Paul Heckingbottom’s Leeds United claimed a 1-0 win at Elland Road on Saturday to give fans their first taste of victory since Boxing Day, as fellow play-off chasers Brentford were made to suffer.
United captain Liam Cooper’s glancing header from a free kick just after half an hour is all that separated the two sides. However, United came close once more, courtesy of a mazy run into the 18-yard box from Pierre-Michel Lasogga, only to be denied by a last-ditch clearance from Brentford’s Ryan Woods.
Despite Brentford’s dominance in possession, they had few opportunities – their only real working of Leeds keeper Felix Wiedwald coming from a decent effort by John Egan prior to the goal. A dangerous free kick for the visitors was squandered later, being driven straight at the keeper.
Heckingbottom’s arrival from a struggling Barnsley team was initially met with mixed feelings from Whites fans, despite his previous achievements – namely taking Barnsley from mid-table League One to Championship safety, as well as silverware in the Football League Trophy, in under 18 months.
Leeds fans continued to remain sceptical after his first couple of games – a 2-1 loss to Sheffield United and a 2-2 draw at home to Bristol City.
However, the manager will be happy to have provided his first three points to the Leeds faithful, after an unlucky result the week before – maximum points only being denied against high-flying Derby County last week as a result of an injury-time equaliser.
Heckingbottom praised the ‘hard work of the players’ on Saturday, and seemed relieved as the result had been ‘a long time coming’. He went on to state his satisfaction in keeping a clean sheet against a Brentford team that score a lot of goals, and his happiness with his team’s organisation off the ball. Captain and goalscorer Liam Cooper also commented on the win as ‘a big result’.
Leeds are now just five points off a play-off place with twelve games to play. The task of promotion is still just about achievable, though they face a tough couple of fixtures in coming weeks. First, they face Tony Pulis’ in-form Middlesbrough side away from home, followed by a mid-week hosting of league leaders Wolves.
The prospect of creeping into sixth place is a big ask of the new manager, especially given the ability and form of teams above them, but Saturday’s victory is certainly a step in the right direction.
By Rob Kirk