Leeds United getting the job done this time with substance over style

Back on track|: Patrick Bamford celebrates his penalty.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Back on track|: Patrick Bamford celebrates his penalty. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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TWO avowed footballing idealists, Marcelo Bielsa and Tony Mowbray have a lot more in common than their previous status as central defenders in their playing days.

When questioned on his coaching inspirations, the former cites luminaries such as Rinus Michels – the father of ‘Total Football’ – and Arrigo Sacchi as shining lights, while Mowbray, who famously used to take the train from Ipswich to London to attend midweek Arsenal matches in days gone by, is a self-confessed devotee to the methods of Arsene Wenger.

They have stuck by him and he has stuck by himself and we have all stuck by him.

Tyler Roberts on Patrick Bamford

Principled football men they may be, but both know enough about the Championship to realise that sometimes, you have to be pragmatic to get to your destination. Especially on cold, dank November afternoons.

Speak to Leeds supporters and there will be talk of them having played better last season in an enlightening campaign of re-awakening.

But this season is ultimately all about substance as opposed to style. If you can win with a swagger, all well and good, Yet failing that, just win. It is a points business as Leeds well know.

Leeds did that for the fourth consecutive time at Elland Road and as with previous victories over QPR, Birmingham City and West Bromwich, this was not without its imperfections.

Yet on a day when rivals Albion, Preston, Fulham and Nottingham Forest also triumphed, United did what they had to do.

Not that the day was without a bonus or two. The sight of Patrick Bamford reacquainting himself with the goals trail for the first time since August 24 was handy and Jack Harrison’s second goal on successive Saturdays further showcased a player who is not short of confidence these days.

For the most part, though, it cannot be denied that Saturday was a bit of an arm wrestle.

Leeds – after netting twice in the first half at Elland Road for the first time since March 1 – tantalisingly hinted at filling their boots in front of their own punters, before falling away in a laboured second period.

Fortunately, the game management which is seeing them squeeze the life out of increasing numbers of second-tier opponents came to the fore. Net result – another victory, with Leeds being a point better off than last season’s class after 16 games.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that Leeds conceded a first-half league goal at Elland Road for the first time in 2019-20.

It proved a momentary aberration, in what constituted Blackburn’s sole effort on target.

Rovers had a team bonding day at a go-karting track last Monday. They were to hit the slow lane in West Yorkshire five days on.

Leeds were not spectacular, but they did not have to be. Instead, they are displaying traits of a side who are possessing an unerring knack of getting the job done as they continue to strive to make up for last season’s shattering finale.

Tyler Roberts observed: “Of course, it was not a nice feeling. It was a horrible feeling which stayed with you through the whole summer. But you have to try and keep motivated and believing that this can be the year.

“It (Elland Road) is a fortress this season and the fans have shown that and kept supporting and believing and it is a great place to be.

“Getting the three points is the main thing. We try to play well every week and in our style, but as long as we get the win, then it is the most important thing.”

Fresh from his strike the previous weekend, Roberts fancied his chances when United were awarded a spot-kick after Tosin Adarabioyo’s challenge on Luke Ayling following his clever pass.

Seniority won the day with Bamford assuming responsibility and his coolly-taken penalty proved it was the right call.

Roberts added: “I think he was desperate to have it. I also wanted it and that is just the way it goes.

“It was nice for him to get that feel of hitting the back of the net again and the fans were amazing. They have stuck by him and he has stuck by himself and we have all stuck by him.

“We know he is a great goal-scorer and I am sure that they will start coming in now.”

After doing the necessary from 12 yards, Bamford should have derived just as much pleasure from his sublime control and lay-off to set up Harrison’s goal soon after.

It constituted the one moment of class on a pretty forgettable occasion, with Harrison dutifully finishing low past Walton.

It looked for all the world like being a routine afternoon, only for Blackburn to produce a jolt five minutes before the break.

Stewart Downing’s zip and thrust may have gone these days, but his ability to whip in a decent deadball has not deserted him.

His outswinging corner caught United napping and Derrick Williams netted with a firm header.

Despite the food for thought, Leeds were never unduly troubled on the restart.

Indeed, the only frustration was their inability to kill the game with Harrison and Roberts going the closest.

But after two late goals on the previous Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday, there was no encore for Blackburn – and no last-gasp drama unlike the scarcely believable events of this fixture last season when Leeds scored two-stoppage time goals to register a crazy victory.

This was positively mundane in comparison, but three points all the same, with the only downer being the sight of Liam Cooper walking off gingerly on 72 minutes with what looked like a reoccurrence of a groin injury.