12th August 2023, Championship.
Check out David's website for updates and details on his many books on Leeds United; David Watkins (davidwatkinslufc.com)
I sometimes get exasperated when I watch Leeds, and today was another one of those days. We were within touching distance of a nil-nil draw which would have been perfectly acceptable at this stage of the season and with limited resources to call upon for a tricky away game at a historically difficult ground for us. Within touching distance but, as we are becoming so prone to do, we tossed it away with a daft challenge from Dan James in our own penalty box. One of those soft ones where we made the referee have to make a call. We continue to be our own worst enemy. I’m sure every Leeds fan in the ground just knew it would be our perennial thorn Jutkiewicz who would take it and score it!
Let’s be honest folks, we all knew this was going to be a difficult start to the season after that interminable delay in proceedings while we waited for the EFL to pull its finger out and approve our new owners. We didn’t know at that time that come early August we’d have ten players out injured and a couple on strike! But we knew it was going to be tough and we will be only more convinced of that having seen the game today.
The 19 players Daniel Farke could call on today, the only 19 he believed were ready for this game, included three goalkeepers and a player only signed in the last couple of days but even so, the side we started with looked at least capable of getting some sort of a result. At times we played some neat and tidy football and there was some pace at times too but, in all honesty, as someone said to me on the way out of the ground: “We could have played until ten o’clock tonight and not score!”
We simply had no punch up front while, too often, our final ball – be it a cross or a shot or a through ball – simply fell short of what was needed. Birmingham were not any better either. They pressed well and were in our faces making it as difficult as possible for us to play and they were content to play on the break which they often did well with the busy Dembele usually involved. But their final ball was also pretty much always as poor as ours; typically a through ball splitting our back line but not finding anyone in a decent position. Truth be told this was a poor spectacle of a football match, particularly in the first half and a meagre three shots on target from both teams put together tells the story pretty well.
Sadly, even the players who have looked sharp for us in the first two games, today looked weary and lacking in ideas. Ethan Ampadu was probably our best player again while Archie Gray tried his best but was constantly bogged down by not having any obvious pass to play. Jamie Shackleton was as busy as always but without creating much in the way of danger. Luke Ayling was again below par and he looks in need of a rest – too often he continues to get caught out of position and the pace he once had seems to have left him. Joffy Gelhardt is not firing on all cylinders and, in any case, was not getting enough decent service from either wing. Dan James in particular continued to frustrate the Leeds fans with his poor shooting and diabolical crossing, while Ian Poveda failed to live up to the promise he has shown in the limited minutes he had earlier this season. Even Sam Byram, who had injected life and potency into our play in the previous two halves of football we’d seen from him, was today nowhere near as positive. I hope it’s not the case but I even wondered if the Gnonto shenanigans were already having a deflating effect on our dressing room.
All in all our performance was crying out for a bit of experience and a bit more quality and that’s really where we are at. Had we had Willy Gnonto out there or Sinisterra maybe they’d have provided that punch I’m saying we were missing. Whether we will now ever see either of them again in a white, blue, or pink shirt, who knows? Daniel Farke told reporters after the game once again how he is desperate to add both quality and experience to his available squad. Until that happens, every game is going to be a huge challenge for us. Oh, and also as Daniel says, “We have to play without mistakes!”
Sky Bet Championship
Birmingham City 1 (Jutkiewicz pen 90+1)
Leeds United 0
Birmingham: Ruddy, Laird, Buchanan, Sanderson, Bielik, Bacuna (James 88), Dembele (Longelo 90+4), Long, Sunjic, Hogan (Jutkiewicz 88), Anderson (Miyoshi 65). Subs not used: Etheridge, Chang, Cosgrove, Williams, James, Khela.
Leeds: Meslier, Ayling, Cresswell, Struijk, Byram, Ampadu, Shackleton (Rodon 90+2), Gray, James, Poveda, Gelhardt (Rutter 67). Subs not used: Klaesson, Darlow, Gyabi, Bate, Hjelde, Drameh.
Booked: Ampadu, Byram (Leeds), Ruddy (Birmingham)
Referee: T. Robinson
Venue: St Andrew’s
Attendance: 20,451 (2,213 Leeds)