The rearranged game with Bournemouth, brought forward due to the latter's involvement in the F.A. Cup could have been a tricky one. Free-scoring against freely-conceeding, team high on confidence against a team low on luck - what could go wrong? Well, for a change, nothing - it all went...strangely right. Lady Luck owed us a backhander and tonight was a good night to collect.
Out-passed, at times out-run but crucially not outplayed; Leeds rode their luck in this encounter but emerged with a well-fought victory. It is slowly coming together and, like most Leeds fans, the encouraging signs are actually making me look forward to the end of the season.
Marco Silvestri’s rollercoaster distribution accuracy hit the depths in this game with only 34% accuracy in his distribution, that coming from 4 successful goal kicks, 1 successful kick from hand and 5 successful kicked/passed clearances. This 34% accuracy in distribution of the ball was down from a season-high of 67% during Saturday’s game against Birmingham. However, the other aspects of Silvestri’s game remained solid, especially so his ‘claim success’ which again remained at 100%; he also made another 3 saves to give him 73 for the season thus far and cement his place as #3 ranked keeper by saves in the Championship. Silvestri’s returns for this game of 3 saves per goal and 3 overall saves are both above her season p/game returns of 2.03 saves per goal ad 2.70 saves per game. His current shot-stopping return against open play shots on target (requiring a save) is around 71% (70.9% with 30 goals conceded against 73 saves made). It is this quality alone that Leeds will likely rely on more this season than his ‘in’ability to pick out fellow Leeds players with a threaded pass.
The solidity and cohesiveness of the Leeds United back four continues to grow and prosper under the new tactical formation and the extra protection afforded by having two midfield players centrally in front of them. What needs to be remembered is that, Bellusci aside, not one of the others began the season as a regular in the position they played tonight; watching them it was like this was a 27 match-seasoned line up. Bellusci, up until his sending off on 85 minutes, had a good, solid game winning more tackles (3) than he lost (2) and making 4 timely interceptions of Bournemouth passes (vs a season return of 2.88 interceptions per 90) and also leading in the number of defensive clearances made (7). Scott Wootton also had another solid game in the unfamiliar right back position and Charlie Taylor continues to grow well in the left back position vacated by the recently-departed Stephen Warnock.
Leeds were outpassed by a strong-passing Bournemouth side; Bournemouth having 560 passes to Leeds’ 348 – Bournemouth having 61.70% of the games total passes. Scott Wootton was Leeds’ top passer with 50 passes and was closely followed by the increasingly impressive Luke Murphy with 49 passes. Leeds’ intention was to press Bournemouth up the park this shown in the 200 passes with a target zone of Bournemouth’s final third of the field which was just over 57% of Leeds’ total passes. Leeds’ midfield five contributed 208 of the 348 team passes; this was good enough for just shy of 60% of the team total (59.77%) with just over 50% of the midfield passes (105) having a final third target zone. Lewis Cook put in a commanding performance which caught the eye: 5 dribbles (4 successfully beating opponents), won 50% of his tackles (1 from 2) and blocked 2 crosses. Luke Murphy, carrying on his recent resurgence, had another top game: 2 shots (both on target – 1 goal), 100% tackle rate (5 from 5), 2 pass interceptions and also put in 8 crosses. The resurgent drive amongst former fringe players continued with Rodolph Austin: 100% tackle rate (2 from 2), 6 pass interceptions, 2 blocks (1 pass, 1 cross) and 6 shots (only one on target). The newly ‘packed’ midfield seems both productive and, at the same time, helpful towards nullifying opposition threats before they get to the heart of the defence which was something that happened with regularity under ‘the diamond’ days.
Steve Morison again led the line and caused all manner of problems for the Bournemouth defence before he was replaced on 66 minutes by Billy Sharp. Morison is that lynch-pin in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Leeds have reverted to and it is encouraging to hear him being cheered when he left the pitch because he does put in that ‘honest shift’ that Leeds fans demand from the players. He showed good anticipation to close down Bournemouth players, intercepting 2 passes and making 6 headed passes to supporting players.
The adrenaline has coursed through my veins, rational thought has returned and lingering doubt is being replaced by ever-growing quiet optimism. Things are looking up.
It's suddenly conducive to good health being a Leeds United fan.