Talking points from Leeds United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1 - Spygate makes way for Watergate, Patrick Bamford hits his straps gradually and Marcelo Bielsa caught in two minds
A second-half brawl, missed chances from Patrick Bamford, a substitution at the third time of asking and the value of scoring first - YEP chief football writer Phil Hay looks at the talking points from Leeds United's victory over Bolton Wanderers:
Spygate is over, to the relief of anyone who was sick to death of the subject, but the second-half scuffle at Elland Road yesterday will undoubtedly cross the desk of the Football Association tomorrow.
As touchline brawls go, this one had a few strands to it: the initial foul by Josh Magennis on Gjanni Alioski, Joe Williams attempting to drag Alioski to his feet, Mateusz Klich retaliating by spraying water down Williams’ back and Pontus Jansson and Phil Parkinson rushing to take each other on. Even more amusing was Marcelo Bielsa ignoring the whole thing and wondering over to check on Alioski.
Parkinson seemed surprised by the red card which came his way but the Bolton manager was a long way from his dug-out and replays did not paint him as much of a peacemaker. He tried to lay the blame at the feet of Klich and Jansson but his dismissal by referee Tony Harrington will probably come at the cost of a touchline ban.
Harrington dealt with Magennis and Williams by booking both players but Leeds and Bolton are at risk of a charge of failing to control their players. A touchline ruck in the recent East Anglian derby between Norwich City and Ipswich Town earned Norwich a fine of £25,000 and Ipswich a fine of £20,000. A week on from being handed a £200,000 bill to settle Spygate, Leeds could do without another trip to the bank.
Bamford said it himself at the end of the game: a hat-trick was there for the taking, as were odds of 12/1 for anyone who backed him to score one. He came away with one goal, converted from the penalty spot, but found that his finishing touch in open play was skewed.
Leeds need Bamford to fire with Kemar Roofe unlikely to play before April but a narrow focus on Bamford’s goal tally yesterday does a disservice to his general performance. His movement was a problem for Bolton, he gave United’s midfield something to aim at with passes to his feet and crosses from out wide, and eight shots - five on target - kept Remy Matthews busy in the Bolton net.
Strikers never like to be wasteful and public opinion is not forgiving when they are but given Bamford’s condition and the fact that he has barely played for five months, there was enough in his display to suggest his natural game is breaking through. Like Marcelo Bielsa said afterwards, if Bamford wasn’t on the end of any chances then he would have a real reason to worry.
Dallas’ delayed substitution - and no debut for Izzy Brown
The early part of the second half found Bielsa in two minds about his substitutes. Stuart Dallas, on his return from an ankle injury, was stripped and ready to go around the hour, only to be told to put his bib back on. He was stripped and ready to go again seconds before Alioski scored United’s winner and for the second, retreated down the touchline in front of the West Stand after the ball dropped in.
Bielsa gave him a go eventually, sending Dallas on for the last 10 minutes, but United’s head coach admitted he had been undecided about how to change his line-up at 1-1; whether to withdraw Tyler Roberts and let Pablo Hernandez move to number 10 or to leave the energetic Roberts on in the hope that he would cause more problems.
All the while Izzy Brown looked on, waiting to see if Bielsa would clear the way for his debut. Full-time came and Brown, with 13 games left, was still awaiting his first appearance. Would he feature at QPR on Tuesday? “I haven’t thought about the next game,” Bielsa replied.
The value of the first goal
It is not much of a secret that Leeds under Bielsa are ruthless when they score first but the statistics are getting more remarkable: 15 games this season, resulting in 15 wins.
Their record after falling behind is respectable too and absolutely glorious compared to that of Bolton, who are genuinely hopeless at digging their way out of trouble. Since their promotion back to the Championship, Bolton have conceded first in 49 fixtures and failed to win any of them. The record in all divisions runs to 53 matches and goes back to March 2017. Tense and tough though yesterday became, there was really no need to worry.