If you allow a wordplay, Kemar Roofe has been pretty handy to Leeds United since his return from an injury. Not only did he net in his last three games, but only one of his last four shots on goal did not put him on the match form. His presence in the right place at the right time was again important, giving United three points in Wigan – and they saw climbing back to the top of an ever-changing championship table.
Two goals came within the first ten minutes of Chelsea loanee Reece James and Pablo Hernandez, before Roofe was the winner of Leeds in the second half, after a thumping error in the defense.
For Wigan, this game meant more than the result, because it marks the end of an unbelievable era. It will be the last time that David Sharpe acted as club chairman, as he will soon hand over the keys to new IEC owners in Hong Kong. If he does, it will mark the end of the 23 years that the Whelan family has owned the club for 23 years – from the ascendancy to the Premier League to their victory in the FA Cup over Manchester City, when they were relegated again to the Football League. Former Latte boss Roberto Martinez was present to show support to the owners.
There was a quick start to the match, with Wigan winning a free kick on the edge of the area. Reece James, who came close last week with a similar set against Sheffield United, was exactly in this time when he hit a low shot across the wall and into the bottom corner, past a sprawling Bailey Peacock-Farrell. It silenced an ominous crowd of Leeds fans with a full voice and got Dave Whelan back on his feet.
All celebrations, only five minutes in them, were short-lived. A big gap in Wigan's defense allowed Mateusz Klich to slide into the box and cut back for Pablo Hernandez to fire an equalizer. And from that moment on, Leeds took the lead. The quick touch of Roofe in the box completed the course just a few seconds later as he drew two defenders, but was blocked before he could make a mistake.
The house form of Wigan can not be ignored this season. This is the first time they have been defeated at the DW Stadium since their return to the championship. If they look back, they have only been lost twice since March 2017. But there were few signs of that record reflected in their playing style, because in most cases they were a blunt instrument. The absence of Will Grigg and Nick Powell, both missing by injury, made things worse.
There was high on the menu of the visitors, because they wanted to react quickly to get the ball back and that led to many of their chances. Both Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas came close to seeing that through efforts just before the break, which Christian Walton quickly tipped and looked wide.
The pressure of Leeds, especially in the midfield, was ruthless while they continued to dominate. Mixed with some comfortable passing at the back, and finding areas to fit fit into Roofe and Hernandez, this was one of United's better performances this season.
Their goal of completing the comeback, just a minute in the second half, was another example of their attitude – although it was handed to them by mistake. A drop of ball in Hernandez's box seemed too far for pursuing Roofe, but miscommunication between Cedre Wirk and Cedric Kipre and his keeper let the ball slip past them both in one way or another. Roofe was there to strike and had the simple task of tapping it at home. Chants from "We are top notch" followed from the end of the road, which was a third part of the total audience, and all the noise.
While there were attempts to drive forward from Wigan, their attack leaned heavily on long balls and a little luck. There was a moment when Josh Windass was stopped to find eight white shirts behind the ball. Marcelo Bielsa would have been very proud of that.
In the final phase, the game started to open more for Wigan, with the introduction of Callum McManaman adding some speed to the left wing. He came closest in the last 10 minutes when he turned the box to find space. But his curling effort simply passed and the reaction of the crowd was enough to know that this was the best chance the Latics would get.
With three points, Leeds is now on top again for the fourth time, be it on goal difference. We are now more than a third of the way through the league list and so far there has been no runaway leader in the championship and only five points between the first and eighth place. The lack of consistency in the top six of promotion hopes is clear, including United. Fortunately, this weekend was in their favor.
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