Leeds’ winning run ends at Huddersfield with just two shots on target and not a lot of football


Ten minutes of injury time at the end of the first half, when 10 hours would have been about right. Ball in play for 22 minutes of that half and a West Yorkshire derby crowd reduced to guessing where the first red card would land.

Football? After a fashion, but not quite as God intended it.

A red card duly landed at the feet of Jonathan Hogg, Huddersfield Town’s enforcer and captain, just before half-time arrived, a second yellow card his punishment for planting a forearm in Junior Firpo’s face. There was Leeds’ cue to cut the nonsense, and Daniel Farke had seen plenty of days like this before, matches requiring patience or perseverance until the tide turns and sweeps opponents out to sea. But not this time and not at Huddersfield’s expense.

Rationally, the obvious point for Farke to make after a 1-1 draw was that in anything other than a rigged competition, you cannot win them all. A club record got away from him at Huddersfield, a 10th league victory in succession, but given that Leeds have not built a run so long at any time since their incarnation at Salem Chapel in 1919 says something about what they have been doing since the turn of the year. Success breeds success and the more it grows, the greater the scope to be a victim of it or harshly judged by the failure to sustain it. Time was when a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield would do, and perhaps it still will.

GettyImages 2053128824 scaled


Leeds boss Daniel Farke (Ed Sykes/Getty Images)

Opta noted this week that on the day in 1931 when Leeds last put nine league wins together back-to-back, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein was being released. It was a neat reference to the monster Farke has been trying to build at Elland Road, and Huddersfield went into bat against it with the unapologetic intention of fighting it; sticking feet in, playing for attacking set pieces, avoiding the naivety of thinking they could mimic Leeds’ strategy and better them at it. One of these teams might be going up and it is not the one inherited by Andre Breitenreiter. Breitenreiter’s fronted up like a side who will do what is necessary to avoid going down. “They played with a knife between their teeth,” Farke said. “But no complaints. It’s what you expect.”

Eight days earlier, Leicester City had taken the cultured approach in trying to beat Leeds, coming very close to pulling it off but ultimately failing. Though Leeds cashed in lucky chips against Leicester, the open nature of that game enhanced the chances of a fightback occurring because open football is what Farke’s squad like. The ball in play for 22 minutes in one half yesterday was very much their nemesis, the flow grinding to a halt whenever it tried to gather pace, nobody able to find their rhythm. Huddersfield rued Hogg, already on a caution, chinning Firpo as the full-back went up for a header because their game plan had them 1-0 to the good. But it was also likely that the vibes Hogg epitomised would come with that consequence.

Leeds had fallen behind a few minutes earlier, sucked into the sort of foul Huddersfield were looking for, wide on the left and within good range of Illan Meslier’s box. A Danny Ward header from it put the cat among the pigeons, and Meslier’s parry sat up nicely for Michel Helik to smash the loose ball in, an almost unmissable chance. Leeds had seen something similar at the start of the match, their most fluid attack ending at the feet of Crysensio Summerville who had a lot of vacant net to aim at but angled his shot in a way which let goalkeeper Lee Nicholls block it with a leg. The spectacle would have been different had that gone in but much time passed before Leeds got that close again.

The depth of their toil was not unrelated to the fact that until half-time, the game was stationary too often: Hogg chopping down Summerville to earn his first booking, Matty Pearson going into Willy Gnonto’s ribs and then going down the back of Summerville’s left leg with his studs, Yuta Nakayama forced off after being inadvertently caught by Hogg’s foul on Summerville, medical teams running back and forward and the stretcher forever poised in the technical area. If this had been snooker, the contest before Helik scored would have justified a re-rack. But that goal and Hogg’s rapid dismissal was an opportunity for Farke to apply a few tweaks, push Leeds through the gears and turn the screw.

An equaliser came in the 67th minute when Dan James fed Connor Roberts and Patrick Bamford slid in the Welsman’s killer cut-back but Leeds’ creativity and the weight of chances they fashioned failed to reflect Huddersfield’s inferior numbers. Breitenreiter’s organisation took some credit for that, disciplined lines in a 4-4-1 and deep defending curtailing some of Leeds’ pace.

Glen Kamara, unusually, was a yard behind in his thinking in midfield. Summerville clipped a post late on but found the end of too many cul-de-sacs and Leeds were almost guilty of force-feeding him as they went after a winning goal, neglecting to send enough possession down the right where Roberts and James had come off the bench and were offering fresher legs. Georginio Rutter headed a good chance from a corner over too but two shots on target was not the sound of water crashing on the rocks.

glen kamara huddersfield 1 1 leeds championship 2023 24 passmap

“We were a bit slow in the head,” admitted Farke, who said the atmosphere in his dressing room afterwards was more akin to a bruising defeat. “I like this ambition and this attitude but it’s important not to dwell on it.” That’s the Championship: about to break records one minute, keeping results in perspective the next. The only job harder than managing in the league is trying to referee in it, particularly when games like Saturday’s make it nigh-on impossible to please anybody.

Farke has the advantage of having two titles behind him and, as such, can hope that words of wisdom cut through with more effect than the average soundbite. A draw could be worth its weight in gold, he insisted. A single point could be worth two or three places at the end of the season. Too true. But what happened a couple of hours later — Leicester losing to Queens Park Rangers, Ipswich Town navigating their way past Plymouth Argyle and Southampton using the 96th minute to slap down Birmingham City — only reinforced the suspicion that all four clubs in this marathon are going need every point they can get.

(Top photo: Ed Sykes/Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top