Chris Wood continued his impressive run of scoring form and Leeds United came through as comfortable 1-0 winners on Saturday against Ipswich Town. Wood’s header from close range was enough to see Garry Monk and his charges earn their fourth consecutive victory, a first since being promoted from League One in the 2009-2010 season.
Keeping the momentum going
Monk wasn't prepared to allow his side to lose focus prior to Saturday afternoon's fixture, despite Leeds having plenty to be joyful about in recent weeks, and he was adamant that his players would be doing their utmost to be keep the winning run going.
Resting a handful of first-team players for Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with Blackburn showed that he had confidence throughout the entire squad. After having a night off midweek, Rob Green returned between the sticks, as Hadi Sacko took up his accustomed position on the right flank.
Pontus Jansson recovered from illness in time to return in the centre of defence. Liam Bridcutt wasn't quite up to match fitness, as Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O'Kane took up midfield responsibilities.
Chris Wood replaced Marcus Antonsson up front, while Pablo Hernandez took over from Kemar Roofe in the starting XI.
Game of two halves
United started slowly, with Ipswich coming out of the blocks quickly and pressing the issue in the first 10 minutes of the match.
But with the Bartley, Jansson partnership back in force, the defence again looked very assured. Weathering an early storm, a venture into the Leeds half saw a fierce Wood effort smack the Ipswich post. Stepping in from the left, the Kiwi stole a yard on his marker and unleashed a drive against the post with the keeper stranded.
The effort seemed to inspire an otherwise flat Leeds, as the home side began to take control of the rest of the half without creating anything clear-cut.
The Ipswich doors began to creak and as Charlie Taylor found himself on the by-line after being slipped in from a cute pass, he dug out a cross that found Wood waiting at the back post - he didn't need much convincing to head his fourth goal in as many games.
The goal came less than 10 minutes before the break and seemed to take all remaining wind out of Ipswich sails.
But frustration towards the referee from the Leeds fans grew, as the man in the middle penalised Jansson on the edge of the box for a soft foul on Leon Best, right on half-time.
Arguably, in just fashion, the free kick was over-hit and harmlessly bounced out of play. 1-0 Leeds at half-time.
Ahead, and improved in the second half
Despite going in ahead, Leeds weren't entirely convincing in the first period. Monk must have had a word at half-time as the Whites came flying out after the break.
Sacko was keen to get in on the action and the likes of Phillips and O'Kane were doing their best to spread the play. The Frenchman was getting at his opposite number all too often for Town, as Leeds began to turn the screw.
Just before the hour mark the impressive Hernandez sent Wood through, who was denied by Bialkowski's legs.
Soon after, Phillips won the ball back after Ipswich tried to play out and slipped in a wasteful Wood who should have scored. His effort was saved and fell to Sacko, who somehow managed to put the rebound wide when it was easier to put the ball in the net.
The crowd were growing restless with the chances not being converted and as long as it stayed 1-0, the chance of a counter-punch from the visitors was always possible. Ipswich, though, struggled to get a foothold as Leeds kept the pressure up.
Stuart Dallas was brought down on the edge of the box, with Phillips stepping up to take the strike. He brought a save from the keeper as his effort was destined for the top corner. Leeds could have had a penalty from the ensuing corner, as Bartley's marker had more of his shirt than he did. A genuine shout for a spot-kick was waved away, as if the referee needed any more of an excuse to wind up the home crowd.
10 minutes later, Leeds found themselves with another free-kick in almost the same position, this time Hernandez took up the duties. His effort was smashed into wall and Ipswich cleared.
The noise in the ground was as loud as it had been all season, and a loose goal kick from Bialkowski went straight to Wood, although as he ran in on goal he was unable to get the ball under control and saw his tame effort well fielded.
Ipswich had little to get excited about and eventually could only rely on long, hopeful throws into the box as the minutes ticked away.
As Leeds comfortably dealt with anything coming their way, a long ball over the top started a counter-attack in stoppage time, but Wood was unable to find the run of Grimes. Leeds saw out the remaining minutes with ease and the season's change in form continued.
The final verdict
Leeds United are winning games. At the moment, Leeds fans and our volatile owner have every reason to be happy.
Although the run of form is very positive, Leeds need to start capitalising on their chances. This game should have been won by at least two goals, if not three.
Ipswich were poor today, and I fear in future games, like the one coming on Tuesday against a slightly better side, we may see Leeds punished for their wastefulness.
Although Wood is scoring goals and his confidence is increasing, he needs to start putting his chances away; he could have and arguably should have had a hat-trick today. I still think Leeds are short a quality striker, but 4 goals in 4 games is nothing to be upset about. And Sacko deserves to feel a bit of guilt for managing to put his effort wide with the goal gaping, something he seems to do in every match.
That being said, the Jansson and Bartley at the back look unbreakable right now. Three clean sheets in a row is nothing to frown about and the entire confidence in the team shows throughout.
Leeds have done well to close out these games and earn the points, and they haven't even looked like conceding, a new feeling for Leeds fans: their calmness could be felt throughout Elland Road. How times change.
The Newcastles, Brightons and Norwichs of this league will no doubt make Leeds suffer for not putting chances away; defending a single-goal lead against those sorts of sides will be a different story. But today was all we needed, and the first four game winning streak since 2009-10 is in the books.
A great, safe win for Monk and Leeds... more of the same please, boys!