Graham Smyth's Verdict as Leeds United adopt infuriating catch and release policy at Elland Road

Leeds United appear to have adopted a catch and release policy at Elland Road.

Saturday, 21st September 2019, 11:54 pm
Klich missed Leeds' second half penalty (Pic: Getty)

They had Derby County on the hook at 1-0 up, but just like Nottingham Forest and Swansea before them, the Rams somehow wriggled free.

The sight of visiting players celebrating wildly in front of the away section after a late goal is becoming very old, very quickly.

There is no longer any mystery in how Leeds United don't win games like this.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An almost totally dominant first half performance produced enough in the way of possession, territory and chances to win nine points, never mind the three they could have had.

They settled, begrudgingly, frustratingly, infuriatingly for one - Chris Martin stroking home Derby County's only on-target shot of the day in stoppage time.

Phillip Cocu would later credit his players for sticking to the plan of staying in the game.

That was only possible because Leeds, through sheer wastefulness, permitted them to.

Leeds fans were left frustrated, again, at Elland Road (Pic: Getty)

They play with teams, pass them to the point of death and appear to become squeamish when it's time to go for the kill.

After 45 minutes of Saturday's lunchtime game, it looked like one side knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it and one side had won a competition to be there.

Derby's commitment to their passing out from the back philosophy was sorely tested.

Jack Harrison struggled to find Leeds players with his crosses (Pic: Getty)

Leeds' high press caused some very uncomfortable moments and brought numerous chances.

And as White shirts honed in on their every move, Derby's discomfort in possession and their tally of errors only grew.

READ: Kalvin Phillips rues 'complacency'Passes were picked off, poor touches were pounced upon, Leeds doing everything right by comparison, until of course the final ball.

One man who struggled desperately in that regard was Jack Harrison.

Time and time again he got into great positions and just could not produce a delivery.

On the other flank, Stuart Dallas was having a field day and his byline chip to the back post might have been dispatched had Harrison and Gjanni Alioski not got in each other's way.

The arrival, in the nick of time, of a black shirted Derby defender robbed Harrison of another chance, this time from a Pablo Hernandez cross - the right flank proving more promising for Leeds.

Their relentless start to the game deserved the 20th minute goal that opened the scoring.

For the second consecutive game, Kalvin Phillips produced a cracking free-kick from the left, this time finding Bamford whose touch across the box was rifled goalward by Dallas, Kelle Roos only palming it against team-mate Max Lowe and into the net.

Leeds must have felt a second goal and the three points were there for the taking and with Derby shaken, went hunting.

Dallas set his sights from 25 yards, Roos tipping the left-foot effort over the top.

READ: Phillip Cocu says 'the energy was out of Leeds' Then Hernandez played the Ulsterman in on the right, Dallas beating Roos but not the covering defence.

Despite being a goal behind and barely even able to lay a credible claim on second best in the encounter, Derby must have felt their luck was in when Bamford was unable to take either of two glorious chances that presented themselves either side of the break.

Alioski's perfect ball over the top was taken down brilliantly by the striker, who lofted the ball over both Roos and the crossbar.

Early in the second half, after patient build up, Dallas played an inviting ball across the area and Bamford stole in to beat the keeper but not the upright.

As it dawned upon the home supporters that it could turn into yet another one of those days for Bamford and Leeds, the atmosphere went a little flat.

It certainly wasn't helped by a distinct lack of noteworthy incidents and the foothold that Derby gained, with Leeds going quiet.

Even the introduction of Helder Costa, for the luckless Harrison, failed to bring the hosts or the contest back to life.

Instead, with 20 minutes left, it was Bamford who produced a spark.

His forward run was picked out by Hernandez, he ignored the players up in support, instead backing himself to trick and muscle his way through a clutch of defenders, which he did until he was felled.

Just like at Barnsley, it was Mateusz Klich who stepped up and the penalty he produced was just like the one he scored at Barnsley, except it was the wrong side of the post.

At that moment, the script could have been written and we could have all gone home, accepting the inevitable draw.

Bamford departed soon after, Eddie Nketiah taking his place.

Unlike six days prior, when he left the Oakwell pitch visibly upset, he walked off in the manner of a man who had given his all.

His hold up play, the runs he made, his contribution to the high press and his success in the air earned him a nice ovation and would have been enough to earn post-game plaudits, in the context of a win.

What happened in stoppage time shed a different light on the frontman's display and the chances he missed.

The final stages of the game saw none of the smothering press that gave Leeds such dominance in the first half and there was none of the rampant attacking play that should have allowed them to bury the game by the break.

There was, however, a repeat of the old story that haunts this Leeds team.

Bielsa said after the game he had taken steps to protect Leeds from attacks down their left flank, but that was where Derby's one moment of danger came from.

Lowe charged down the wing, put a ball into the box and Martin put it in the net.

The prey they had ensnared and toyed with, that had played dead for much of the game, suddenly came to life, jumped up and bit them.

In doing so, Derby became the latest one that got away.

In the press conference that followed, Bielsa admitted it was difficult to give reasons for the result when questioned by journalists, pointing repeatedly to the 10 chances his side created, to Derby's one.

He's going to have to come up with answers, however, and make this side more ruthless, or Leeds fans will be left saying 'it was this big' about the 2019/20 promotion bid, instead of proudly showing off their biggest catch in 15 years.