Tag Archives: EFL Cup

Monk’s Anger Should Ensure Feisty Leeds Display at Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson

odemwingie

Odemwingie: Who, Ref? Me, Ref?

Rotherham United 1, Leeds United 2

Garry Monk was naturally pleased with three vital points at the expense of a fired-up Rotherham United side – but he was clearly not a happy bunny after the final whistle, and you could see why. Leeds United, two up at half time and facing a depleted home side, after a senseless act of thuggery by Millers madman Peter Odemwingie brought him a well-deserved red card, should have been able to engage cruise control and ease to a comfortable three or four goal win. Instead, they allowed the complacency they’d been warned against during half time to creep into their play – and they came within one skied close-range finish of dropping two precious Championship points.

Such are the wrinkles Monk is doing his best to iron out of this Leeds United squad, and you have to say that there has been obvious progress within what he continually refers to as a young group. It’s live and learn as much as sink or swim in second-tier league football and, if the group can learn something from such a laissez-faire second-half display and still get away with a victory, then it’s been a good day after all. The record books will show that goals from Chris Wood and Souleymane Doukara were enough to see Rotherham off, despite Richard Wood’s late effort which only just beat an acrobatic Rob Green. At the end of the day, Brian, it’s all about results.

Still, Monk’s post-match demeanour left nobody in any doubt that the paint had just been blistered off the away team dressing room walls; the young group had been treated to a savage analysis of their shortcomings that, we can but hope, will lead to rather more focus over the next few games. That focus will be sorely needed for the stern tests that lie in wait for United; first at Anfield in the EFL Cup quarter-final, and then rather more importantly in massive league games against Aston Villa and high-flying Brighton and Reading outfits. If Leeds can emerge from that little lot with an honourable exit from the Cup and six or seven more league points safely banked – well, there won’t be too many glum faces around Elland Road.

If Garry Monk really is the real deal at this level – and there seems no valid reason so far to doubt that – then he will be adept at the art of dealing with matters in-house and by the judicious use of both stick and carrot as the occasion demands. All great managers, together with those aspiring to greatness, have had the common sense to know that sometimes an arm needs to go around the demoralised shoulder – and other times a boot needs applying to the relevant backsides. Young teams will wax and wane, it’s part of the process of becoming battle-hardened and consistently effective. Today, some of Leeds United’s players were found wanting – and got away with it. But it must not happen again.

On Tuesday night at Anfield, there will be nowhere to hide – and the eleven men in United shirts must have the message of what is expected ringing loudly in their ears. Whatever kind of side Liverpool put out, a display of the sort we suffered through in the second half at Rotherham will leave us needing an abacus to keep the Reds score, and headache pills for afterwards. The important thing today was the win and the three points – but if we were to gain the bonus of improved displays over the important games coming up from whatever bollocking was delivered in the dressing room – then today will have been doubly productive.

There are testing times ahead but, as the ancient scholar said, it’s a case of “per ardua ad astra” – through hardship, we can reach the stars. It would take a stellar performance at Anfield to survive another stage of the EFL Cup, and league points will be hard to come by over the next few league games; still, with the right proportions of carrot and stick from our bright young manager, you just never know.

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Leeds United Boosted by Hat-Trick of Victories and a New Hero   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood, much-maligned goal machine


The phenomenon of three wins on the bounce for Leeds United is not simply a welcome change for long-suffering Whites fans – it’s more like something approaching a state of nirvana. Free from the worries and stresses accompanying defeat after defeat, the average Elland Road regular can relax for once, spared the jibes of a hostile media and annoyingly gloating fans of lesser clubs. Three straight wins – it’s as near to bliss as we’re likely to get right now.

Of course, it can’t be denied that this minor miracle has been achieved without the pulling-up of too many trees. Our victory at Cardiff dumped the Bluebirds unceremoniously at the foot of the table, and the other two victories – one in the league, one in the EFL Cup, were narrow affairs against another club struggling in the Championship’s basement, Blackburn Rovers. So it might not be much to write home about, although I’m clearly intending to get a blog out of it. Still – three wins is three wins, and it might just turn out to be a platform for better things to come. A victory against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Tractor Boys on Saturday, and we really would be on a roll.

The most notable factor in the trio of triumphs over the past week or so may well be the emergence of Swedish international centre back Pontus Jansson as the next Whites folk hero. Jansson’s performance at Cardiff was simply sublime; I’ve not seen a better defensive debut in many a moon. He’s the sort of colossus who you feel would head away anything fired at him, up to and including an intercontinental ballistic missile. And when he wasn’t wielding that impressive head, he was sliding into last ditch tackles or nipping in to make handy interceptions from frustrated Cardiff attackers. Wherever the ball entered our danger zone, there was Pontus to deal with it. The man was a revelation, a magnet for the ball, a man among men and one to hang on to if at all possible. Whoever the resident defenders are at Torino, his parent club, they must be a bit good to allow for the release of Jansson on a season’s loan. The Italians’ loss will, hopefully, be Leeds United’s gain.

Among other high points from the last few games was that Pablo Hernandez “worldy” strike to clinch the points at Cardiff. If he can start to put in more of a full shift, the ex-Swansea playmaker should be a real asset for United as the season goes on. And it’s good, also, to see Chris Wood scoring regularly. His winner against Blackburn in the EFL Cup was not a thing of beauty but, like Wood himself, it got the job done. And the boy takes a good, decisive penalty, putting them away hard and true with admirable cool as he did to open the scoring against our former nemesis Cardiff. Wood may have his detractors, but he’s undeniably effective.

Last, but not least, it’s lovely to see United make progress in a Cup. Norwich City are next up in a game at Elland Road that could see Leeds make a rare Quarter Final, and then – who knows? Maybe a big fish at home, like Manchester City, if they can overcome their own local minnows.

Now, that WOULD be bliss!

Leeds Utd Should Succeed Where Villa Failed at Luton Town   –   by Rob Atkinson

The Giant-killing field of Kenilworth Road

One swallow does not a summer make – but Leeds United‘s opening victory of the season at Sheffield Wednesday has brought with it real hope of brighter times to come. Tuesday night’s tricky looking EFL Cup tie at Luton Town, conquerors in the previous round of Aston Villa, could go a long way towards validating that hope.

A win at Luton and secure progress to the next stage of this competition would increase the burgeoning feelgood factor in and around the United squad. Comments during the Sheffield Wednesday encounter from the Sky Sports News channel repeatedly picked up on the “togetherness” of the Leeds players, even before the Whites took the lead and then sealed a derby-day win. That word togetherness speaks volumes for the mentally-attuned state of a team, and it was a novel and welcome thing to hear about a group of players wearing that famous white shirt. 

Success at Luton, followed if possible by something from Nottingham Forest away, and we’d head into the international break in fine fettle. On the other hand, defeat tonight would be no disaster – but the pressure would then be on to make amends at the City Ground next weekend.

It won’t be easy at Luton, famed cup fighters who made comparatively short work of Aston Villa. It never has been easy down there, many a nominally more illustrious team having been slain on that tight little ground with the row of conservatories along one side of the pitch. But, if United can retain and build on that precious togetherness, and with the threat they undoubtedly carry going forward, then they can and should prevail.

So much will depend on gaffer Garry Monk‘s team selection, but there is now a semblance of strength in depth about United’s squad. Monk will have his priorities straight, yet he’s expressed a desire to “go far” in this competition, and he’ll want to avoid the fright that Fleetwood gave his men – so a relatively powerful team is likely to take the field against the Hatters. 

On balance, therefore, and with a post-Wendies sense of optimism, I shall go for a 3-1 United win, hopefully in regulation time. And then? – well, it’s a case of “bring on the Big Boys”. Maybe even someone at the very top.

Hull City, anybody…?

Mixed Start to the Season for Leeds as Defensive Woes Cost Dear – by Rob Atkinson

Antonsson

Whichever way you look at it – and there are a few differing options – Leeds United‘s season has started rather worryingly. A lack of truly meaningful match practice pre-season, combined with the loss of midfield starlet Lewis Cook, saw the Whites starting the campaign with huge question marks looming over their prospects for success.

True, some real promise has been recruited, in particular the exciting potential of former Oxford hotshot Kemar Roofe. But the sale of Cook to AFC Bournemouth leaves a gap that has not yet been filled. In defence, too, things look less than settled. Kyle Bartley has been recruited from manager Garry Monk’s old club Swansea, but Sol Bamba remains club captain despite some deeply ordinary form. And another young star in left-back Charlie Taylor has apparently expressed a desire to leave. It’s really difficult to describe the net effect of Leeds’ transfer business (so far) as positive.

And then, when the talking had to stop and the football began for real, came a performance at QPR in the season opener that was by turns pallid and chaotic. Comical defending cost United a goal after just four minutes, and it was largely downhill from there. By the time Tjaronn Chery cracked home the Rangers clincher from an acute angle in the closing stages, Leeds were a very well-beaten team.

On the optimistic side, all three of the Championship’s supposed big guns lost away from home on that opening day. Newcastle and Aston Villa joined Leeds in defeat, and likewise failed to trouble the scorers. But the Toon and the Villans were both edged out only 0-1; a rather better showing than United’s 0-3 tonking at Loftus Road.

Still, as things stand, we’ve only lost once all season and we’re just three points off the top. In spite of what the readers of this blog might think from some of the stuff I write, it is important to take a glass half-full view as a Leeds fan, knowing as we do that only relentless optimism is likely to save us from despair. And, still looking on that bright side, even after losing first time up – perhaps we could now make early progress in the EFL Cup on Wednesday at Fleetwood, and banish the memories of the thrashing QPR had handed out. That would be quite sweet, actually, particularly as ALL of Yorkshire’s other sides had surrendered meekly the night before, going out of the Cup along with several high-profile Championship casualties.

In the event, Leeds did manage to progress as Yorkshire’s sole representatives. It has to be said, though, they were more than a little fortunate against a Fleetwood side that was a goal to the good early on, and held that advantage until the last minute of normal time. But then new signing Marcus Antonsson, a Swedish striker of whom much is expected, produced a brilliant turn and shot to level for Leeds at the last gasp. And it was substitute Antonsson who was then fouled in the box early in extra time to give the hitherto ineffective Chris Wood the chance to make it 2-1 from the spot. It remained only for Leeds to chuck away their hard-won advantage in typical fashion, allowing time and room for Fleetwood to fashion an equaliser – and we were facing the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

So it came to pass that veteran ‘keeper Rob Green, at fault for the first goal against QPR the previous weekend, went from zero to become the campaign’s first Leeds hero. After United had scored all of their penalties, Green produced a smart save off Fleetwood’s fifth and final spot kick – and Leeds were narrowly, edgily, through to the second round. Pride of Yorkshire? Most definitely!

Now we will meet Luton Town of League Two, 3-1 conquerors of once-mighty Aston Villa, at Kenilworth Road in Round Two. It’s a tie that will quite likely be televised and a very definite potential banana skin for Yorkshire’s most famous club. But if Leeds can negotiate that hurdle, and perhaps pick up a bit over the next few Championship matches, it may well be that we’ll look back on that Rob Green penalty shoot-out save and realise it was an early-season turning point.

Things can only get better, so they say. It’s a dangerous line to take where Leeds are concerned; they always seem to find new depths to plumb. But you never know. Maybe, after a slow start, and with a few more quality signings, we can pick up and embark on a successful season of real achievement. Maybe, even, we’ll beat the Blues tomorrow. Stranger things have happened, after all. Just ask Leicester City…