LIAM COOPER feels Leeds United need to be braced for more resolute defending from visiting sides to Elland Road with the captain backing his Whites to find a way through.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites remain top of the Championship and unbeaten heading into the international break after taking a point from Friday night’s goalless draw against second-placed visitors Middlesbrough.
Cooper admits United got what they expected from Tony Pulis’ Riversiders who lined up with a five-man defence featuring two wing backs with a well-drilled and compact Boro packing numbers behind the ball with United in possession.
The captain expects more of the same from other visiting sides to Elland Road between now and the season’s conclusion next May.
Leeds were ultimately unable to break down the visitors but United held firm at the other end and Cooper is confident his men will have the answers should other sides attempt to repeat Middlesbrough’s ploy.
“I think we have got to be prepared for a lot of teams to come to Elland Road and play like that this year,” said Cooper.
“We know Middlesbrough are a real threat from set plays but to a man we defended well, first ball, second balls.
“We knew it was going to be one of them games.
“It was two different teams and two different styles, two good teams but I think there was only one team that was going to score in the second half and it felt like it was going to be us.
“The lads were great and it was disappointing not to come away with three points.
“Everyone knows a Tony Pulis team – they are strong and resolute but I think we did well.
“With the forward lads, we have got great players in the final third and sometimes we cut teams open and they have put so many men behind the ball that it’s difficult at times but I thought we still did it in spells in the game.”
Leeds and Boro are now one of only three unbeaten teams in the division with the Whites and second-placed Riversiders two points clear of the chasing pack. Cooper believes Boro’s style of play means the Riversiders will continually pick up points and after being frustrated offensively, the 27-year-old hailed United’s own resolve for standing firm against Boro, particularly when faced with a series of aerial threats in the final ten minutes.
“I think they are always going to pick points up,” said Cooper of Middlesbrough.
“They have come with a good game plan and we just haven’t been able to get in the final third and get a good chance and put it away.
“But if you are not going to win games we can’t lose them and I thought to a man we all performed very well and we dug in when we really hard to.
“Maybe last year we would have gone under a bit there and been a bit sloppy from a set play but I thought everyone was bang on it.”
Six games have now yielded four wins and two draws despite what looked like an extremely tough start to the season with an opening weekend 3-1 blitzing of former title favourites Stoke City at Elland Road followed by a 4-1 romp at Frank Lampard’s highly-touted Derby County.
Bielsa’s Whites then rolled on with a 2-0 success at home to Rotherham United before overcoming the absence of both Cooper and Pontus Jansson though injury to draw 2-2 draw at recently relegated Swansea City.
Winning ways were resumed with a 3-0 triumph at Norwich City before Friday night’s goalless draw with fellow highfliers Boro.
“It’s a tough league and no game is easy in this league, everybody knows that,” said Cooper.
“We have just got to approach it game by game and keep going.
“The lads have been a pleasure to play with these last few weeks and long may it continue.”