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Leeds get back to winning ways at Blackburn
Sunday, 5th Jul 2020 11:18 by Tim Whelan

In the early stages this looked like a game that could go either way, but by the end Leeds ran out comfortable winners over Blackburn Rovers.

After Wednesday night’s disappointing draw with Luton, Leeds were under a bit of pressure to win this game, especially with WBA and Brentford having closed the gap at the top of the table by winning their matches. Blackburn were keen to create some atmosphere for the big game with some crowd noises over the PA, but they were a bit unrealistic, with not a peep to represent the 7,000 Leeds fans who would have been present, nor any obscene chanting about Jimmy Saville.

There were a couple of changes to our starting line-up, with captain Cooper returning from injury and Dallas dropping out after picking up a knock of his own against Luton. And Costa was left out and not even included among the subs, while Douglas returned at left-back and Alioski moved further forward on that flank.

It took Leeds only seven minutes to get in front, with Klick catching Travis in possession and playing an excellent ball through to Bamford, and our much-maligned striker fired home from 15 yards with his favoured left foot. Blackburn complained that the initial tackled on Travis should have been a foul, but the referee was unmoved, and the goal stood.

But after taking the lead we had to ride our luck a little, with the defence suffering a few dodgy moments as Blackburn tried to hit back straight away. The game was certainly becoming eventful, open and entertaining, but this wasn’t really was my nerves needed at this vital stage of the season. Gallagher should have equalised when he was played through by Armstrong, but seemed to lose control at the vital moment and dragged the shot wide.

Then Holtby had a couple of chances, one being saved by Meslier, and the other coming back off the post. And Blackburn did get the ball in the net, only to have the effort ruled out for offside. But after we had got through that dodgy spell we managed to re-establish a bit of control and produce a few decent moves at the other end of the field.

And after Bamford was unlucky to see a shot come back off the post, we extended our lead five minutes before the break. Tyler Roberts was fouled just outside the box and as the conference began over the free kick I shouted at my laptop “for gods sake don’t let Phillips take it!” And just to make me look a tit, Phillips stepped up and curled the ball superbly into the top left hand corner of the net.

So it we went in at half time looking comfortably in command, but Blackburn were gifted the chance to get back in the game within a few minutes of the restart. They were awarded a free kick of their own when Gallagher went up for a header and missed it, landing on Phillips as he came back down. I don’t know what else Phillips could have done, as he hadn’t even got off the floor, and hadn’t had time to get out of the way.

That said, Armstrong’s free kick was superb, putting it right in the top corner so that Meslier thought there was no point even moving to try to get to it. Although Meslier had stood well to the right of his goal, meaning he stood no chance once Armstrong had successfully chipped the wall. I’m a great believer in the keeper standing right in the centre of the goal at free kicks for that reason.

If Blackburn had gone on to get something from this game I would have moaned about that decision for a very long time, especially when pointing out to my dear friends on social media who support rival clubs that we would undoubtedly have won without that monstrous injustice. But I needn’t have worried.

Leeds got back on the front foot, and after a shot from Ayling went narrowly wide, we restored the two goal advantage in the 53rd minute. A shot from the edge of the box from Harrison was blocked but came back to Klich, and his was effort was deflected before finding it’s way into the bottom corner. And after that Blackburn seemed completely deflated, and we were able to control the game comfortably.

Instead of sitting back we kept pressing forward in search of further goals, and might have got one if Ayling had managed to get his header on target from close range. And a if Bamford and Alioski hadn’t started to take it in turns to be offside every time we made a promising attack. That is of course the disadvantage with Alioski further forward on the left rather than making late runs from a nominal left back position.

On the one occasion Bamford was played through without being offside, he pushed the ball one side of the keeper before falling over Walton’s body as he tried to go round the other side. The LUTV crew were baying for Walton’s dismissal, but to be honest I couldn’t see where there was a clear goalscoring opportunity. Bamford had given himself a lot to do to run round and get the ball before the defenders, and although Harrison was racing down the right I don’t think he would have got there in time.

Walton only got a yellow card and therefore was still on the field to save the free kick from Douglas. By now Hernandez had come on for Roberts, and he was his usual busy self, as we continued to press for a fourth goal while Blackburn tired. Cooper and Bamford went close in the closing stages, and as we went into injury time Shackleton came on for Klich to provide a bit more energy to help us to see the game out.

So in the end it was a comfortable victory, and perhaps the first time since the return from lockdown that our superior fitness had proved to be decisive. There was disappointing news that Brentford had also won against Wigan, when I had hoped for a reaction from the piemen after having gone into administration this week.

But we remain six points clear of the Bees, and now there are only five games left. And strangely enough there are four teams that both of us have to play in those five games, so not a lot to choose from when trying to decide who has the harder run-in. But we do know that three wins a draw will be enough from those five games, and after yesterday’s performance I think that this time we’re finally going to do it.

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