Leeds overcome limited Barnsley
Sunday, 26th Nov 2017 12:48 by Tim Whelan
Leeds recovered from the midweek mauling by Wolves to overcome Barnsley in this occasionally fractious Yorkshire derby.
Thomas Christiansen reacted to Wednesday night’s defeat by making a couple of key changes to the starting line-up. Lonegran was dropped after his uncertain performances of late and, Eukuban replaced Roofe as the lone striker. The other change was enforced, with Vieira’s suspension meaning that O’Kane had to take his place in midfield.
Leeds began the game in determined fashion and force a number of corners, though one of them ended with Pontus Jannson picking up the first yellow card of the game for a cynical trip as Barnsley broke dangerously downfield with our central defenders out of position. That left him with a lot of time to get through without getting a separate yellow card, but somehow he managed it.
Other corners led to chances as Ekuban had a shot blocked while Alioski sent a fierce shot wide, and then and incident during another Leeds attack led to an undercurrent of bad feeling that was to last for the rest of the first half.
Ayling lost his footing as he went past Barnes, but got straight up and made no attempt to appeal for a penalty, looking for the ball instead. So it didn’t look he hadn’t gone down intentionally, but that wasn’t how Barnes saw, and an altercation ensued after he furiously accused Ayling for diving. Both players were booked, but it’s hard to see what Ayling could have done other than act in self-defence.
But that didn’t distract Leeds from the serious business of taking the lead, and the goal duly arrived in the 23rd minute. Saiz produced one of his trademark runs through midfield, and just when I thought he should have played to the unmarked Hernandez on the left, he opted to shoot between two defenders and Davies failed to keep it out. The Barnsley keeper should have done better.
Leeds continued to dominate, and it was becoming clear that an inexperienced Barnsley side weren’t the kind of physical team who have given us so much trouble in the games where we have struggled this season. If you give this Leeds team the space to play through you they have the quality to overcome most of the teams in this division.
One of the few efforts Barsnley managed ended with Linsey heading wide. Wiedwald was troubled by little except the sun, which was low in the sky behind the stand at the opposite end. I was wondering why he wasn’t wearing a cap, and another fan obviously thought so to, as he came down the steps to lend the keeper his own cap for the rest of the half, and thankfully he would be rewarded with Wiedwald’s jersey at the end of the game.
Barnes got a final warning from the ref, which might have led to our second goal, when he pulled out of tackling Ayling on the edge of the box. So Ayling was able to slip the ball to Alioski, who curled a superb shot round the Barnley defenders into the far corner of the net. We might have been lucky to get this goal, as the ref had indicated four minutes injury time at the end of the first half, which had just about expired when we took the throw that led to the goal.
It was no surprise that Barnes was substituted during the break, to spare Barnsley the danger of going down to ten men. In the first few minutes of the second half Leeds were very close to going three in front, as a free kick from Hernandez was deflected just wide of the post. And it began to look like we could have done with the extra cushion, as Barnsley started to show signs of getting back into the game.
Wiedwald made us nervous as ever, opting to punch a couple of times when he could have caught the ball, but thankfully didn’t have much to do, and the first decent shot Barnsley produced was straight at him. At the other end Alioski tried a spectacular overhead kick but the ball didn’t quite come down far enough for him and he could only send it over the bar.
I was impressed with the amount of work Ekuban had been putting in, a big improvement on Lonegran with his willingness to track back and help with a few tackles, and it showed what we have missed during the time he was out with injury. I really hoped that he could cap his performance with a goal, but when his best chance came he needed to take an extra touch, which took it to an angle that was slightly too narrow and he could only put it into the side netting.
Barnsley continued to press, and one late move led to a dangerous ball being sent across the face of goal, which Jansson didn’t dare to touch for fear of putting it into his own net, but Cooper was able to get to the far post to clear the danger. And it always looked like Barnsley were going to run out of the time they need to get two goals and secure a point, so Leeds held on for a victory to take up to eighth in the table.
All in all it hasn’t been a bad week for Leeds, with two wins and a defeat by the best team in the league. If we can maintain the team spirit and willingness to work for the cause that was evident today, we should be well capable of ending up in the play-off positions by the end of the season.
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