflection – gave Blues a mountain to climb.

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Klaesson was called into action just once in the final offerings when he kept out Dembele’s drive after he had wriggled past Ethan Ampadu.

He then earned his corn for second time early on the resumption to dash the Blues’ hopes of a lifeline after Juninho Bacuna profited from some fitful defending by Firpo.

A shot which flashed just wide from Ivan Sunjic before Bamford rattled the post with a low drive at the other end with Lee Buchanan getting in the way of James’s goalbound follow-up.

Summerville’s 12th goal of the season, a tidy low finish after a delicious Rutter pass had found Firpo on the gallop ensured Leeds punters had more fun at Rooney’s expense.

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His Blues side look relegation candidates on this evidence, something that might just interest the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town.

Leeds United: Klaesson, Gray, Rodon, Cooper, Byram (Firpo 18), Kamara, Ampadu; D James (Anthony 74), Summerville (Gnonto 74), Rutter (Poveda 85); Bamford (Piroe 75). Unused substitutes: Van den Heuvel, Spence, Joseph, Gruev.

Birmingham City: Ruddy; Aiwu, Sanderson, Buchanan, Longelo; J James (T Roberts 62), Sunjic (Gardner 62); Burke, Bacuna, Dembele; Stansfield. Unused substitutes: Etheridge, Jutkiewicz, Myoshi, Anderson, Oakley, Long, Donovan.

Referee: K Stroud (Wilts).