YEP Jury: Unconvincing Leeds United need to step it up at Fulham

Leeds United's Alfonso Pedraza holds off Birmingham City's Emilio Nsue.
Leeds United's Alfonso Pedraza holds off Birmingham City's Emilio Nsue.
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Our YEP Jury have their say on the victory at Birmingham City and look ahead to the trip to Fulham on Tuesday.

MATTHEW EVANS

Leeds United's players celebrate Alfonso Pedraza's goal at Birmingham.

Leeds United's players celebrate Alfonso Pedraza's goal at Birmingham.

Friday night’s game is probably best described as an unconvincing win. Birmingham looked the more composed and more threatening of the sides for much of the game and Chris Wood’s superb first-half finish was clearly against the run of play.

The main problem for United appears to be in the midfield where ball retention, over a number of weeks, has become an alien concept.

Pablo Hernandez was particularly guilty of carelessness at St Andrews and having two wingers who looked reluctant to take anyone on, compounded the whole thing.

These types of game are often a lot of fun for those of us in the away end.

You can sense the frustration from the home stands and feel it spilling over onto the pitch as everyone realises that, no matter how poorly Leeds United are playing, they are still taking the three points home.

And that’s how it came to be, even after a remarkable equaliser that narrowly missed every possible blocker in its path and squeezed into a ball-shaped gap between the post and Rob Green’s hand.

Garry Monk’s decision to bring on Kalvin Phillips added the energy we were missing and we were able to belatedly take the game by the scruff of the neck and score two more; the first made by Phillips and the second expertly finished by Alfonso Pedraza, another substitute. Key to the victory was the tireless work rate of the Leeds defence in the face of a much tougher examination than they’ve been used to for a lot of this season as they just kept going and going.

Tuesday’s game at Craven Cottage will require a similar formula: impenetrable defence plus Chris Wood’s goals. However, the midfield will really need to step up a gear.

We have the tools and attributes to beat Fulham but the right decisions need to be made. Do you play Pedraza or Hadi Sacko and lose the benefits that Souleymane Doukara or Stuart Dallas bring? Do you start Phillips despite him being so derided by the fans? Should Kemar Roofe take the place of a lacklustre Hernandez after his lively cameo on Friday? In Garry Monk we trust.

Man of the match: Rob Green.

KEITH INGHAM

Another win, another three points.

But I was so frustrated with the first 60 minutes of the game, wasteful passes, a centre-back who seems to be a little too high on his own confidence and, in general, players who were way off the standard they themselves have set.

The game itself was a tale of two teams that, in terms of skill on the night, were pretty much on the level apart from one important player, we’ve got Chris Wood!

His form is unbeatable in this and other divisions, including Europe too, he scored his 21st and 22nd Championship goals of the season – in the first half a impudent chip over the City keeper, the other a tap in when he was superbly set up by substitute Kalvin Phillips.

Birmingham gave as good as they got and it was no surprise when they scored a equaliser through Craig Gardner.

It looked they would attempt to go on to grab the win, but a inspired substitution by Leeds saw Phillips brought on for Eunan O’Kane and his energy brought results, setting up Wood and having a very good game.

Alfonso Pedraza then wrapped up the three points with a superb shot.

Without doubt Leeds will have to play a lot better at Craven Cottage where they play Fulham on Tuesday night.

You can get away with it sometimes but not all the time.

Man of the match: Chris Wood.

STEPHEN CLARK

Leeds United are doing what all good football teams do and that is win games when they are not playing well. Friday night at Birmingham City was a classic example of that as they somehow came away with a 3-1 win from a game they did not turn up for in the first hour.

Chris Wood is in phenomenal form and his opening goal can barely be classed as a sniff at goal. It was the first time Leeds had played a half decent ball into the box, but his finish was incredible as he adjusted his body position to lob the ball over Tomasz Kuszczak in the Blues goal.

Birmingham had dominated proceedings and were deservedly level on the hour but Garry Monk showed he has the magic touch when his first substitution paid dividends. Kalvin Phillips had been introduced to inject some physicality and progression to a midfield that was being overrun and his link with Souleymane Doukara and fine ball across the goal presented Chris Wood with a gift. From that moment on Leeds never looked back.

A first Leeds goal for Alfonso Pedraza was the icing on the cake and confirmed that Leeds had committed the perfect crime. Dominated for much of the game they pinched the points and are a good result on Tuesday away from pencilling in a place in the Play-Offs.

Man of the match: Rob Green – vital saves kept Leeds in the game.

GARY NEWBOULD

If ever proof were needed that Garry Monk has provided the significant backbone which has been missing for years at Leeds United, then it was provided at St Andrews on Friday night.

For long periods the Whites were second best against a resurgent Blues but they dug in and courtesy of a brace from the talismanic Chris Wood and a debut goal from Alfonso Pedraza another vital three points were added to this season’s haul.

It’s all about results now as we head to Craven Cottage on Tuesday evening.

Man of the match: Luke Ayling.

DAVID WATKINS

Clinical finishing from Leeds and wayward shooting from Birmingham tipped the balance of this game in our favour despite the Blues dominating for 70 minutes. Chris Wood was Johnny on the spot twice and Alfonso Pedraza got his first giving Leeds three goals from only 10 attempts and not a single corner. Birmingham managed one goal from 27 attempts and eight corners. Folk say it’s better to be lucky than good and that teams that go up find a way to win ugly; well, if that’s the case then we are a shoo-in for the play-offs!

Once again we saw frequent squandering of good positions through shoddy passing and none was more guilty than Pablo Hernandez. Time and again he gave up possession as he flicked and poked wayward passes and he just looked out of sorts although he still found the telling pass that got Pedraza his goal.

Credit Birmingham for a decent performance and Leeds for another heroic defensive display by The Famous Five, but blimey we rode our luck.

Man of the match: Chris Wood.

MIKE GILL

A classic away performance from United claimed three more precious points. After Chris Wood’s wonderful opener, Leeds never looked too convincing right up to the equaliser. This event seemed to have a galvanising effect and before any negativity could creep in, United were ahead again. From this point they dominated and it was good to see Alfonso Pedraza weigh in with his first goal.

Man of the match: Chris Wood.

Matthew Pennington.

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