Graham Smyth's Verdict: Tyler Roberts the creator provides spark for Leeds United as they press Queens Park Rangers into submission

Saturday afternoon, 3pm kick-off, 35,000-plus inside Elland Road, a Queens Park Rangers side shipping goals, the stage was set for a Leeds United player to step forward and provide the creative spark the Whites have missed in recent games.

Sunday, 3rd November 2019, 5:55 am
Roberts races away after giving Leeds the lead (Pic: Getty)

Until Saturday at 2pm, the general assumption was that Eddie Nketiah would be that man.

With a question mark hanging over the fitness of Patrick Bamford, Nketiah was expected to come in and take his place up front for a first Championship start in Leeds colours.

It was all set up and primed for the Arsenal loanee to make himself even more of an Elland Road hero.

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That was until some whispered rumours of a mystery knock became confirmed fact.

Nketiah did himself some harm in the final pre-match training session on Friday and spent the evening before the game having his abdomen scanned, to determine the extent of the injury.

A player whose mere naming on the team-sheet would have sent a thrill through the majority of a fanbase, cruelly robbed of his chance at the very last minute felt like quite a Leeds United thing.

But as it turned out, no Nketiah, no problem.

Jack Harrison scoring the second (Pic: Getty)

Step forward Tyler Roberts and Jack Harrison.

Roberts' goal, in his first start of the campaign, put Leeds on the path to victory and Harrison's late strike made life at Elland Road more comfortable than it has been at any stage of the 2019/20 season.

The pair were superb throughout the afternoon, Roberts finding ways to hurt the R's, Harrison looking after the entire left flank by himself for the most part, setting up a goal and scoring one.

It was not actually the absence of Nketiah that gave Roberts his chance, his first start of the campaign, a knock sustained by Gjanni Alioski meant there was a spot in the XI for the attacker.

Bielsa countered Mark Warburton's brave decision to go with two strikers with a back three of Liam Cooper, Ben White and Luke Ayling.

Kalvin Phillips sat just in front, with Stuart Dallas man-marking Eberechi Eze, Mateusz Klich playing largely as a box-to-box midfielder, Helder Costa attacking on the right wing and Harrison covering the opposite side of the pitch.

Roberts took on the number 10 role behind Bamford, evidently recovered from his knock.

The pattern of play was set quite early on and rarely wavered.

Leeds pressed, as is their wont, and forced QPR to go long - something the visitors might have expected to do quite well, given the presence of targetman Jordan Hugill in their frontline.

Going long brought no escape, no respite and no joy for the team in pale green.

Cooper or one of his central defensive partners would win the ball, Leeds would attack and QPR would find themselves penned in for long periods.

Without the ball, Leeds looked completely in control and with it, more often than not, they looked dangerous.

Ayling, who got forward to provide Costa with support on the right, delivered a wicked early ball that found Klich all alone in the box, the Polish international volleying over.

Bamford then teed up Dallas, whose curling left-footed effort was palmed away for a corner by Liam Kelly.

QPR's only real breathing room came from the repeated blasts of referee Geoff Eltringham's whistle.

It was a niggly game, without any real malice, with a stop-start nature for periods of the first half, thanks to the frequency with which players hit the deck.

Just when it felt the niggle might turn into something a little more fractious, Eltringham was given cause to produce a yellow card - Klich feeling Eze's collar - and it all calmed down.

Leeds began to get on top, attacking with menace, and created a number of good chances.

Klich played in Bamford, who opted to take it round Kelly and would have broken his 10-game duck had Lee Wallace not recovered to make a sublime last-ditch tackle.

Harrison and Roberts linked up on the left, the latter brilliantly putting the former in space in the area, Harrison's pass sliding through the goalmouth and wide, off a defender's boot, with Bamford lurking.

QPR appeared to be falling deeper and deeper into their half and a breakthrough felt inevitable.

When it came, it was a thing of simplicity.

Leeds got Harrison on the ball in a one v one situation, he teased his man before dropping the ball back to a free Roberts who tucked it home from the edge of the area with a subtle sidefoot finish.

Harrison's involvement, the little lay-off, is becoming habitual, a go-to tactic Leeds United are beginning to rely on and the assists he is racking up - four in his last five games - give them no reason to stop.

The interval did nothing to disrupt the game's pattern.

Early in the second half Leeds, again, won possession near halfway after forcing QPR to go direct, Ayling surged forward and threaded the ball to Roberts, his low cross slightly ahead of the sliding Bamford.

Such was Leeds' control, if not in possession but in territory and momentum, it almost felt a little boring.

Press, long ball, turnover, attack, press, error, attack and so on.

It was only during those Leeds attacks that the game really came to life.

Roberts was central to many of the good things the Whites did in the final third, his movement attracting a ball over the top that he volleyed over, his cross finding the head of Bamford, an offside flag ruling out what would have been a lovely goal.

A QPR attack was a rare thing indeed, Kiko Casilla without a save to make for the duration, yet the R's did threaten briefly, twice, as the game entered its final 20 minutes.

Marc Pugh's off target shot preceded Hugill's failure to direct an excellent Todd Kane cross goalward.

Warburton would later lament that moment as the one that could have altered the course of the afternoon completely, a moment that might have silenced or at least stunned Elland Road in the way other visiting teams have done this season.

Every visitor has had their little spell and most have somehow managed to capitalise on it.

That was QPR's little spell and they did not.

Whilever it remained 1-0 there was still that by-now customary nervousness around Elland Road, despite all the control and the dominance.

So when Harrison started an attack, dribbled into the area, played a one-two with a QPR defender and stroked the ball past Kelly, the joy that erupted around the ground contained more than a tinge of relief.

It was the first time since 15th September that Leeds had scored two in a match.

It was Harrison's last contribution, the wide man, no stranger to criticism this season, departing to a deserved ovation.

Leif Davis came on to terrorise Queens Park Rangers with his pace, attacking the wide open spaces that appeared with legs tiring all over the pitch.

A third goal didn't arrive but it didn't have to, Leeds as comfy as they have been this season, almost able to recline and warm their feet in the game's dying embers.

That this match report had no cause to mention late second half substitute Pablo Hernandez, so often the magician upon whom Leeds rely for guile and trickery, says a lot about the scale of the damage done by Roberts.

Bielsa's statement that Leeds looked more potent in central areas with Tyler the creator on the pitch says even more.

He helped Leeds get what they deserve and in turn deserves another chance to show what he can do next week in that roving role, when Rovers roll into town.