After the embarrassing defeat at Barnsley on Tuesday night, Leeds’ visit to the Keepmoat to face Doncaster Rovers was an exercise in pride amongst other things.
To add to the occasion, the Donny chairman exercised his mouth in our direction yet again – something about Leeds’ out of town following I think. What he probably meant was why don’t more people support my team. Possibly the only chairman who uses LUFC to peddle his own tosh more than our own.
Having conceded just the five goals, changes were imminent and perhaps the least surprising saw captain Richard Naylor dropped – or rested, replaced by Alex Bruce who has had to wait far too long for a chance to show his worth. Like a true pro however, he did not waste the opportunity to prove he could well keep Naylor out of the team.
Elsewhere, Davide Somma, Ross McCormack, Andy Hughes and Aidy White came in, while Luciano Becchio, Lloyd Sam and the injured duo of Paul Connolly and Fede Bessone made way.
It’s always odd not to play on a Saturday afternoon but Friday evening’s are even more so. Still in the swathes of a hangover, the easy trip to Donny was made punctuated by the Friday rush hour and the inability of many drivers on the A1 to maintain a constant speed.
Having parked up, the obligatory trip to KFC was made, but I a last minute change of heart. It has long been my experience that MacDonalds meals are the best hangover cures, so off I went while Adam joined the queue that reached back to the door of KFC. I queued, bought and ate my healthy bounty all before he had been served…
We arrived at the Milkfloat – as it has affectionately been named and of course, had to sample the only nice thing about the stadium, the lilac soap in the toilets. As lovely as ever.
The match started and almost immediately Leeds were under pressure; within a minute Hughes had made a desperate block to keep out a Rovers attack.
I’m a big fan of Hughes, not for his footballing ability but he’s one of those slightly nuts but wholly committed players who, whilst accepting their limits, will give everything they’ve got, in every game. He’s never going to produce a Maicon-esque masterclass in fullbackery but he’ll try; even if some of his attempts are a bit bad. Utilising his willingness to play in any position – yes Adam, I am fully aware this is the case as he is probably not good enough to hold down one position consistently; Hughes did well. Caught out only a few times, he held his own.
It turned out to be a highly entertaining game; Donny played some relatively expansive football and at times had the freedom of the park but neither side could take their chances. Max Gradel and Somma tested former Leeds stopper Neil Sullivan early on, the latter cracking a shot against the crossbar as Leeds pressed.
With Leeds struggling to find the killer ball, Donny weren’t having much luck either; Bruce was imperious in the Leeds defence. At 5.11″ Bruce isn’t the tallest but alongside the much more assured Neill Collins, Bruce marshalled the back line in Paddy Kisnorbo-like fashion. The epitome of cool, Bruce never looked troubled, his tackles were timed to perfection, his heading seemed effortless and to cap it off, his distribution was most unlike what we’re usually treated to.
Gradel and Bradley Johnson played in Somma for Leeds’ best chances of the game but Sullivan was equal to it. Somma thought he’d given Leeds the lead after Johnson’s volley was parried but he was correctly adjudged to have been offside. Ironically one of very few correct decisions given by the officials all night.
Leeds finished the stronger and despite a 4th clean sheet in 26 matches, it felt like two points dropped. That’s probably just being greedy though. There were so many positives to take but looking ahead to Sheffield United next week, one can’t help but worry that Naylor may return. Larry seemed to suggest he had rested his captain but after Bruce’s faultless display it is difficult to see how it could be justified to drop the former Ipswich man.
Elsewhere, Becchio may well return up front; McCormack was quiet and doesn’t look like the most accomplished partner for Somma; on the flip side, he needs games and did show glimpses that he and Somma could have a partnership worth keeping. Despite Gradel’s best efforts though, there wasn’t enough to aim at up front and while Becchio would’ve struggled at the Keepmoat – due to the whistle happy ref, he is still a valuable target man.. But he does need a goal or two, badly.
At the back, Connolly’s late omission due to injury and Bessone’s omission/injury saw White and the already mentioned Hughes filling in at full back, White managed reasonably well, especially without the aid of Johnson who doesn’t seem to understand tracking back…
All in all, a point gained and a test of character for players and managers alike, passed. The real test is next week though as we welcome Sheffield United to Elland Road, managed by Leeds legend Gary Speed. I’m actually disappointed Keviin Sackwell isn’t still at the helm.
ON ON ON!