This column is part of a regular series from our panel of Leeds United Super Fans. Each week, our Super Fans will deliver their verdicts on the biggest talking points and news stories around Elland Road and Thorp Arch
Leeds have recorded back to back wins for the first time since a 2-0 win at home to Hull in mid-December – two 1-0 wins against Bristol City and Reading.
The latest win keept us second, but for the second week running, results went in our favour. We’re now five points clear of third-placed Fulham and the rest of the chasing pack in the play-offs.
It’s tight at the top with only a six-point gap to sixth. A gap which was kept in place thanks to a magnificent save from Kiko Casilla late in the game against Reading.
He denied Liam Moore superbly, and all but redeemed himself from recent mistakes against the likes of Brentford and Wigan. The potential charge and ban may now come at a bad time for a goalkeeper who has kept back-to-back clean sheets after none in the previous 13 games.
It was a tale of the Spaniards against Reading with Pablo Hernandez showing what we have missed in recent weeks at the other end.
A piece of spellbinding footwork was enough to score the deciding goal of the game. The magic man has nine goal contributions this season (5G, 4A), but from just 25 games. His fitness and form could be key to more points in the run-in. Particularly in tight games such as this.
On the other hand, the win over Bristol City could not have been a more one-sided and dominant win – somehow by only a single goal despite 20 shots to just three from Lee Johnson’s side.
Infogol had xG at 3.02 for Leeds and a staggering 0.08 for Bristol city which speaks volumes about the level of performance. Leeds’ first win in four, and first clean sheet in thirteen games too.
It had to be Luke Ayling didn’t it? Sending the home support into raptures with his early goal against his former team. Bamford and Costa in particular squandered some good chances one-on-one. Harrison and Dallas were unlucky to see their shots hit the bar. Bentley was absolutely fantastic for Bristol City, but the three points were still secured and the most pleasing part was a much-needed, and long-awaited clean sheet.
There were so many outstanding performances across the board for Leeds, but the quality of the last three performances have coincided with Kalvin Phillips’ return to the side.
The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ was absolutely seismic in the midfield to bring that much-needed stability and control back. It does feel like the key to promotion lies within him staying fit for the final 12 games.
With a favourable run in it’s good to have breathing room again at the top. There is greater impetus to go out and make it count now. With Middlesbrough (a), Hull (a), and Huddersfield (h) in the next three games, we’ve got a real chance to put clear daylight between us and those chasing. Realistically these games should give us a minimum of seven points if we are serious about a top-two finish.
Fulham at home closely follows these games, but apart from that, Leeds don’t have any other games against sides in the top seven. By contrast, Fulham have six games against the sides around them. No team gunning for promotion can boast a better fixture list in my opinion.
Time to make it count…
With seven of the current bottom ten to play, it leaves things well within Leeds’ hands. The only caveat to that being those teams will be needing points at the bottom end at this crunch point of the season.
That, and there are also potential banana skins in the Yorkshire derby/rival games with the likes of Huddersfield and Barnsley still to come to Elland Road, and away games against Middlesbrough and Hull this week.
Seven points from the last three fixtures is a brilliant return. Despite only three goals scored in those matches, the signs are promising. However, the most pleasing aspect is that we seem to have regained our control of games and cut out most of the silly individual mistakes.
Hopefully, the last three performances have seen us turn a corner. This is the biggest chance we have had since getting relegated. Time to show we mean business and show some bottle. The raised standard is in no small part to the form of both Phillips and Hernandez who have both played extremely well in the recent games.
The Man of the Match against Reading for me though, was the ‘Cookstown Cafu’ who was superb at full-back yet again. Dallas probably won’t win the player-of-the-season award but he certainly has been as consistent as anyone this season and in recent games too. His constant relentless running up and down the flank. His reliable passing and decision making. His defensive astuteness. His versatility at both full-back positions and in central-midfield too. He has been phenomenal.
As for what is to come: Middlesbrough away and Hull away this week. There are no easy games in this league but they are winless in ten and nine games respectively. The sort of winnable games The Whites should take advantage of to make it four wins on the bounce and five unbeaten. The type of form which breeds confidence at such a key part of the season.
Please, just get it done Leeds…
Adam Elliott is a member of the MOT Super Fans panel and provides his post-match thoughts on Leeds after every game
In other Leeds United news, Bielsa delivers Leeds fitness update on Casilla and Phillips for clash v Boro