Today I decided to go and watch managerless Leeds take on winless Bolton at Elland Road. I’ve been living in Leeds for just over six years and this was the first time I’d sat amongst the home fans. I love living in Leeds, but I have zero affection for their football club – not because of some fierce rivalry, but simply because they’re not Grimsby Town.
I’d been to see the Mariners play Leeds at Elland Road in the 2009/10 season in the Football League Trophy. The home side didn’t have to play to 50% of their capabilities to win 3-1 that night because the Mariners were generally useless – particularly Adrian Forbes, who was caught offside 12 times alone in the first half. And that’s no exaggeration.
Today, Leeds won by virtue of a first half goal from former Blackburn full back Stephen Warnock. They didn’t do much else. Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal kept out a low shot at his near post early in the second half, and wasn’t called upon again. While Leeds broke well, and Billy Sharp chased and harried, they actually created very little. They looked mentally fragile and began running down the clock much sooner than a team that really believed they could finish off an average Bolton side.
Bolton were incredibly frustrating to watch. Lee Chung-yong was a case in point; he strolled through the game, almost as if this level of football was below him. And while it might be, he looked unmotivated and uninterested in taking the game by the scruff of its neck and doing something about it. Too many of the Trotters’ players looked like they were going through the motions.
Striker Joe Mason hit the bar when the game was 0-0. He breezed past Leeds centre back Jason Pearce before seeing his shot tipped onto the bar by home stopper Marco Silvestri. The keeper had a top game; he made a great save at point black range later in the first half and then somehow kept out former Lilywhites marksman Jermaine Beckford’s header deep in injury time.
It’s a shame the action didn’t quite match the atmospehere the Leeds fans generated from behind both goals. The match opened up in the second half and, as a neutral, it just lacked a few more goals. Leeds looked frail and offered nothing in the second half, seemingly happy to hope that the one goal would be enough.
In the end it was, but only because their keeper put in a man of the match performance and Bolton lacked composure when they finally worked their way into the opposition box.
It’s clearly a difficult time for both clubs, which is something that was acknowledged by the Leeds fans, as I’m sure they won’t often cheer their team off the pitch after being dominated in large spells by some underwhelming opposition.
As for Bolton, well,it’s difficult to say what will happen to them. I’m sure that when they grind out a 1-0 win of their own, in whatever circumstances, they’ll improve. They’ve got a decent squad of players for the Championship but it looks like they’ve already given themselves too much to do in order to climb anywhere near the play-offs this season.
God knows what will happen to Leeds. They could make an inspired managerial appointment and climb their way to promotion like Sunderland did under Roy Keane a few years ago. Or they could go the other way, and drop out of the Championship – which is probably the likelier of the two, given that their chairman is a trigger-happy odd ball.