It’s good to be back to football, after so much takeover mayhem, and tonight’s match was a special one as 4,000 Leeds fans made the pilgrimage to a soaking Reebok stadium, re-visiting for the first time the site of our demotion from the Premier League in 2004. Anybody not disappointed to come away without three points must lack a competitive spirit, but it was a tough game in which Bolton, in fairness, were the better side. It was also a game in which Leeds’ central midfield (Austin and Brown) failed to take control, despite their fantastic showing against Premier League high-fliers Everton last week. Fatigue certainly could explain our slow start to the match.

Jason Pearce recently told LUTV that he wasn’t happy with the number of goals conceded so far this season, but that not every goal is the fault of the defence. Leeds’ defence can’t really be blamed for conceding two more tonight, as both came from corner kicks. It was the experienced Kevin Davies who twice took his chances from set pieces, shaking off marker Rodolph Austin, and the Bolton skipper is clearly a class above this league, playing well as the focal point of Bolton’s attack.

Leeds were slow to start. On the back of 3 matches last week, with only one change made and 3 days rest from the long trip down to Bristol, Bolton brought the game to us in the first half. Kevin Davies looked a constant threat, but Chris Eagles was another key player for Bolton, moving well and smashing the post with one shot that had beaten the formidable Paddy Kenny. Keith Andrews – constantly linked to Leeds over the past couple of years – also looked good, though he wasted a clear opportunity from the edge of the box.

In fact, Bolton wasted a number of shots throughout the match, finishing with 16 attempts versus Leeds’ 6. Bolton fans could feel frustrated that their side hadn’t taken a comfortable lead by half-time, but young Sam Byram would have none of it. The academy product has been an absolute revelation so far this season, and despite showing his youth at times, he once again put in another very impressive shift. It was Byram who would bring Leeds level just before the break as El Hadji Diouf put in a good free kick, headed in.

Leeds’ fans had always been in good voice, but the volume increased threefold. Bolton’s fans were worryingly (for them) quiet. And Leeds came out well in the second half. Five minutes in, Diouf played another great pass to Sam Byram, and the youngster was pushed from behind. A needless foul, and a testament to Byram’s ability, that he worried the Bolton defence so much. The penalty was awarded and Leeds took a 2-1 lead as Luciano Becchio cooly converted, sending the keeper the wrong way and bringing his tally to 8 for the season. Becchio is now the division’s second highest scorer this season.

In truth, Leeds’ spurt around the break didn’t undo what had been a fairly dominant if wasteful Bolton performance. They pushed for the rest of the game and Davies bagged the equalizer for them with 10 minutes left. Yet Leeds didn’t go hiding, we kept fighting. The final 10 minutes were a close thing for both sides, but it was Leeds’ unlikely hero El-Hadji Diouf who almost robbed his ex-club deep into injury time, his shot beating the keeper but denied by the woodwork.

A point from a weary performance which we didn’t deserve 3 points for, has to be welcome. Apart from anything else, it denies a good team that extra 2 points on us. We’ve now played 7 of our 9 matches against teams I would expect to finish in the top half, and have come away only 2 points adrift from the playoffs. Bolton have had an inconsistent start to the season and find themselves 3 points behind us, but they clearly have real quality about them. From what I see, the fans seem understandably demoralized and there’s an expectancy on them to gain promotion, without necessarily a belief in it happening at the moment. A bad mix that we know all too well. As for Leeds, well the weariness is all too avoidable, but we’ll all have to sit tight and wait for things to happen behind the scenes.

After the match Neil Warnock said:

It’s not very often you come to a place like Bolton and are disappointed in the dressing room that you’ve got a point. It shows how far we’ve come in a few weeks.

We’ve had five games in such a short space of time and every one has been a hum-dinger so I can’t fault the players. They’ve given me everything.

Warnock said before the match that he feels the team is excellent, but that it requires 3-4 extra faces to make it competitive over the course of a season. Dominic Matteo, meanwhile, has opined that good additions to the squad will only help the existing side grow as players – an especially important factor given the young age of some of our lads.

We’ve also been supposed to be getting news on this attacking loan player for days now, but Neil Warnock could only say that it’s in Shaun Harvey’s hands. He’s revealed previously that this is more of a utility player than a star (or dare I say “icing”). Roll on Barnsley before a welcome fortnight’s rest for the team.

  • Noodle24

    Shame we couldn’t hang on for all 3 points after what was a better 2nd half proformance but a draw was probably a fair result its just a shame we are so limited on the bench as we was crying out for someone to come on and either sure us up at the back or nick us another goal that would of seen us take all 3 points

    • Asim

      We had both poleon and white, they were both fresh, young with lots of pace and skill, but for some reason Warnock didn’t bring them on, why not?, especially when Bolton equalised with still ten minutes remaining, these two could have turned the game back in our favour.

  • Tare

    We will get there, no matter what it takes. For TSS what comes to EHD then any moral or etich view of sewer rat here eh… Tare

  • Matt

    Agree with the point about us having mostly played the tougher teams so far- NW said the same thing a few days ago too. Compare that with say Brighton who have only played 2 of the top 10 and beaten neither.

    We also have better away records than either of the top 2 right now, so really the only real black mark on our season so far has been the home defeat to Hull (horribly predictable that one).You could argue that all the other 8 results so far were either pretty decent results or better given the circumstances, or to-be-expected defeats (Blackpool and Cardiff being very tough trips, christ I can’t stand Cardiff…). And then there’s a cracking result against Everton too.

    As such think we’re doing pretty well at the moment, given our thin squad, just as long as we get at least 6 points from the next 3 games against bottom half teams, all winnable.

    • Irving08

      At this stage it is hard to say who are the ‘tougher’ teams. Palace, for example, might not have lookeda tough team a few weks back, yet are now looking very good. Hull , who were seconed, are now dropping, have lost two matches on the trot, one against a ‘weaker’ team….Only Cardiff seem to be an unqualified ‘strong’ team and thay includes us. No with Wilfred Zaha and Charlie Austin we would be very ‘tough’ !

      • Chareose

        Spot on Irving….. I think this is going to be one of the toughest championship seasons in recent times, there is a whole group of sides that were recently in the Premiership and more that are spending big like Cardiff and Leicester to get promoted…..I think any team that string a load of results together is doing really well so kudos to Warnock and the team

        • TimPM

          It’s funny, I agree with you both but every year we say it’s going to be harder than the last!

  • Irving08

    You have to feel a bit sorry for White: like Madely, his versatility seems to work against him. By all accounts, he handled Adomah very well on Saturday, so what tactical reason, I wonder, caused Warnock to drop him for Drury ? And why not stick, in any case, with the Byram/White combo on the right. It is a little ironic that Warnock’s most expensive signing, Peltier, so far has looked rather poor.
    Fair-minded report Tim.

    • Chareose

      I wondered about that but i think its down to Warnocks gut feeling that Dury is better defencively and so away from home he opts for the safest option. I suspect and hope White will play this Saturday….

      • Irving08

        Perhaps Drury was the reason but there may be a Peltier problem. He is the captain – why beats me, when Pearce was the obvious stand-out choice. -but if he has to play, it can only be at right back, which rules out the previously impressive Bryam/White combo, leaving the latter to scrap it out at left back with Drury and Pugh, neither of whom offer as much, including in defence, in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how Warnock resolves this one – at some point, he will want a a settled first X1, injuries permitting. We want other teams to think about us, not the other way round.
        Don’t like the way Doiuf’s agent is talking , by the way – 2 or 3 year contract ? 18 months is the maximum it could make sense to offer, isn’t it ? This one, I guess, will depend on how much in total D. is looking to earn before he’s 34.

      • Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva

        I agree with you and also Warnock…. Drury is better definitely better defensively and when ive seen White play [last season against a good Reading side] he was very poor at the back and other managers would spot he is a weak link, due to his poor positional sense [which is a sign of his age rather than his ability] His best attribute is dribbling and taking on players and should be used on the left wing. I dont know what it is about the curse of the left back position at Leeds? Tony Dorigo was the last quality left back weve had, even Harte was poor at the back [but like White is good going forward and set peices] although the modern full back need to be a combination of both Drury and White and unfortunately there arent many in the championship that i would say are both? Any suggestions?

        • Irving08

          I think you’re being a bit harsh on White’s defensive capabilities – whenever he came up against a top winger last season eg Burke, he generally came out on top – as he has this. The Reading game, I agree, did find him out of position, and even then Lonergan was at fault for not coming off his line, as he later admitted. White’s many interventions to cut off forwards who had got behind the other defenders should not be forgotten. While I think left back is his best position, it doesn’t bother me much where he plays, so long as he is on the pitch. He will repay in spades the first manager who really shows faith in him.

  • Kalich

    a few games now that Neil has decided not to bring anyone on , surely it has to be draining on the squad , cannot blame him though not sure he trusts anyone off the bench . Hope Austin recovers in time for Saturday , he has played a lot of football recently and perhaps fatigue is starting to set in . Im sure Warnock is conscious of all this . M O fuckin T !!!!

  • Tare

    What is a thin squad boys? I have seen some teams going through the season with 16 or less players and winning trophies both in 1st Division as well as PL. . Team spirit is always raised in case of winning/promotion/taking points in bad environments. The Whites has now a stern and hard working lot for the promotion run in so try not to forget it. What if we could have this thick squad then we would fly for God’s sake.Tare

    • mrbigwheels

      Ha ha… Cheers Tare… ‘The Faith’.

    • TimPM

      Give us an example of a modern side playing at least 46 matches with 18 players or less, without getting demoted. No modern side has won anything with 16 players!

      • Tare

        DRs band of brothers, mate. 11 v 11 And when your lower jaw has dropped then remember this very thing pitches at those days were very different. Diving in the heat of the moment was almost impossible it would looked pathetic… That is why I respect Jason Pearce here bandage and still going strong. Tare

        • TimPM

          I suppose it depends what you call modern football. Given the football itself was heavier in those days, they played 4 games less in a season, and I doubt international friendlies congested the fixture list so badly, I’m not sure I’d say we could do it now because they did then.
          But as I wasn’t alive in those days, couldn’t make my mind up on that for sure.

          • Tare

            Modern football for me okay post 1960s when, this is my personal version here, LEEDS UNITED was in the rising mood and will. This “Dirty Leeds” tag i have never quite get it maybe and just maybe this innocence of Alf Ramsey et al put this our Whites team in spyglass because Grate DR had only one thought in his mind: winning football team. So British academy boys lost their plot because the beautiful game was somehow destroyed…. just light thoughts here mates but please comment if necessary. Tare

          • Irivng08

            Leeds under DR were fighting on three or four fronts every season for a decade – including the old Inter-City Fairs Cup, for which they hold the record number of appearences. DR being the great innovator he was invented the concept of a ‘squad’, but it amounted to no more than 15/16 – players then played through their injuries. And the balls could still weigh a ton and that was after the leather bombs with whihc the likes of me had to take corners – with our weaker foots too !
            Ah, happy days !

          • Tare

            And those pitches back in 1970s how to describe it, my late father used to say that those pitches were very fertile soil for potato growing habits.
            Just for physical side of this then who could (of top players) survive today in those places? Tare

          • Irving08

            Since most of the top players are now from overseas and given that DR’s team generally whupped all of Europe’s top teams then and given that we were playing real brutes – Gentile-types – and often the referees, the short answer is the Chelsea cart horse – off the bench.

  • Jim Tommo

    … excellent point but you feel this Leeds side is playing at its maximum potential and the additional reserves needed for a long haul are scant. Warlock gives belief and the players are trading on that heavily but that is a poor substitute for depth and every fan knows it. If we can just get to Jan and purchase a disenfranchised Ronaldo…the PL may fall within our grasp!

  • Will23

    Whilst we have done well so far, despite the loss of McCormack, another 3 months to the end of the year with this intensity of games makes it difficult to see anything other than a quickly tiring squad with nothing left to give in the last 30 minutes of each game.