LEEDS UNITED 1 BRENTFORD 0

Stewart Purvis joined the 408 Bees fans who travelled to Elland Road hoping for the best but slightly fearful of the worst.

Brentford held out for 81 minutes against a super fit and fast Championship team before yielding to two subs on loan from the Premiership whose pace created a winner.

In the exact opposite of their last trip north against Middlesbrough the Bees started well but faded badly in the second half. Sections of Elland Road seating which were once left unpopulated and abandoned as a testament to the club’s demise were packed as 35,000 came for the visit of the club many Leeds fans see as a bogey team. They kept up a tide of supporting sound throughout and were not distracted by the return of former hero Pontus Jansson who got only the occasional boo. Those Bees fans who trekked to Newcastle back in 2016 will remember how the sheer scale of that stadium and the home support seemed to overwhelm the visitors from the start.

This was different. Brentford opened brightly, pressed well, and had the first good chance of the game when Bryan Mbeumo hit the post after a run down the right. With Ethan Pinnock back from injury alongside Jansson, the defence coped well with the pace,power and commitment that is the hallmark of Marcelo Bielsa’s team. But in the second quarter Leeds had two good aerial chances through Patrick Bamford, one went over the top, another just wide. At the other end, in a game where set pieces seemed the most likely way to produce a goal, corners were overhit and when there were breakaways they too often petered out. But all things considered, to go in at half-time all square was an achievement.

When the second half began a careless pass from Bryan Mbeumo gave away possession and for twenty minutes it was all Leeds all the time. Brentford’s midfielders and forwards alike were brushed aside, Sergi Canos looked particularly vulnerable, fans pointed out that maybe he was missing the customary cut out holes in the back of his socks. But the defence stood firm and David Raya never made a mistake.

Then on sixty five minutes we were reminded that Brentford might yet nick this when Ollie Watkins had a rare strike. It went wide but Leeds were getting stressed. In their technical area no fewer than three assistant coaches, all dressed in Leeds branded grey pyjamas, shouted and screamed at their players. And sometimes Head Coach Bielsa rose from his upturned bucket seat to shout at his coaching team.

It was time for him to throw on the subs. First up Helder Costa, on loan from Wolves, who immediately made a series of mistakes. 12 minutes later Eddie Nketiah ,on loan from Arsenal, who has won the admiration of Ian Wright. Four minutes later Costa now made a good break on the right, Pinnock struggled to keep pace and the cross came over for Nketiah to put away simply. Thirty four and a half thousand Leeds fans went bonkers. In the directors box Ian Wright, sitting just behind the Brentford delegation, was on his feet chanting ‘Eddie,Eddie’ into a camera for social media.

Among Brentford’s subs Said Benrahma had the best and only chance but shot well wide. At the end Pontus Jansson slipped away almost unnoticed as Leeds fans celebrated their return to the top of the Championship on goal difference. What could Brentford take away? Not a lot other than to observe that many other teams will struggle even harder at Leeds. At the back there were solid performances by Raya, Jansson and Henrik Dalsgaard. But the midfield two- Jensen and Norgaard- are still learning their way in the Championship school of hard knocks especially when outnumbered. In his twenty minutes at the end only Josh Dasilva showed the necessary physical power to ward off the Leeds midfield. Kamo Mokotjo played 65 minutes for the B team the previous night so may be close to contention for Saturday’s game at Charlton but it feels like it will be a few more matches after that before Thomas Frank is clearer about his preferred midfield.

Up front credit to Watkins for commitment and non-stop running but no game time for sub Forss this time. The only way to strengthen the striking options to replace Neal Maupay ahead of the arrival of Halil Dervisoglu in January seems to be to sign a free agent.

Leeds United: Casilla; Dallas (sub Berardi) White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Hernández (Nketiah), Forshaw, Klich, Harrison (Costa) ; Bamford.

Brentford: Raya; Jeanvier, Jansson, Pinnock (Marcondes); Dalsgaard, Nørgaard, Jensen, Henry; Mbeumo (Dasilva), Canós (Benrahma), Watkins.