Leeds United mean business in Championship promotion race, says Patrick Bamford
Patrick Bamford said Leeds United were proving they 'mean business' in the automatic promotion race after his decisive goal at Bolton Wanderers regained control of the Championship table.
Bamford made a dramatic return from injury by scoring with his first touch five minutes after stepping off the bench to claim a 1-0 win over Bolton and move Leeds a point clear at the top of the division.
The striker put three months of rehabilitation behind him with a cool 66th-minute finish, registering his first league goal for Leeds and giving the club a six-point advantage over the sides chasing the automatic promotion places.
United’s board and their owner, Andrea Radrizzani, gambled heavily on Marcelo Bielsa when they appointed him as head coach before the start of the season and Bamford, who played against Leeds for Middlesbrough last term, said the club’s results were indicative of a change of attitude and character amongst the squad.
Leeds will reach Christmas in a top-two position regardless of their result away at Aston Villa this Sunday and their victory at Bolton was a fifth in succession, the first time the club have strung so many league wins together since December 2009.
Bamford said: “I think it shows that we mean business. We’re here to try and participate in the league and do well but it's one of those where it’s early days.
"It's half way through, we’re only six points (clear of second place) and you know that in the Championship if you win a few games everything turns around. It’s the same if you lose a few games.
“It can turn around quickly and that's why we’ve got to keep our mind on it. We can't get carried away and I think the coaching staff will make sure that our minds stay on the task.”
Leeds were made to fight by a Bolton side whose lack of quality has dragged them into the league’s bottom three and Bamford’s finish - taken at the end of a clever pass from Pablo Hernandez - settled a match played out in wet and freezing conditions.
United survived a late penalty claim when Craig Noone went down under a challenge from Kalvin Phillips but Bielsa’s defence prevented Bolton from mustering a shot on target.
"That kind of showed the unity of the team,” Bamford said. “Forsh (Adam Forshaw) came to me after the game and said ‘you know what? Last year we'd have probably ended up drawing that game. We wouldn't have hung on.’ That says a lot about how much we’ve grown and how much the coaches have had an influence on us.
“The belief amongst us has changed because it's basically the same core group of players that were playing for Leeds last year but the difference is massive. I didn't watch Leeds much last year but as you were playing against them you can see from then to now how much we’ve grown. We need to keep growing and see how far we go.”
Bamford reacted to his goal by running to celebrate with Rob Price, Leeds’ head of medicine and performance and the man responsible for overseeing the physio department at Thorp Arch.
The forward, who appeared for the first time since damaging a knee ligament in September, was not expected to be available until after the turn of the year but successful trimmed a month off his original comeback date.
“I know that most of the medical team weren't there,” Bamford said. “There was Rob who I went up to but there are a lot more people who’ve helped out who don't travel to away games.
“To be honest, the reason I’m back playing today is because of them and because of what they’ve made me do. I know I have to buy in to what they’re making me do but if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here today playing. The plaudits go to them.
“It felt like I hadn't scored in ages and my dad rang me before. He said ‘are you starting?’ I said ‘no, I think it's a bit too early for me to start’ and he said ‘right, you might not come on so I won't come. I'll just watch it on LUTV.’ I said no problem. He's going to be kicking himself now!”