Graham Smyth's Verdict: Leeds United again threatened a rout but win over Blackburn Rovers and Patrick Bamford goal felt significant enough
When Jack Harrison's shot trundled over the line, via the post, to put Leeds United 2-0 up against Blackburn Rovers, the drubbing they have been threatening to dish out at Elland Road since the season began looked odds on to finally arrive.
The visitors' stubborn resistance had been broken on the half hour mark and the arrival of a second goal a mere five minutes later appeared to signal an impending rout.
Rovers' wholly unexpected goal five minutes after that ensured Leeds fans will have to wait for that resounding thumping and had to settle for a 2-1 scoreline in their side's favour.
Leeds, thus far, have given the path of least resistance a wide berth, preferring instead to do things the hard way.
But it would be greedy, perhaps, to want more from a game before an international break than three points and a sight for sore eyes - Patrick Bamford celebrating a goal.
Ten games had come and gone since the striker last experienced that feeling, his 66th minute goal at Stoke a distant memory. So when he stroked home a penalty, it felt particularly significant , the end of an excruciating wait and a potential, timely boost to the confidence of a player trying his utmost to find the one missing part of his game.
And the initial signs were good, Bamford pulling down a Kalvin Phillips' long ball with a brilliantly delicate touch then teeing up Harrison with another to rival it, both touches fully deserving of the assist that came when the winger found the net The rest of Bamford's performance was familiar, battling with centre-halves, linking up with attackers, bringing people into the play and being in the right place in the area when others got into positions to cross.
That one goal was enough to ensure his name rang out around Elland Road at full-time as he applauded the fans who have backed him and backed him throughout his barren spell.
That he didn't score a second, that Leeds didn't go on and hammer Rovers by four or five, that it became a nervy afternoon in the wake of Blackburn's goal did not appear to matter. Nor should it, when the full-time whistle had sounded on Leeds' fourth consecutive home victory. Having struggled to get what they deserve earlier in the season, they are churning out results,unbeaten in five and tucked in nicely at the top end, two points behind leaders West Brom. The importance of Saturday's win was underlined with a 5pm glance at results elsewhere, fellow promotion hopefuls enjoying wins of their own.
At 3.29pm there was no certainty that the day would bring three points.
Blackburn Rovers resembled lots of other teams, without the ball at least, in the early stages. They were compact, resolute, defending in numbers, sticking to a rigid shape to deny Leeds the space they wanted in the final third.
Leeds initially attempted to counter that with direct play, long balls aimed in the general direction of Bamford, who twice strayed offside and Helder Costa, who went on a couple of promising early runs but couldn't produce an end product.
Rovers looked comfortable defending that kind of play, so Ben White and then Stuart Dallas took it upon themselves to simply pin back their ears and run the ball, the latter seeing the defence part before shooting well over.
It was the same 'park the bus' approach that Mateusz Klich admitted to disliking a couple of days before the game, a tactic he, in his own words, has struggled to deal with. He spoke of watching admiringly from afar as Barcelona regularly showcase the ability to find passes and space he cannot.
On Saturday afternoon he had the best seat in the house as fellow attacking midfielder Tyler Roberts showed the guile that Leeds needed, spotting the goalbound run of right-back Luke Ayling and clipping a pass in behind that forced Tosin Adarabioyo into a tangle of legs, referee Gavin Ward awarding a penalty.
Thereafter followed some debate, not so much about Ward's decision but where the responsibility for taking the penalty should rest. Roberts wanted it, but maybe not as much as Bamford. Eleven weeks is a very long time to wait for a goal, a point Bamford presumably put forward to win the debate, before a nervous hush settled over Elland Road.
The consequences of a miss for the confidence of a player in such desperate need of a goal did not bear thinking about and if the way Bamford beat Christian Walton was anything to go by, the possibility never even entered his head. He sent the keeper the wrong way and allowed 77 days of frustration to leave his body in passionate and well-received celebrations.
Confidence does wonders and five minutes later Bamford was allowing Harrison to enjoy celebrations of his own, the goalscorer turning provider as the on-loan Manchester City provider turned goalscorer, via the woodwork.
If Bamford needed an example of a man who embodies the theory that patience pays off, Harrison is as good as any. His struggle in the early stage of the campaign was not scoring goals, it was making them. Marcelo Bielsa stuck with the winger and Harrison is now rolling in assists with four in the five games that preceded this one, his goals against Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers a welcome bonus.
At this point the match gave every impression that it was dead and buried. Leeds won a corner and Ben White tried to flick it home at the near post, Rovers clearly rocked and in danger of rolling over.
Back they came, however, bringing the match as a contest back to life by scoring from a corner of their own, Derrick Williams getting up above Ayling to power a header past Kiko Casilla.
It might have made things more nervy but it did not make them particularly more interesting.
The running battle between Phillips and Bradley Dack was the most noteworthy of events during long periods of the second half.
Yet Leeds did have chances to deal Rovers a fatal blow.
Helder Costa's ability to waltz through tackles and move with the ball at breakneck speed took him through the heart of the Blackburn side and rarely yielded a clear-cut opportunity. On two occasions it did. Firstly he fed Harrison, who shot over from a tight angle, then he cut the ball back from the byline and Bamford was denied by a defender.
It was tense as long as the score remained 2-1 and mood was anxious, yet the most worrying moment of the latter stages came when Liam Cooper hobbled off with another injury, Gaetano Berardi replacing the captain.
Blackburn couldn't take advantage of either the nerves or the absence of Cooper, forced to defend themselves in the closing minutes.
Substitute Pablo Hernandez took no time to settle at all, setting Leeds on the attack with a ball clipped through the middle for Bamford, Roberts getting involved to tee up Harrison who shot greedily across the goal and wide, Klich frustrated that his run wasn't spotted.
It would have been a nice way to end the afternoon but in truth, thanks to their control and the comfort with which they defend this season, Leeds had done enough to win the game by the 35th minute.
In a division as tight and hard fought and topsy turvy as the Championship, you can't ask for much more than that.