North End battled to a 1-1 draw with Leeds United on Tuesday night. We came close to grabbing all three points after Tom Barkhuizen gave us the lead in the 75th minute. However, Leeds super-sub Eddie Nketiah equalised with a looping header late to claim a point for his side which, being honest, was the least they deserved.
At 1-0 up we were up to 2nd in the league, and although we lacked creativity on the night we kept a strong Marcelo Bielsa side at bay for a long time. It’s disappointing that we didn’t hold on to the 3 points and there’s no doubt that the 1 point we did get would have felt a lot better if we didn’t lose against Reading at the weekend. Anyway, here are 5 things we learned from the Leeds United game:
Rightly or Wrongly Brad Potts is Being Made a Scapegoat
When Brad Potts arrived from Barnsley in January it’s fair to say he hit the ground running. Often played down the middle, the former Blackpool player showed his power, strength and great ball control and it looked like he could be a huge asset for us. He also chipped in with a few important goals.
After an injury and a lack of fitness coming into this season, he hasn’t really got going yet this time around. Tuesday saw him complete his first 90 minutes of the season. Although the first half pretty much passed him by in my opinion, he did come into the game in the second half on the right-hand side.
He’s far from our best option in that position but it seems after having a quick look through twitter and listening to the folk on the Town End that Potts is the one fans are pointing the finger at these days. There always seems to be someone, it was Daniel Johnson not long ago, Tom Barkhuizen too. Hopefully, Potts can get his confidence back soon.
There are Some Quality Teams in this League
We all knew Leeds were good, and they’ve got a top manager in charge in ‘El Loco’. Tuesday night showed their class, and let’s be honest even though we got the draw they were a level above us. They moved the ball around so quick, they always knew the pass to play and they gave us no room whatsoever.
All their players had a good game and their substitutes made a huge difference as well. As Potts said after the game, if anyone finishes above Leeds this season then it’s likely they will be promoted. Whilst we have ambitions of the top 6, looking at the squads that Leeds, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion have shows the huge task that we face competing with these teams.
So far we are doing so and I think that’s down to a combination of the fight and desire of our players as well as Alex Neil’s tactics being spot on so far.
Barkhuizen’s Pace is One of Our Best Assets
Ever since his arrival from Morecambe nearly three years ago, we have witnessed an electric turn of pace from the winger. His performance against Reading in his first season stands out when he broke from our own area defending a corner, caused two of their players to take each other out as he raced up the pitch and scored.
Against Leeds, his pace made sure he was there with Seani Maguire to score our goal. He was a problem in Luke Ayling’s side a few times during the game. He played a lovely one-two with David Nugent to get behind the defence at one point with his ball across goal just agonisingly in front of Potts.
When on form Barky is a huge player for us, and when at full speed he is so dangerous and no one will want to come up against him.
Rafferty May Have Won the Battle with Hughes for Now
As covered before here on From the Finney, Joe Rafferty has proved to be a more than capable left-back when deputising for Andrew Hughes who has missed the majority of the campaign with injury.
After finally regaining full fitness Hughes started the game against Reading and many thought Rafferty had been harshly done by. But the former Rochdale full-back got the nod against Leeds and again put in a decent performance. It will be interesting to see if he retains his place for the game against Blackburn.
Hughes is probably better in the air and is better going forward but that’s not to say Rafferty isn’t as he’s chipped in with a couple of assists and a goal this season. Either way, considering we thought we had a left-back crisis at the start of the season, we seem to be in an ok position for now.
Plus, Josh Earl returned from injury and played the full 90 minutes in Bolton Wanderers first win of the season on Tuesday.
Blackburn Rovers is a Must Win
It’s still very tight at the top of the table. At 1-0 up on Tuesday night, we were in second place. However, after Wednesday’s games, we could find ourselves out of the playoff places. 1 point from the last two games means we really need 3 points on Saturday to keep up the momentum of our fine start to the season.
Our record against our local rivals is great in recently. We’re unbeaten in our last 5 games against Rovers, winning 4 and scoring 12 goals in the process. We thrashed them 4-1 in the corresponding fixture last year and we could do with that again.
It should be a cracking atmosphere at Deepdale on Saturday and 3 points heading into a difficult away fixture against Charlton Athletic the week after will be delightful. We don’t want to drop off the pace of the top teams. As has been mentioned on the From the Finney Podcast, if we can consolidate a top 6 or even top 10 position in the coming weeks, we keep ourselves in with a shout.
Our home record is the best in the league with 5 wins and 2 draws and it would be great to continue to have Deepdale as a fortress this season.