In a summary of what will probably be the easiest match review of the season, not much happened in the game between Leeds and Leicester. Not much for any neutral viewers to get excited about anyway. Both teams played solid, possession football, exchanging control of the game every 10 minutes or so, while each respective defence dealt with the majority of the threats posed by the opposition. If one was to be critical, and slightly pretentious with the use of “one” as a pronoun, it could be argued that Leicester had the better chances altogether, but in reality that should have been expected, given their home advantage and strong attacking options. Any team that are capable of bringing Chris Wood off the bench have to be seen as a threat in the goals department. Leeds, however, held firm and shook off the pre-match “bullies” tag by sweeping the ball around nicely, creating a number of chances of their own, and picking up just the one yellow card (Pearce) in comparison to Leicester’s three (Moore, Knockaert and Whitbread). Any idea of bullying or intimidation by the travelling Leeds team was dispelled throughout, as the game proceeded with an almost odd level of camaraderie between the two sets of players. Every time an over-exuberant challenge brought a free kick, or a player was hassled off the pitch, the men involved would laugh, shake hands, and get on with the game. How dull.
As I said before, any neutral watching this game would have been sorely disappointed, but from a supporters perspective there was plenty to be positive about, despite the lack of action. The return of newly appointed club captain Rodolph Austin, for example, was a joy to behold. Right from the off Austin was dominating the centre of the park, spraying passes out wide to Noel Hunt and Luke Varney, then dictating the short passing game played between himself, McCormack, Green and Murphy. On several occasions Leicester’s attempts to utilise their strength in width were thwarted by Rudy and his fantastically timed headers and tackles. And although we weren’t treated to any long range attempts, the Jamaican looked as if he had shaken off the fatigue that had seen his performances criticised mid-way through last season. With the right management and conditioning, this could be a huge year for our new skipper. Elsewhere, Luke Murphy and Ross McCormack looked composed in possession, though you feel McCormack could focus a little more on his attacking responsibilities, while Paul Green seemed to have shaken off the torrid shift he put in against Chesterfield mid-week. The substitutes Matt Smith and Dom Poleon impressed too, with Poleon providing yet more evidence of his ability and willingness to drive at defenders, and Smith providing the aerial threat that almost lead to two goals late on.
A strong defensive showing, including good work in the second half by Paddy Kenny, has given us a priceless clean sheet against a team tipped to score a good amount of goals in the coming season. Their efforts were overshadowed, however, by the heart-attack-inducing, gut-wrenching moment in the middle of the second half, as Tom Lees went down clutching his knee. Now, I was watching the game in a Camden pub with a Leicester supporting friend of mine. No one else in this establishment cared about this game even one bit, save me and my friend. I even overheard two Frenchmen describe the concept of the game as “shit” (I can’t really speak French, but when I hear “blahblahblah Leicester blahblahblah Leeds blahblahblah Merde”, I know what they mean), while most were the remnants of the parties that had been watching the Charity Shield game between… someone and Wigan. Ahem. However, I was so scared by the prospect of losing Lees to any kind of injury, I let out an extremely audible gasp of pure, unadulterated, neo-Dickensian shock. Like a Victorian lady after hearing her son denounce his faith in the monarchy.
To lose any of our defenders, let alone Tom Lees, to injury now would put us in a huge predicament. Lee Peltier could cover at CB of course, but with no Sam Byram to call on, Zac Thompson would most likely fill in at RB, and despite his promise, I don’t see him making the same impact as Byram last season. With all our pre-season moans about a lack of width in the team, I think some fans are over-looking the fact that we don’t have decent cover in the centre of defence. McDermott has, of course, been chasing Matt Mills and (more recently) Gordon Greer, but neither transfer has come to fruition, and time is running out if we want to blood a new option quickly. As well as this, I think Sunday’s game highlighted our need for another striker. Hunt and Varney covered a lot of ground, but neither showed the kind of out-and-out threat that Leicester possessed (and under-used) in Chris Wood. In my mind, we still need a replacement for Luciano Becchio, probably the last remnant of the Bates/Warnock era still to be undone by GFH. If Salah Nooruddin was serious when he stated that his board would be able to fund a couple more transfers for McDermott, then a striker and centre back have to be our priorities considering our current tactical system. A winger would be lovely, don’t get me wrong, but right now I feel like that would be like buying a spoiler for a car that doesn’t have all four wheels yet.
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