Bolton Carabao Cup 1st Round 14th August 2018 at Elland Road

As my granddaughter Hannah and I arrived at the ground our first stop was the club shop. I’d met my publisher Steve unexpectedly yesterday and he said that three of my books were on sale in the shop which was good to hear. The book area had been delayed as the sale of the home shirts had taken over from sorting out more of the layout. It looked really good in there today and there are lots of memorabilia for sale now. From there we went to the Peacock and met my daughter Dani and friends Sue and Keith. As we walked into the pub a lad from Halifax came over to say hello and I remembered the name Bucket immediately. As he keeps up to date with my blog in Spain it was nice to say hello. After taking a couple of photos we headed into the ground as there were going to be queues at the turnstiles, as the sales of tickets had gone through the roof in the last few days. The Bielsa effect is obviously having an impact and whetted the appetite of fans for this cup tie even though there were going to be a lot of changes to the team. On our way there someone came up to me to say was there any Leeds fan out there who didn’t know it was my birthday last Saturday. Obviously he’d seen all the messages I received on Facebook etc.

The team today were: Blackman, Shackleton, Ayling, Jansson, Baker, Harrison, Bamford, Phillips, Roberts, Saiz and Pearce. A double substitution of Klich for Roberts and Alioski for Saiz (68) then Roofe for Bamford (80) took place. Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals by Bamford (27) and Saiz (35). Attendance was 19,617 with 1,007 Bolton fans.

With the wholesale changes to the team I didn’t feel like I normally do because as far as I can see, Bielsa will be getting every player at the club to play the same way. This means to me that they would be able to slot into any position they are asked to play. The first half an hour saw Leeds have plenty of possession and saw a couple of early chances. Phillips looked like he was the engine room and had a good game. Jamie Shackleton was making his home debut and I do like the lad. Seeing him give as good as he got when protecting Blackman in goal made me laugh but it was impressive. He is going to be a good one for the future that’s for sure. All of a sudden Bamford got the ball in an attack, got past one Bolton player before putting the ball into the net for a debut goal.  Eight minutes later we got a second goal when Saiz scored after some great footwork when we broke out of defence into an attack. At that time we looked like we would be comfortable winners.

The second half saw Bolton come out on the attack and our play wasn’t as fluent as it had been in the first half. It wasn’t a surprise when they pulled one back and could so easily have equalised before we got back into the game. Both Harrison and Shackleton put some great crosses in but we were unable to do anything with it. The young lad behind me was concerned that we had eight men in attack near the end of the game. I said it was because we won’t sit on a one goal lead anymore and whilst he understood that, I don’t think he understood the Bielsa concept. My motto of the best form of defence is attack, means that I am happy with what Bielsa is bringing to the squad as a whole. There was some rustiness amongst a few of the players in the team today and some frustrations amongst them when things didn’t come off. With having no reserve teams of old to get playing time, and despite having a smaller squad, it looks like the players on the edge of the first team will be used in the cup games. Whilst I’m not a lover of a weakened team for cup games, for once it didn’t feel like it due to the fact that Bielsa wants everyone to play the same way. What I did like to see was the trainers all getting involved at the side of the pitch and sending instructions to the players. Bielsa also didn’t stay perched on his bucket but would get up to have a word with them too. After both Monk and Heckingbottom stood at the side with folded arms, I found that a breath of fresh air.

Just before the end of the game some lads behind tried singing Wembley, Wembley, we’re the famous Leeds United and we’re off to Wembley. I just thought no please wait with that song as I didn’t want it jinxing. With many of our fans in the East Stand heading for the exits I thought they must be confident that Bolton won’t get an equaliser and weren’t waiting for extra time. To be honest on that basis I’m assuming that nothing has changed with the rules for cup games since last season though. I did get a bit jittery in those last few minutes but we ended the game with a win and through to the next round. We’ll know soon enough who our next opponents will be; if it’s away I would like to have a new ground to visit.

I would like to say a big thank you to Pete for buying my book Follow Me and Leeds United which is appreciated enjoy the read. Also thanks for the feedback from everyone who enjoys reading my blog.

Saturday sees Rotherham come to Elland Road for the second home game in a week and we will be looking at a near sellout crowd. I feel that Bielsa will stick with the same team as against Derby unless there are any injuries. See you there, LUFC – Marching on Together!

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