A great man once said, “It’s not how hard you hit but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” This was essentially the story of Leeds United during March. They took several poundings out on the pitch but they never stopped fighting and managed to end the month with a firm hold on a play-off place and half an eye on the top two.
Birmingham City 1 – 3 Leeds United
This was a mugging by Leeds United, plain and simple, to dress it up any other way would be an insult to everyone who saw the match.
Birmingham were, by far, the better side and should’ve opened the scoring within the first few minutes. However, that honour fell, yet again, to Chris Wood. He caught a lofted pass from Ayling, with leg so outstretched that a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader would’ve been impressed, and flicked it over the Birmingham keeper. It was a ridiculous goal and one of a striker so full of confidence they give zero shits about possession stats, run of play, mental pressure or even physics.
Birmingham continued to swarm forward and their dominance forced a deserved equaliser in the second half. Unfortunately for City though, Leeds can defend really well these days and can also produce moments of quality football when the mood strikes. Which it did, only twice mind, but Leeds scored on both occasions and legged it home with all three points.
Fulham 1 – 1 Leeds United
Let’s start off by stating a fact: Fulham are very good. As such, Monk knew his men would have fight on their hands in this one.
After five minutes though, the fight was made slightly easier for Leeds when Tim Ream decided to chip his own keeper. On top of that, Lee Probert was seemingly suffering from glaucoma and completely missed Sone Aluko’s shot that bounced off the crossbar and landed a good foot over Rob Green’s line.
Regardless, Fulham were excellent throughout and attacked relentlessly. They moved the ball around with pace and vision and carved out over twenty attempts at goal. Green did a fantastic job keeping Fulham at bay for most of the match but he could do nothing about Tom Cairney’s rocket, which smashed the net in the sixth sodding minute of injury time.
It’s easy to be disappointed with a last minute equaliser but Leeds would’ve taken a point before kick-off and after seeing just how good Fulham are with the ball, I’m sure they’ll be happy to have walked away with anything.
Leeds United 0 – 0 QPR
QPR came to Elland Road with a plan to press the midfield, get to any second ball and hit Leeds on the counter at every opportunity. They were simple but effective tactics, as Cardiff and Ipswich discovered the month before, and Holloway’s men were unlucky to only leave Leeds with a point.
For Leeds, this was another performance that could only be enjoyed by the visually impaired among the fan base.
If nothing else though, this game showed just how much Rob Green has improved since the start of the season. Back in August Rob was flapping at crosses like a baby bird trying to escape the nest, now he’s playing like some unbeatable, multi-limbed sea monster. And thanks largely to his efforts, Leeds managed to claim yet another clean sheet, another valuable point and remained unbeaten for a sixth straight game.
Leeds United 2 – 0 Brighton
This one was a game of two halves, which has definitely been a predominant theme of season for Leeds.
The first half was a slow and ponderous affair, with Leeds doing little more than mincing around in their own half. Thankfully after the break, they exploded into life with an energy and purpose that seemed impossible during the first forty five minutes.
Of course it was Wood who broke the deadlock. Muscling away from his markers and getting his head onto a wonderful cross from Taylor and floating the ball into the Stockdale’s goal.
Brighton tried to hit back quickly but each attack was stamped out by Leeds. There was a worry that the altered defence (Jansson missing the game due to “principles” or something) might struggle but they were more than a match for Brighton.
Then with five minutes to go, the game was effectively over when a clumsy challenge by Fikayo Tomori gave Leeds a penalty. Chris Wood stepped up, calm as a cucumber, and fired the ball straight down the middle, lifting the roof off Elland Road.
March was definitely a month for the defence, they continually kept Leeds in games they had no right contesting. This defence is now so settled and so consistent that they’ve been given their own song. In contrast, the midfield hasn’t seen the same starting line up, for consecutive games, since January. If you tried to give them a song it would be so long you’d think Bob Dylan had written the bloody thing. Whatever Leeds achieve this season, it’ll be down to their defence being able to take all those hits that kept the team moving forward.