On Good Friday Bolton Wanderers travelled to Elland Road, backed by a sell out away crowd of 2,500, a hotly anticipated fixture which unfortunately, didn’t quite go as planned.
Lining up in the regular 4-2-3-1 formation, the only changes made to the team by Phil Parkinson since last time out against Aston Villa was the return of Jan Kirchhoff to the side in place of short-term injury absentee Karl Henry whilst another injury set back for Darren Pratley allowed for the re-introduction of Josh Vela to the XI.
Upon kick off, Wanderers appeared shy, began to wobble and it immediately became apparent that we looked vulnerable to the pacy Leeds attacking force at the back from minute one. Stand in captain Andrew Taylor nearly gifted Leeds an opener inside 90 seconds after a woeful pass-back only reached an onrushing Caleb Ekuban who thankfully failed to take advantage, skying his rushed attempt.
Despite the initial let off for Bolton, it was only two minutes later that our backline failed to deal with a dangerous attack which was all but diffused before the ball fell nicely to Ekuban once more who struck the ball home sweetly on the half volley inside the 18 yard box, easily beating rooted ‘keeper Ben Alnwick.
Immediately on the back foot, Leeds continued to press, causing all kinds of defensive headaches as the team had options on either flank and through the middle subsequently making it impossible to defend against or single out a particularly influential target and making our lives significantly harder.
The hosts grew in confidence as the half progressed and with Wanderers looking less than impressive going forward and appearing unlikely to pull one back before the break, the Whites shut up shop in the hope that we could remain in the game going into the second half.
As the sides turned it round, the tactically defensive approach fabricated on the brink of half time worked momentarily until Leeds once again found a way through and took advantage of our defence who, at times, looked half asleep resultantly doubling their lead prior to the 50th minute, Pablo Hernandez being the first to scramble the ball home into an empty net from the initial effort which was well saved, wasn’t followed up and we were punished for allowing another second ball inside to go loose in the area.
Despite this additional blow to our hopes, as opposed to our response to the first goal when everyones heads dropped, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves down and went in search of a goal to get us back in it.
This change in attitude meant it was only a matter of time before we pulled one back and in what style. An un-saveable glancing Adam Le Fondre header from a dangerous Sammy Ameobi delivery sent the mass away following into raptures, unleashing smoke bombs, bangers and other pyrotechnics in celebration.
The travelling fans really acted as a 12th man in the second period, willing the team on and were in good voice throughout. Leeds also have them to thank for the seasons record attendance at Elland Road, the announcement for which was greeted with jeers and chants of ‘you only came to see the Wanderers’.
The goal immediately saw a change in tone atmospherically and tactically as Bolton were on top from then on, with each attack looking like it would eventually result in a goal.
Just seconds later, Sammy Ameobi surged forward, refusing to be knocked off the ball and with some excellent footwork, reached the edge of the box and let fly, his effort unfortunately arrowed narrowly wide of the far post.
In the hope of earning ourselves a point from the game, Parky went all out throwing on another three attacking options in the form of Filipe Morais, Aaron Wilbraham and Zach Clough over the course of the second 45. Each replacement made us look like a better team and each gave us a glimmer of hope with their respective impressive contributions.
Unfortunately, Wanderers’ confidence and later dominance was prolonged too far and as the game drew to a close, Leeds re-took control, recognising that their lead was likely to stay intact given that the previous 25 minutes of continuous Bolton attacks proved to no avail.
Leeds very nearly put the game to bed in stoppage time as a ball floated over the top evaded our tiring defence, leaving Ekuban one on one Alnwick but managed to squander his golden opportunity as his effort was smartly blocked by Alnwick’s left boot.
Despite being unable to wrap the game up, Leeds saw out the game taking a very undeserved all three points from the match.
This was much to the dismay of the travelling support whom stayed till the end and were as faithful as ever in their acknowledgement of a much improved performance in the second half, one which didn’t warrant a loss as I’m sure we can all agree.
Friday’s result provides more of an incentive for us to go all out tonight and puts even more at steak for this crunch match under the lights at home to Birmingham who will be backed by a similarly impressive 5,000 fans.
This isn’t one to be missed ladies and gents so get down to the Macron if you can and cheer on the lads. If you can’t for whatever reason then you needn’t worry as you can tune in later today as we’ll be here to take you through it as it happens.
Did someone say squeaky bum time?