Leeds United 4 Harrogate Town 2
(Leeds: Roofe pen 16, Gomes 33, Hernandez 50, Erwin 87)
(Town: Thewliss 75, Pollock 83)
I know it’s way too early to be drawing conclusions after just one pre-season game and especially since I was only able to watch a few highlights on LUTV but I thought I’d get everyone back in the routine of looking up the match reports!
Watching the video of the game, I was struck by a few things though that immediately came to my mind; reflections if you will that I thought I’d post and then maybe look back on once the season gets underway.
There were quite a few things that amused me, in terms of reflecting on how, as the French say,
“Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”, the more things change, the more they stay the same!
Firstly, it was a bit like watching pre-season last year; a new coach and coaching staff watching on from the dug-out with a new CEO and management team no doubt hard at work behind the scenes. On the pitch, the sight of ‘Dave’ Diagouraga filling in at centre back alongside a nervous looking Liam Cooper, while for the second half we had Pepe Bellusci alongside Paul McKay. Yes, we’ve seen all this before… and we know it doesn’t work! Equally we had the sight of Marcus Antonsson looking sharp but not scoring and then the sight of Hadi Sacko being put through one on one with the Town keeper but fluffing his lines with the final touch! Yep, we’ve grown accustomed to all that and it all has to change if we are to improve over our 7th place end to the season.
There were a few positive aspects for me as well, again keeping in mind all the time that we got to see less than five minutes of highlights and the fact that by definition, they were only the highlights!
I am still Kemar Roofe’s biggest fan! From the moment I first saw him in the flesh playing a few games for Oxford when I was completing my “92”, I thought he was a top player. Throughout last season he never quite reached the levels I expected despite the odd glimpse of his quality. I put that down to the fact that he is undoubtedly a confidence player and he really needs to go into the season with his head held high. So, on Wednesday, I was pleased to see it was Roofe who grabbed the ball when Souley won the penalty and equally pleased that he smashed it home comfortably. That will do him no harm at all.
Another player who has shown glimpses of quality over time is Souley Doukara and in the brief moments we saw on Wednesday he looked well up for the new season, carrying the ball strongly and going past players with ease, winning the penalty and other free kicks as Town found the only way to stop him was to bring him down or grab the ball! A confident, enthusiastic Doukara would be a great asset over the course of a long Championship season; he’s strong.
But what of our centre back situation? It is the one thing worrying most fans as pre-season gets underway.
We start with the knowledge that Pontus Jansson will not play at Bolton as he is still suspended. We have to believe that another top centre back is on the way from somewhere surely, don’t we? Yes, we have Bellusci and Coops but we’ve tried them before and I for one would not be confident in either playing more than the odd game covering for the first choice centre backs, one of whom is Pontus. Bellusci, to be fair, by most reports had a decent game against Harrogate and don’t be fooled by those blaming him for the first Harrogate goal. There was more fault to be laid at Berardi’s door for a shocking pass than Bellusci for allowing the Town player to nip in and collect the ball. I have said I wouldn’t want to be relying on Pepe and yes, he was part of the sick-note six, but some of the abuse being hurled at him on Twitter is unacceptable. I’m sure the coaching staff will give him his chance and equally sure they’ll quickly assess he is not stable enough for a long Championship season. Equally I can’t see that Paudie O’Connor or Paul McKay is ready and Coops has the same tendency to err that Pepe has, albeit usually not as spectacularly! ‘Dave’ still looks too slow and ponderous to me as well. So, get that new man in ASAP even if we may have to utilise Luke Ayling in the middle alongside him at Bolton. Vurnon Anita is an interesting addition who will surely be a regular starter and that may see Luke Ayling become our cover CB and cover RB in due course unless Anita plays his other role in midfield. But don’t get me started on how many midfielders we currently have on the books!
Lots of questions though still to be answered and TC tells us there are more players on their way in too so it’s going to be fascinating to watch as the first XI takes shape. Bring it on!