Luke Ayling's brilliance in Leeds win went under radar

9th April 2019, Deepdale, Preston, England; EFL Championship football, Preston North End versus Leeds United; Luke Ayling of Leeds United fires in a shot from the edge of the box

Luke Ayling has made a return to form in the last few weeks as Leeds United continue their push for the play-off places.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa reacts during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on April 13, 2019 in Leeds, England.

One of the most pivotal moments during Leeds' clash with Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend came when the visitors exposed a gap in the Whites' defence and managed to put Gary Hooper through on goal, seemingly with only Kiko Casilla to beat.

At the time, the game was goalless and Keiren Westwood had already produced a world-class save to deny Tyler Roberts down the other end. And while Hooper was making only his fourth appearance of the campaign, many Leeds fans in that split second when he got through would have expected the striker to break the deadlock and leave Sheffield United in the driving seat in the promotion race.

 

And yet, when Hooper got to the moment to tuck the ball home, Luke Ayling seemed to come out of nowhere to produce an outstanding sliding challenge that pushed the forward out to an angle from which he could only find the side-netting.

It was a piece of brilliance from the right-back, as he superbly read the situation from the moment Adam Reach's first touch caused Pontus Jansson to lose his footing 30 yards from goal. And it proved to be a key moment as Leeds went on to secure a 1-0 win thanks to a Jack Harrison goal in the second-half.

9th April 2019, Deepdale, Preston, England; EFL Championship football, Preston North End versus Leeds United; Luke Ayling of Leeds United fires in a shot from the edge of the box

It was the moment that Ayling deserved after a comeback in recent weeks that highlighted exactly why Marcelo Bielsa never seemed interested in swapping the right-back for one of his teammates when the fans' criticism was at its loudest earlier in the year.

The 27-year-old now looks like the player that was one of the Championship's best full-backs in his first season at Elland Road. He is back to causing problems in the final third and dealing with worrying moments at the other end of the pitch. 

Luke Ayling of Leeds United  during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United at Loftus Road on February 26, 2019 in London, England.

When Ayling conceded a late penalty against Swansea back in February after weeks of being criticised, he may have been fearful. But the mood had shifted after a performance that was largely flawless for 86 minutes.. 

And it probably says everything about how Ayling has since gone from strength to strength that he has arguably not got the credit he deserves for that challenge on Saturday. 

The fans are no longer surprised when the right-back produces a moment of quality that could prove to be huge if Leeds manage to get across the line in the promotion race. 

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