Leeds United : Match-winning academy product hailed by Bamba

Sol Bamba celebrates at Wigan.
Sol Bamba celebrates at Wigan.
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Leeds United defender Sol Bamba saluted the match-winning talent of Alex Mowatt after Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic, saying: “We see goals like that from him in training every day.”

The Ivory Coast international admitted that Leeds had been forced to “dig deep” in their defence of Mowatt’s 51st-minute winner on a difficult pitch at the DW Stadium.

Mowatt settled a hard and scrappy game with a brilliant 20-yard finish, his fourth goal in six games and the latest in a line of spectacular strikes from United’s 20-year-old academy product.

The effort lit up a largely forgettable contest and pushed Malky Mackay’s Wigan closer to relegation from the Championship with 10 games to go.

United climbed to 13th in the division and are on course to secure head coach Neil Redfearn’s target of a top-10 finish.

Leeds held out during a steady onslaught from Wigan in the second half and on-loan Bamba stood out with a resilient performance in the centre of defence.

But the centre-back gave credit to Mowatt afterwards, saying: “It was a really well-taken goal. We see that from him every day in training and we’re delighted for him.

“We did have to dig deep in the end and with one chance Wigan could have been in there but we feel we’ve done enough now to push on and look to get sorted for next season.”

Bamba’s loan from Palermo finishes in May but Leeds have the option to buy the 31-year-old out of his three-year deal in Italy and are likely to do so after his recent performances.

Redfearn described Bamba as the “missing piece in the jigsaw” at Elland Road and the defender said: “I’m enjoying it here. I do want to stay but that’s up to Palermo and Leeds.”

Redfearn said: “He’s been the player at the back we’ve needed. You’ve got to have players who know the division and Sol fits that category. He understands the nature of it.”

United’s line-up saw two changes on Saturday after injuries forced Redfearn to leave out Sam Byram (foot) and Liam Cooper (hip).

Redfearn expects to be able to recall Byram against Nottingham Forest this weekend and could also have Rudy Austin available after a two-game absence.

“I’m hoping that might happen but it’s a thigh strain with Rudy so we’ve got to be careful,” Redfearn said.

“If we get it wrong and bring him back to early then we could lose him for weeks. There’s still 10 games to go and we want to finish well.

“Sam blocked a tackle on Wednesday and he’s sore on the sole of his foot.

“There’s no point in aggravating injuries when we’ve got 10 games to play.”