CRAIG HOPE: Sam Allardyce’s battlers are running out of time, Leeds fought like mad but their energy-sapping 2-2 draw against Newcastle did them no favours
- Sam Allardyce’s Leeds were held to a 2-2 draw by Newcastle on Saturday
- They could have won had they not missed one penalty and given away two
- It was wonderful entertainment, but offers little help in the relegation battle
They say that chaos is good for the soul. Not so much for your survival prospects. Or, indeed, Champions League hopes. For when the dust and dirt of the disorder settles, the quality and control was all a little unclean.
Played out amid a cauldron of rampant hysteria — Elland Road at its best — those on the pitch did little to calm those in the stands.
Not that the neutral wanted for such comfort — this was wonderful entertainment. Come the end, it felt like two drunks wrestling on a kebab shop floor — a red card and red mist the replacement for red cabbage.
What does it do for Leeds and Newcastle going forward? The danger is that a battle such as this saps both mind and body. Yes, they are all big games now, but 12-round slogs can leave you weary, especially when the outcome is a split-decision that does not greatly aid the respective cause of either side.
Leeds were better than they have been. And were there 12 games remaining instead of just two, you would back them to stay up under Sam Allardyce. His influence was evident by the stubborn manner in which they closed the door on Newcastle for the majority of this game. It was only unlocked from the inside, given the two needless penalties that afforded the visitors their goals.
Leeds were held to a 2-2 draw by Newcastle on Saturday in their second game under Sam Allardyce
They could have won the game after missing a penalty and giving two away
Allardyce’s men almost certainly need another win to secure Premier League status next year
Take a minute to forecast the likely results of those at the bottom and Leeds, without a win in seven games, are almost certainly going to have to win one more.
The frustration for Allardyce is that the victory they need should have come here. His answer when asked why Patrick Bamford had taken the penalty upon which the game changed — the striker missed with Leeds 1-0 up in the 28th minute — was far from convincing.
‘Well, I left it how it used to be like before I got here,’ he said. The point is, Allardyce was brought in to fix what was broken. ‘I mean, I haven’t seen them take many penalties,’ he added.
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Robles 7; Ayling 7, Wober 5, Kristensen 7, Firpo 3; Koch 6.5; Rodrigo 7 (Aaronson 87min), McKennie 6, Greenwood 5 (Forshaw 46, 7), Harrison 6 (Gnonto 64, 6); Bamford 4 (Struijk 90).
Scorers: Ayling 7, Kristensen 79.
Booked: Firpo, Gnonto, Robles, Bamford.
Sent off: Firpo.
Manager: Sam Allardyce 6.5.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Pope 7; Trippier 6, Schar 5.5, Botman 5.5, Burn 5.5; Joelinton 6, Guimaraes 5.5, Willock 6 (Anderson 87); Almiron 5.5 (Gordon 73, 5.5), Wilson 7.5 (Saint-Maximin 73, 5.5), Isak 7.
Scorer: Wilson 31 (pen), 69 (pen).
Booked: Guimaraes, Wilson.
Manager: Eddie Howe 6.
Referee: Simon Hooper 7.
Leeds: West Ham (a), Tottenham (h).
Newcastle: Brighton (h), Leicester (h), Chelsea (a).
Why not? Grumblings of mistrust were audible among home fans when Bamford stepped forward. It was with foresight, not hindsight, that they felt Rodrigo should have taken it.
Bamford’s confidence is as fragile as the club’s top-flight status and it was little surprise when his telegraphed approach was read by goalkeeper Nick Pope. Had Leeds scored, with Newcastle disorientated, they would have won.
Within a few minutes Callum Wilson equalised from the penalty spot, and he had another midway through the second half. Max Wober’s wild challenge and Junior Firpo’s senseless handball were the cause of the concessions. Firpo was then sent off in stoppage time. If anything, that was a blow for Newcastle — with him on the pitch there was always the chance of a gift.
And Eddie Howe’s side needed that home generosity here. Their once-menacing defence has gone soft amid a run of one clean sheet in 17, while an attack that has been razor-sharp suddenly looks blunted.
They did not show their usual control once in front, either, and Leeds equalised when Rasmus Kristensen’s shot deflected in off Kieran Trippier.
Howe said: ‘I was disappointed with the second half. I felt we could grab the game and try to take it away from them, but it never really happened.’
The Newcastle boss was shoved and abused by a home fan during stoppage time. An unsavoury incident, if one entirely in keeping with the febrility of the day.
But from all of the chaos cool heads are now needed. ‘It’s never a straight line to success,’ said Howe. This certainly felt like a whacky detour that could yet knock both teams off course.
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