Graham Smyth's Verdict: All that ails Leeds United evident in pale display against Lee Bowyer's Charlton Athletic

All that ails Leeds United was on display at The Valley on Saturday afternoon, where the Whites put in a pale performance.

Sunday, 29th September 2019, 6:55 am
Kiko Casilla's 'punch' could only deflect the ball against Macauley Bonne and into the net

They create chances but don't take them, they win lots of corners but don't score goals from them, they concede few corners but can't defend them, they dominate games but drop points.

READ: Leeds United player ratings from Charlton defeat.The analysis of Charlton's 1-0 win over Marcelo Bielsa's men could quite easily finish there.

The Argentine recently became only the third manager in the club's history to win six consecutive away games.

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Patrick Bamford's frustration boiled over and earned him a second half booking

He is too long in the tooth to get carried away with statistics, reminding everyone that everything else is insignificant in comparison with promotion and that history will remember only those who delivered it.

He is too experienced to get carried away with the blip in results that has relinquished top spot and dropped his side to fourth in the Championship, there will be no babies thrown out with the bath water at Thorp Arch.

Yet he is also too analytical, too obsessive to ignore the facts.

Opposition teams may or may not be wise to the Leeds United way, but they're getting results against the Whites by defending their box, staying compact, riding their luck and being clinical.

Leeds fans saw another opportunity slip away at The Valley

Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Derby and now Charlton, freshly promoted from League One, have taken 10 points away from Leeds.

Bielsa said afterwards that his men were the better team, as they have been in every outing thus far, but being the best isn't enough, you have to prove it in each and every game.

The new season is just nine games old and yet that many points have been allowed to slip away, points they had enough chances to take, points that would have put a gulf between them and new leaders West Brom.

Against Charlton, it was not glorious failure, this was not one of those days when Leeds created golden chance after golden chance and the ball mysteriously stayed out of the net.

It was not merely luck that stood in the Whites' way, it was a wall of red shirts.

Lee Bowyer's men played a bit like Lee Bowyer, giving everything, fighting for everything.

The Valley crowd responded to this, every tackle feeding the atmosphere.

But they could have been silenced inside 25 seconds.

Mateusz Klich's though ball found Patrick Bamford and he sent it across the goalmouth, bringing not a goal but a corner.

Three of the 13 corners Leeds would take during the 95 minutes came and went inside the first three, without so much as a whiff of discomfort for home keeper Dillon Phillips.

A worrying theme began to develop early on in the centre of the pitch.

In possession, Jonny Williams looked by far the most threatening of the home players and out of it, he was a menace.

The Welshman did to Kalvin Phillips what Phillips does to everyone else, sticking to him, hassling him, forcing mistakes.

With their star defensive midfielder unable to sparkle, Leeds looked to centre-half Ben White to dictate play, a task he is more than capable of doing.

The problem for Leeds was that even though White and others kept them ticking over, kept the ball moving, kept it predominantly in the Charlton half, the home side kept warding off attacks.

And on the rare occasions when Charlton couldn't get to the cross or the corner, Leeds were either wayward or keeper Phillips was on hand.

A lobbed cross from Gjanni Alioski was headed wide by Bamford, Alioski went himself next time and his goalbound shot was blocked by Jonathan Leko, before Liam Cooper connected with Phillips' corner, the Charlton stopper flinging himself to his left to save.

For all their corners and chances, Leeds were dealt a lesson in efficiency when Charlton took the lead.

Williams got away from the ragged-looking Phillips, played Macauley Bonne down the right and the corner he won ended up in the back of the Leeds net, Tom Lockyer getting enough on the ball to force Kiko Casilla into an odd punching motion, the rebound hitting Bonne and beating the keeper.

This was, for the 2019/20 edition of Bielsa's Leeds, a new problem.

All four of their previously conceded goals in the Championship came late in games, whereas this one arrived just after the half hour mark.

The situation was alarming enough to prompt big changes at the break.

It wasn't just the personnel Bielsa changed, the shape went too.

On came Adam Forshaw and Eddie Nketiah, off went Alioski and Jamie Shackleton, Phillips dropping into a three-man defence in a fluid 3-5-2.

Whatever the intended dividend, it was not immediately obvious, Charlton even enjoying a spell of pressure in the early stage of the second half, Josh Cullen making Casilla save a 25-yard free-kick.

The new formation eventually allowed Stuart Dallas to roam forward in central positions, it allowed Forshaw to occupy Williams and then Williams' replacement, the imposing Chuks Aneke, so Phillips could get on the ball with a greater degree of freedom and it allowed Bamford to play alongside a second striker in Nketiah.

The new formation did not allow Leeds to hurt their hosts.

Dallas did get forward and did put balls across the area, but no one was able to take advantage.

Phillips did have more possession and more room to breathe, he just couldn't do a lot with it and failed to hit his own high standards.

Bamford had a partner, they just didn't get the chance to link up and neither striker looked likely to be Leeds' hero.

If ever there was an illustration of the frustration that grew as the game wore on, it was the sight of Bamford losing possession and losing his cool, going through Conor Gallagher with a challenge that earned yellow.

Tyler Roberts came on two minutes later to give Leeds something different but the contest looked the same.

Leeds had the ball, they tried to work it forward, Charlton stood in their way, it went wide, a cross came in, or didn't and no goals were scored.

Nketiah, so deadly in his early cameos, was off target with two chances that came his way - one easier than the other - Klich couldn't find his range, and Helder Costa, in his highly anticipated debut, was largely anonymous.

For a team capable of such interesting, entertaining, eye-catching football, it was all a bit repetitive and, whisper it, boring even.

With Pablo Hernandez sidelined with injury, Leeds relied more on fitness and toil than magic and skill and were more than matched by Bowyer's men.

Charlton defended with a conviction that Leeds lacked in attack.

READ: Lee Bowyer says Addicks were 'spot on' tacticallyEven when Forshaw found himself with a loose ball at his feet six yards out, his shot never looked capable of beating Dillon Phillips.

That was the last of their 19 shots before referee John Brooks brought the game to a halt and fired the starter's pistol on the post mortem.

This game was still warm when the cause of death for Leeds' chances of three points became apparent, however.

A chronic lack of ruthlessness killed this one off.

Their promotion hopes are still, as Bowyer himself said, very much alive and kicking.

But not even the sight of the Addicks boss pumping out a Leeds salute at full-time could cure the sickening feeling of another missed opportunity for 3,000 travelling Whites.