Whites two strong for goal shy Robins TSS February 13, 2011 Match reviews 22 Comments Leeds United reverted back to 4-5-1 for the visit to Ashton Gate with Davide Somma dropping to the bench and Neil Kilkenny returning to central midfield. On-loan Aston Villa full-back Eric Lichaj also came in, in place of the injured Paul Connolly as Leeds looked to build on their 1-0 win over Coventry City and cement their place in the top six. What we witnessed was one of those rare occasions where the game went according to the script. Going into this match, Leeds United had lost just once in the last 17 fixtures whilst Bristol City were flirting with the relegation zone. The difference between the two sides was vast. The Leeds United players looked physically stronger and quicker than their Bristol counterparts and the first half was one of near total dominance. Leeds were first to every ball, dominating the centre of the park, intercepting under hit passes from the opposition and catching Bristol in possession time and time again. The dominance didn’t quite translate into a host of scoring opportunities, but when Leeds broke into the final third, the brilliance of Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel down the wings was causing Bristol problems which their full-backs simply couldn’t deal with. When the opening goal came on 17 minutes, it was no surprise the two wide players were the ones celebrating. Max Gradel released Snodgrass inside the box, who jinked his way past a hopeless looking Bristol City defender before firing beyond a helpless David James. 0-1, and Leeds United momentarily looked like Arsenal. Try as they may, Bristol City struggled to respond to the opening goal and Leeds United continued to dominate the fixture with calm and collective passing triangles that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Premier League. This was clever from Leeds United, allowing them to regroup and halt Bristol City’s attempts to respond, before pushing on for a second. Bristol tried to pressure the Whites late in the first half but Leeds cruised comfortably into half-time without Bristol City ever posing a real threat to the goal of Kasper Schmeichel. Whilst a second would have been desirable, the Whites actually looked comfortable at 1-0 for the first time this season. Bristol started the second half with a little more purpose than they ended the first and saw their best chance of the game so far bounce off the side netting. Leeds responded immediately, with Robert Snodgrass working his way towards goal from a wide position, only to see his shot blocked. Max Gradel was alert to the loose ball however, and managed to get a shot away from an extremely acute angle which he drove underneath former England goalkeeper David James to double the Whites advantage. 0-2. Shortly after the second, a chance to kill the game off entirely fell to Bradley Johnson, but his headed effort from a Robert Snodgrass cross grazed the wrong side of Bristol City’s bar. Bristol responded and quite how the final 30 minutes didn’t produce a goal for home side is anyone’s guess? Some impressive goal-keeping from Kasper Schmeichel, a helping hand from the crossbar and some desperate clearances from Andy O’Brien and Alex Bruce were all that kept Leeds’ clean sheet intact. There was even a goal line clearance from Luciano Becchio, who had been extremely quiet all day as the lone centre-forward but had put in an excellent shift as Leeds’ third centre-back. Lady Luck simply wasn’t favouring Bristol and a couple of pinball games in Leeds’ area somehow failed to produce a goal. Even the return of prolific goalscorer Nicky Maynard couldn’t help Bristol get back into this one and the Whites managed to survive the late flurry with all three points and a clean sheet still intact. Ups and downs v Bristol City (A) Defence – I imagine Bristol fans feel a little unlucky not to have got anything from this fixture with the series of chances they had late on, but for 60 minutes the home side failed to test Kasper Schmeichel whose main duties were hoofing the ball up field when he got bored of Leeds United passing in triangles. There were moments of panic from a Leeds United perspective, but the defence somehow managed to get it clear time and time again. Not the most orthodox defending, but back-to-back clean sheets for only the second time this season, so credit where it’s due. Becchio – Doesn’t look anywhere near as good in a head bandage as Patrick Kisnorbo. I don’t think he ever had a shot, which is a pretty strange thing to say about your lone striker when you’ve just won 2-0. Did absolutely nothing up front aside from clatter Bristol City players into the floor trying to win the ball back. That said, he was excellent when we were on the back-foot – maybe he can play DM? Snoddy-Gradel – Deadly. In this form, no one can deal with either of them. The ease at which they pass full-backs must cause severe anxiety attacks to our opponents fans. Gradel did show his selfishness at one point when he shot from an angle at distance, making it far too easy for the keeper. What he should have done was square it to the oncoming Leeds player (Howson I think?) who would have made it 3-0, but with 10 goals and a boat load of assists this season, he has licence to be greedy. Schmeichel – ‘Make yourself big and fearlessly throw yourself in front of anyone who threatens your goal’ seems to have been the lessons his Dad taught him. Incredible display from the number 1. McCartney/Lichaq – Oh, the contrasts of these two. In the final 30 minutes, every Bristol City break went down McCartney’s wing and he did absolutely nothing to stop any of them. An absolute nightmare performance from him – easily the weakest link in our defence throughout the game. Lichaq meanwhile was impressive. Didn’t have to do quite as much defensively – which is no doubt helped by having Snoddy in support of you rather than Max – but when he was called upon, he was quick and reliable. We saw a couple of glimpses of his attacking credentials too, as he won the ball in Leeds’ final third, turned a couple of Bristol players, before accelerating to the other end of the pitch to create a great opportunity for the Whites. Great little player. Crunch time – The next five games for all the promotion chasing teams see some extremely tough encounters and a few head-to-head clashes where points are bound to be dropped. The next month or so may well decide our final position, so back-to-back wins and clean-sheets isn’t a bad way to head into them. TSS man of the match Tough one. Snoddy, Gradel or Schmeichel would be the contenders, all equally deserving of praise. I think I’d have to go for Snodgrass due to the class with which he finished the opening goal – he also works tirelessly down the right when Leeds are on the back-foot covering every blade of grass in pursuit of the ball.