Alex Mowatt’s left foot is not simply a natural gift. The midfielder hones his free-kicks after every single training session, firing them off up to 30 times a day.
The religious practice is paying off and Mowatt has created his own piece of private territory on the pitch at Elland Road: the right-hand corner of the penalty box directly in front of the Kop.
When Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski played Tyrone Mings into trouble on Wednesday, forcing the left-back to foul Sam Byram, the ball was instinctively left to Mowatt. In the perfect position and in his range, the midfielder whipped a curling shot inside Bialkowski’s near post.
It was only start of the end-to-end drama which earned Leeds a 2-1 win but Mowatt’s free-kicks and his long-range strikes are starting to make a name for themselves. A month ago, Millwall’s David Forde was beaten from exactly the same spot, albeit with the help of deflection, and Mowatt’s gradual creep towards the 10-goal mark gained momentum in November with two deadly finishes against Charlton from outside the box.
“I practice free-kicks every day,” the 20-year-old said. “I do about 30 after training. I get the little wall out and keep aiming in my corner so when they come up in that area I fancy myself to score.
“I did it against Millwall and this was basically in the same position. As soon as I saw it was in that area I wanted to get on it and do the same again.
I said at the start of the season when I got my first goal that I want to get 10.
“The keeper (Bialkowski) started a bit more central. He knew, or had maybe seen the other one, but he couldn’t get there. This one was clean, it didn’t get a deflection, and it went in the same corner I keep finding. I was buzzing.”
Scored on 71 minutes, Mowatt was initially unsure if his free-kick had scraped the side-netting and run behind. The strike, however, brought up his seventh goal of the season, moving him closer to double figures.
“I didn’t know until I heard the crowd cheering,” he said. “I didn’t know if he’d got there or if it had hit the side-netting.
“I said at the start of the season when I got my first goal that I want to get 10. That’s still my aim.”
Ipswich equalised within minutes of Mowatt’s strike as a shot from Freddie Sears crept under the body of Marco Silvestri but Billy Sharp reclaimed the lead just as quickly and Silvestri redeemed himself by tipping Daryl Murphy’s late penalty onto a post. Mowatt said: “I was gutted when Ipswich equalised but then Billy goes up and scores. It all happened so quickly.
“They got the penalty but Marco saved us. He does that all the time in training. He saves penalties for fun so it was a matter of time before he did that in a game.”
Neil Redfearn’s squad face more troubled opposition in Wigan Athletic tomorrow, the division’s third-bottom team, and Mowatt said Leeds had a duty to “turn up” after producing a weak display away at Brighton last week.
“I don’t know why it is but we seem to play better against the bigger sides,” Mowatt said. “Wigan are scrapping but we want to get three points.
“We were very poor at Brighton so we need to turn up at Wigan.”