Every team goes through a rough patch of the season – even the seemingly untouchable Liverpool were on a run of four defeats in six before the coronavirus suspension – and the Whites’ wobble started with December’s 3-3 draw at home to Cardiff City.
Surrendering a 3-0 lead prompted a sequence of 12 matches only two of which Leeds won. With memories of how the previous season’s promotion push collapsed midway through, it was the last thing supporters needed for their peace of mind.
During most of that period, Leeds could at least claim to have played the better football, but not at Nottingham Forest, where they were all over the place at times in a televised 2-0 defeat.
The post-match press conference was tetchy, coach Marcelo Bielsa again forced to come to the defence of his goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who was starting to exhaust the patience of Leeds fans. There were questions too about centre-forward Patrick Bamford, who had wasted a good chance in the first half and had only scored in one of the previous eight matches.
Particularly in division’s as notoriously inconsistent as the Championship, difficult moments are inevitable even for the best teams, the key is how you respond. Looking back on it, Mateusz Klich has revealed the galvanising effect that night had on his team-mates.
“After the Nottingham Forest game we said, ‘This is enough,’ and that from the Brentford game we needed to play better,” recalled the Polish midfielder.
“The Brentford game was a perfect game for us, we could have won it and we should have won it.
“After that we showed everyone we are really strong and we can really do it but obviously something has got in our way now.”
The Brentford game three days later was drawn, 1-1, and after that Leeds won their next five matches in a row without conceding a goal.
Casilla started that run, shutting out Bristol City, Reading and Middlesbrough, then handing over to deputy Illan Meslier when he was banned for eight matches for allegedly using racist language towards Congolese forward Jonathan Leko in September’s trip to Charlton Athletic.
In the last of the five games, Bamford broke his duck, scoring his 13th goal of the season as a reinvigorated Huddersfield Town were beaten 2-0 at Elland Road.
Having allowed them to catch up during their wobble, Bielsa’s men are now seven points clear of third-placed Fulham with nine matches to play.
How and when English football chooses to come out of the coronavirus lockdown will go a long way to determining Leeds fate, but if they do end up back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004, they can look back on a miserable night in the east Midlands as vitally important.
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.