Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers, Pre-Season 2016/17
Shelbourne 1 Leeds United 2
Shamrock Rovers 0 Leeds United 3
It's always hard to read too much into the first couple of pre-season games and these are no different in that respect. Shelbourne are a second tier side in Irish football these days, and a mid-table side at that. They are in their mid-season break too as the Irish leagues run from January to October. It is at this time of year that the Irish sides generally organise a few friendly games. Shelbourne actually had a game the night before our game in which they lost 1 - 0 to Swindon Town. I'm told the side that faced us was the stronger of the two sides they put out on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Leeds stormed into an early two goal lead and looked up for the match and already reasonably fit and alert in that period. Doukara stroked the ball home as only Douk at his best does after a charge down by Kemar Roofe and then Sacko shot home from an angle after a nice ball from Mowatt sliced through the home defence. After that though, Leeds ability to cut through the Shels was limited despite inevitably having the majority of the ball. It was disappointing to concede a goal early in the second half too, a goal that had some of the hall marks of last season's sloppy defending all over it. What did I learn from this game? Well, Kyle Bartley is a monster, a huge defender who ought not to be bossed about if he's on his mettle. He does have a languid, almost careless look about him though when he's not actually on the ball. Kemar Roofe showed few glimpses of what I know he can do while grimes was largely anonymous. Sacko showed promise and I'd also forgotten just how big Ross Turnbull is; little more than that though. As always there was a big following from the Leeds fans although my guess is that the vast quantities of Guinness consumed did mute the atmosphere somewhat!
The Shamrock Rovers game pitted us against what was largely the Rovers U21 side; their first choice eleven have been involved in a big League game the previous night with local and bitter rivals Bohemians. Suffice to say the locals were in good spirits as their heroes won that one 3 - 1. The lads that faced us were all very young therefore and so once again it is hard to draw too many conclusions. I would agree with Garry Monk's summary though that Leeds, all of them, were improved over the first game suggesting that the training camp was achieving something and that the players were already getting to one another. Kemar Roof stood out during his time on the pitch in the first half and he looked much more like the dangerous player I saw several times last season while he was with Oxford. He almost scored what I call his signature goal too; he loves to cut in from wide on the left onto his favoured right foot and then curl a shot at goal. He did exactly this but his curling shot hit the inside of the far post and bounced back along the goal line and to safety. He did have a hand in most of the first half Leeds attacks though.
The first goal, and Marcus Antonsson's first for the club came when the Swede latched onto a perfect ball from young Ronaldo Vieira who looked a useful player. Leeds got a second just after the half hour when Roofe was bundled over trying to bring down a blocked pass from Botaka. Chris Wood smashed the penalty home. Roofe created great chances for Wood and Antonsson during that first half but our shooting let us down as indeed it did often last season of course. Wood hit the angle with one effort and hit another way over the bar and his new striking partner, Antonsson similarly rocketed one high over.
In the second half, Charlie Taylor had a rare foray forwards and his deflected cross, though just too high for Chris Wood at the front post was met by Antonsson's head at the back post and he steered it nicely home. maybe the Swede does have that knack of being in the right place after all. 3 - 0 was the final score but had we taken our chances it really ought to have been six or seven. At the other end we still learned little about our slightly altered defence as they had too little to deal with.
Positives? Roofe looked excellent; Botaka is always going to be a handful but maybe only for parts of games. Antonsson can finish but Wood still looks weak in that department. Grimes didn't impress but Sacko did.
We move on to Friday night at Guiseley and by then I'd expect us to show our class and comfortably beat them. In both the games in Dublin we played two different elevens at different stages of the game so all bar Berardi, Cooper and the now returned Stuart Dallas were involved on the pitch.
It would be great news if this week Leeds could announce the arrival of another solid centre back and that quality experienced midfield general we are desperate for. You know what, if we did then this squad could well surprise everyone!