This is becoming an enjoyable ritual. Clean sheets, late goals and three points; it’s a formula that Garry Monk has instilled into his young playing group, and one that Leeds United followed again at Molineux on Saturday.
After a dire first half bereft of chances, a defensive lapse from Wolves allowed Hadi Sacko to turn provider for Kemar Roofe’s match winning goal. It was probably an own goal but hey, let’s just praise our man Roofe.
United’s performance on Saturday wasn’t revolutionary, not by any means. Instead, it was a professional business trip from a side clearly following the directions of their manager. More importantly, it was also the performance of a side that can push for the playoffs.
Wolves are nothing special, and on recent form could find themselves fighting for survival in April. But United got three points away from home. Regardless of circumstances or opponent, that’s an accomplishment and symbolises a side which can challenge for greater honours.
The victory pushes United into the top ten, sitting only three points below the top six.
If you would have told me back in August that United would be sitting just three points outside the top six on October 23, 2016, I would have said yes a million times and quickly moved on before the offer became too improbable. As would the fabulous James Mahoney, the man responsible for the latest episode of Elland Road Reports.
The formula is simple, but it’s becoming all too familiar and very effective. Barring the midweek slip up against Wigan, the plan is working. Since the start of September, Leeds has risen 12 places in the league despite averaging only one goal a game. Now, is it the plan perfect? Of course not.
We would all like more goals and a front line that could turn nail biters into blowouts.
But such attacking options are not currently on the roster. That’s a problem for another day. What we do have is a well established game plan and arguably the best pair of centre backs in the league.
The combination of Jansson and Bartley has become the heart and soul of this club, and nothing was different on Saturday. The pair patrolled the centre of defence with beautiful ease and disrupted the rare occasions when Wolves looked threatening.
United sat back for the first 45 minutes, daring Wolves to beat them. Spoiler alert: Wolves couldn’t.
The quality of our opponent must be raised, I’ll acknowledge that. But the power of Bartsson is the only reason Monk’s game style works. Without them, no strategy in the world would be boosting this club up the table.
Jansson and Bartley were the best two players on the pitch again Saturday, leading to yet another clean sheet away from home.
Monk was clearly pleased with the result and noted in his post match press conference that his team has become a really competitive outfit.
“Overall our character shone through today and we got the deserved three points. “I think we saw it out quite comfortably. Three points and a clean sheet - you have got to be happy.
“I think that it was an excellent performance. A really gritty typical Championship game where you have to dig in.
“We showed that side of it and I think that part of control and bit of football that we want to put on the pitch was there in patches today.
“You can’t always have it your own way, the Championship doesn’t allow you that.
Next up is our League Cup bout with Norwich on Tuesday. I hope the Canaries are ready… MOT.