Guiseley & Peterborough, Pre-Season 2016/17
Guiseley AFC 3 Leeds United 4
Peterborough 2 Leeds United 1
The line-up we took to Guiseley was quite clearly not full of likely starters when the competitive season comes around. Depending on your view of Chris Wood, there were either none or one player in there who we may see at QPR. That being said, it was still criminal that a first team squad 11 from a Championship side should fall three goals behind in the blink of an eye to a National League side. The reason appeared to be that our perennial problem of a weak defence has permeated throughout the club. Admittedly we are so thread bare in stocks of CBs at the moment that we are unlikely to see Paul McKay and Dave Diagouraga in our regular starting elevens in that position.
Credit where credit is due, the youngsters got themselves into the game and gradually wore down the home side and came out on top with four fabulous goals. Stokes showed his class with a wonderful shot late in the first half and Kalvin Phillips showed us he has a dipping shot in his locker too with another sublime strike. Jordan Botaka did what we know he can do with a solo effort and the Douk weighed in with one of his trade mark strikes that always seem to find the corner of the net. My only thought at the end of the game though was that Chris Wood, in that company, should have stood out … he didn’t. At the end of the day, the youngsters all did themselves credit and showed that in time, we have some real talent just below the surface.
It was an altogether different sort of line up at Peterborough. I could actually see the 11 that started here all starting a Championship game given that the likes of Berardi and Cooper will take time to get up to speed. When fit I’d expect Berardi to relegate Purver and Coyle to the bench or lower and Coops will certainly have opportunities with injuries and suspensions to play alongside either Bartley or Sol Bamba. Whether he can displace either through sheer ability and form remains to be seen. Chris Wood may or may not be involved too – but he’ll have to show more than he has so far this pre-season to persuade me he should start.
Green, Purver, Bamba, Bartley, Taylor, Grimes, Murphy, Mowatt, Roofe, Sacko, Antonsson as they lined up today is probably my preferred starting 11 at the moment with the exception of bringing Berardi back when fit. I could be persuaded to play Jordan Botaka instead of Sacko and to find a place for Ronaldo Vieira who I think has been our stand out midfielder thus far. Other than that, and assuming the two new faces I think we need (CB and MF) don’t arrive, this is pretty much it!
And first half today, in blistering heat and playing a Posh side with plenty to prove, we actually looked the part. Kemar Roofe, in particular is looking better with every game and every time he gets the ball wide on the left we now expect that trade-mark cut inside and curling shot to the back post or a cross. Most of what we did up front in that first half went to Roofe including great work to cross for Mowatt to score. Defensively we also looked OK at that time with few scares other than a jittery moment for Rob Green with some sloppy handling. Matt Grimes finally looked to be a decent player too and Alex Mowatt stood out too. Quite what happened in the second half I’m not sure but Leeds had long spells looking like that Leeds United we saw last season; sloppy passing, over-hit crosses, missing tackles and allowing strikers far too much time and space around our own box. Some are suggesting that the fault lies with our defensive midfield while other point at slack defending. Whatever it is, a sharp alert Posh striker made us pay and if we do the same in the Championship we will pay even more dearly. Let’s keep in mind the hot conditions though (although as we always remind ourselves that is the same for both sides) and that our best full back was missing. Antonsson also struggled in the role of target man meaning that we often sacrificed possession far too quickly as he couldn’t hold the ball up. If Chris Wood could just find it in himself to do that role well then he would be the better option. For me, we are still too lightweight in midfield and are still crying out for a Bridcutt type to do that protection role in front of the defence and to pull that central area together. Time will tell if the Bartley/Bamba combo is good enough.
The management team seems happy with the work out and at the end of the day this was the first 90 minute stint for these players as it was for those at Guiseley. Will we be able to tell next Saturday exactly what Monk has planned for that QPR game? I think we will!