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Bamford earns Leeds point from top-two clash at West Brom

Patrick Bamford ensured West Brom and Leeds shared the spoils from an intense meeting between the Sky Bet Championship’s top two at The Hawthorns.

Semi Ajayi rose highest to edge the home side in front within 90 seconds, but substitute Bamford stepped off the bench to earn the visitors a point.

Slaven Bilic made four changes to the Baggies side who had been beaten by Middlesbrough three days earlier, and that returning quartet included midfielder Romaine Sawyers and defender Kyle Bartley.

For Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa was able to name an unchanged side to the one that ran out 5-4 winners at Birmingham City – Eddie Nketiah, expected to be recalled by Arsenal this month, once again led the line despite Bamford’s return to the squad.

The Hawthorns, packed to the rafters, produced an electric atmosphere from both sets of fans ahead of kick-off, but it was the home faithful who were jubilant after less than two minutes.
Kiko Casilla failed to deal with a corner and Ajayi, having received the ball back from centre back partner Bartley, forced the ball over the line.

The hosts had the lead, but in the period that followed the visitors grew into the game, seeing plenty of the ball and fashioning a few moves which were short of a final pass, or a shot on target.

West Brom thought they had a case for a penalty when Sawyers was dragged to the floor by Mateusz Klich, as the ball was about to be taken for a throw-in.

Referee Robert Jones was not having any of it. He waved away Luke Ayling’s claims for a handball at the other end before the half was out, too.

Though Leeds to continue to enjoy the lion’s share of the ball, it was actually the home side who should have doubled their lead when Matt Phillips, played in on goal, could only offer a tame strike straight at Casilla.

Bielsa, intent on wrestling back the initiative, introduced Bamford and Barry Douglas at half-time and the former brought the visitors level.

Jack Harrison’s cross, after a spell of Leeds pressure, was met by the head of Bamford and deflected beyond Sam Johnstone off the back of Ajayi.

Albion responded this time, with pressure of their own. Again Casilla tipped away a Matheus Pereira free-kick while Leeds continued to attack their hosts’ right-hand side with little luck.

The Spaniard, roundly booed by the home fans throughout, then had to deny substitute Kyle Edwards as the game got scrappier in the closing stages.

Both sides, now sitting on 52 points apiece, are both nine points clear of the play-offs as the Championship takes a breather for the FA Cup this weekend.