Spotlight on Patrick Bamford as Eddie Nketiah's wait for Leeds United league start continues
PATRICK BAMFORD took his seasonal goal-scoring tally to nine with Saturday's brace against Cardiff City in one of his strongest displays of the season so far.
The striker again made himself a nuisance to opposing defenders with the striker also regularly able to find a team-mate in winning the ball.
His flick to start a rapid Whites attack 23 seconds into the second half was particularly neat.
Of 17 passes made by the striker, 14 were accurate while the no 9's clever runs also continually helped United find space in their flowing forays forward.
But the clinical edge that has at times been lacking this term also featured in Bamford's game against the Bluebirds with the forward seeing two of his three attempts at goal on target which both ended up in the back of the net.
Bamford showed fine control to chest down a Stuart Dallas cross in the eighth minute before rifling home into the roof of the net and the 26-year-old coolly sent Bluebirds 'keeper Neil Etheridge the wrong way for his 52nd-minute penalty which the striker had won himself.
One more effort was off target with a 28th-minute free-kick sent over the bar and Bamford admitted he was disappointed to be taken off in the 77th minute for Eddie Nketiah with the striker looking for his first Whites hat-trick.
A possible opening for the treble presented itself in the 66th minute with Bamford inches away from latching on to Mateusz Klich's through ball.
Instead, a Whites treble will have to wait for another day but the forward's form is continuing to make him one of the first names on the team sheet in the lone striker role at present, limiting opportunities for Arsenal loanee Nketiah.
Nketiah was on for the final 13 minutes plus four minutes of injury time against the Bluebirds and was unlucky to see his shot in the 80th minute blocked after good footwork created the opening.
Both of Nketiah's attempted passes were successful but the England under-21s striker saw his 94th-minute header from close range somehow saved by Etheridge with Ben White unable to net the rebound.
Nketiah looked unable to believe that neither he nor White had scored to give United what would have been a 4-3 victory.
Nketiah's class, pace and normal killer instinct is in no doubt whatsoever but if Leeds continue to play with a lone striker as seems likely then it is difficult to see where a league start is coming from if Bamford stays injury and suspension free.
Bamford, after all, has started every single league game this term.
Marcelo Bielsa has previously been asked about trying to fit Nketiah in out wide or as a no 10 but the Whites head coach didn't seem too keen on the idea, admitting Nketiah was best as a centre forward, albeit at a push he could play elsewhere.
But only six forwards now have more Championship goals than Bamford this term in Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic (16), Hull City's Jarrod Bowen (15), Brentford's Ollie Watkins (13), Huddersfield Town's Karlan Grant (12), Sheffield Wednesday's Steven Fletcher (12) and Nottingham Forest's Lewis Grabban (10).
Bamford is one of four players on nine and the striker has already admitted he is keeping a keen eye on the Championship golden boot race.
Mitrovic v Bamford is next as Leeds visit Fulham next weekend and it would be a big surprise if the in-form Whites striker did not make further big inroads in the goalscoring charts over United's Festive helping of games.