Graham Smyth's Verdict: If anyone can counsel Luton Town after Saturday's late trauma it is Leeds United

Graeme Jones may have to ramp up his introduction of sports psychology at Kenilworth Road after the trauma inflicted on his Luton town side by Leeds United on Saturday.

Sunday, 24th November 2019, 5:51 am
Updated Sunday, 24th November 2019, 6:57 am

The Hatters, fuelled by perceived injustice from a hat-trick of refereeing decisions, had a point within their grasp until Patrick Bamford's 90th minute winner.

They had been denied a penalty, a free-kick in the lead up to Leeds' opener and a goal, chalked off by an offside flag.

Entering the dying moments of the game they had the look of a side who were stubbornly refusing to be denied a share of the spoils, before ultimately settling for nothing and a 2-1 defeat.

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Bamford celebrating the winner (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)

Before the game Jones had spoken of his early attempts to explore how psychology could aid a Hatters side who have now lost five in a row, but if anyone is qualified to counsel Luton on how to cope when you don't get what you feel you deserve, it is Marcelo Bielsa's Whites.

They too have experienced that bitter feeling, more than once, since the 2019/20 Championship campaign began.

Late goals scored by teams who offered little to nothing in the way of attacking intent at one stage appeared to suggest or at least threatened to open up a fragility in Leeds' mentality.

Bamford himself could speak at great length on the subject, having been denied the goals his all-round play deserved for a 10-game spell earlier this season.

That period is fast becoming a distant memory thanks to the three goals in his last two outings, a pair of which brought three points at Luton.

Two things have been key for Bamford and Leeds, the first of which is patience.

When Bamford was failing to hit the net, Bielsa stuck with him, initially resisting calls to put Eddie Nketiah into the lone striker role from the start of games, showing Bamford the same patience granted to Jack Harrison, who recently overcame his early-season struggle to produce an end product and went on a tear that brought assists and goals.

Secondly, Bamford made his own luck, putting up a strong enough argument to dissuade Tyler Roberts from taking a penalty against Blackburn and using that 12-yard opportunity to kick-start his goalscoring habit.

Against Luton, Leeds showed just how patient they can be and in the end made their own luck.

It could be argued that they left Kenilworth Road with exactly what they deserved - the 75 per cent of possession they enjoyed and the 21 shots they sent at James Shea's goal are convincing, if not conclusive.

Shea played a blinder and probably did enough as an individual to warrant a point, but the fact remains that he and his defence twice failed to stop Bamford from finding the net.

It is also fact that while Luton competed very well in the early stages of the game and created some forward momentum of their own, Leeds began to boss proceedings in the first half.

Pablo Hernandez was integral to that, celebrating his new contract and a return to the starting XI by showcasing all of his skill. The nutmegs and deft touches were nice but his passing was superb, always finding men in space, almost always ensuring Luton were on the defensive.

If one moment summed up his vision and ability it was his reading of a pass in midfield, a pass he slid in to both intercept and knock over the top for Bamford in one smooth movement.

When Luton did break, Gaetano Berardi or Ben White were there to sniff out danger, the former blocking a Harry Cornick shot, the latter sliding in to concede a corner.

It was that set-piece that led to the game's first real contentious incident, Collins going down in the box under close attention from Stuart Dallas, referee John Brooks happy for play to continue.

Whether or not Luton could enter the Leeds half hinged almost entirely on whether or not ex Leeds man Izzy Brown got the better of Kalvin Phillips in midfield, the pair playing out their own personal contest that was largely even.

Phillips having his hands full did not stop Leeds from hurting Luton from deep, Berardi assuming responsibility for the accurate lofted through ball and playing in both Roberts and Bamford with one pass, the latter flicking out a boot and directing it over Shea and onto the post.

When the ball was recycled, Phillips' low effort was palmed out by Shea but only as far as Harrison, who couldn't beat the keeper from close range.

Leeds deserved to lead and smelled blood, Luton struggling to keep the ball as the first half developed, the tempo of the visitors causing problems that only Shea could resolve - plucking a Bamford header out of the air, producing a wonder-save to push Roberts' sidefoot shot round the post.

As the sides trooped off for a rest, a goal felt inevitable and seven minutes after they appeared for the second half, it arrived.

The Brown-Phillips battle had a part to play, the former White going down claiming a foul from the current White's challenge, Brooks again waving play on.

As Bielsa would later point out, there was little to link that moment with the goal that came a few seconds later, because so much still had to be done. If there was luck in the referee's decision, there was none in the move that followed.

White capped another of the defensive performances Leeds have come to expect from the youngster with a run and assist that any attacking player would be proud of, striding from the scene of what Luton felt was a crime and not stopping until he was in position to find the run of Bamford with a through-ball, the striker doing the rest, making his own luck.

The grip they had on the game and a 1-0 advantage brought words like floodgates to mind but the goal was game-changing in the most unexpected way. It brought Luton back to life, it made them angry.

This time the Brown-Phillips pendulum swung the way of the home side, the Hatter spinning away from his marker and pinging a ball to the back post for Collins to get up above Ayling and head past Casilla.

For a brief spell, all control was gone, Leeds letting slip the their hold on the game and looking a little unsteady. Casilla had to be sharp to keep out a Cornick shot, then came another of the decisions Jones disagreed with. Matty Pearson steered home a cross, pandemonium ensued and amid the celebrations, an arm went up, an arm with a hand that held a flag that sucked all the joy out of Luton.

There ended Leeds' wobble, Bielsa freshening things up at the back, out wide and in attack with the introduction of Liam Cooper, Helder Costa and birthday boy Jack Clarke who has had to show more patience than most, awaiting his first Championship minutes of the season.

The presence of Cooper brought stability and he defended aggressively to keep Leeds on the front foot. Clarke brought energy, keeping things simple and keeping the ball moving and Costa kept Luton busy on the right.

Shea kept Hernandez out, he kept Mateusz Klich out and his defence kept clearing Leeds' corners and free-klicks.

On and on they came, however, with urgency but not panic and eventually all the patience paid off.

Klich got to the byline, reaching the ball that Ayling clipped over the top and driving it across goal for Bamford, in exactly the right place at the right time, to force it past Shea. Pearson was marking the striker, he might have even got a touch, but the ball squirmed inside the far post. If there was luck, it was of Leeds' own making.

There was, deep in stoppage time, an opportunity for Luton to prove they deserved more, but it was the Leeds fans behind Casilla's goal who were celebrating Dan Potts' back post header and not the home support. It went wide, the whistle went, the points went back up the M1 to Yorkshire.

The league table will not record what Luton or Leeds deserved, it simply reflects who won and who lost, it reflects the fact that this Leeds team is digging out results and keeping in touch with leaders West Brom, it shows Luton struggling, just above the drop zone.

If they produce what they did against Leeds, again and again, in the way the likes of Barnsley have failed to do, they should remain above it.

If Leeds do what they did against Luton, again and again, they should not be visiting Kenilworth Road next season.