Leeds United 5 Newport County 1
Once again TC used the Carabao Cup to give as many of the squad as possible a competitive game experience. With the injuries we currently have to the likes of Berardi, Pennington and Ekuban and following the recent departures of Chris Wood and Liam Bridcutt we did not quite have the luxury of a completely different XI to what we might expect for a league game and so Anita, Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Kemar Roofe all started whereas in an ideal world maybe they’d have been rested too. A couple of weeks ago I felt we had ample players to field two excellent XIs but the picture soon changes.
It was probably the lack of recent big match practice for the engine room of the team – Vieira, Klich, Gomes and Eoghan Stokes – that meant we got off to a slow start against a Newport side intent on going out with a bang if indeed it was to be the night they bowed out of the competition. Newport really gave it a go and while Leeds were spending time settling into the game and sorting out their playing relationships a Newport side well used to playing together got the upper hand. Rob Green’s rustiness was obvious as he allowed a fairly routine save to turn into a sloppy goal conceded although even before that he’d shown his real credentials with a finger-tip save to deny the visitors. At 0 – 1 after half an hour Newport threatened to take some of the gloss off this wonderful start to our season and had Anita not cleared off the line and had Green not made that save it could easily have been 0 – 3!
But the quality we have did eventually begin to shine through and it was Captain Courageous, Luke Ayling who got us going. First he showed the way to goal with a fierce shot of his own and then just before half time his persistence in the opposition box with a cross and then challenging for the loose ball in the air caused the ball to fall at the feet of Kemar Roofe just 5 yards out and he couldn’t miss.
After the game TC explained how he’d been disappointed with the lack of pace and quality of our passing in the first half and the message clearly got through, plus no doubt the 45 minutes of this group playing together probably was enough to gel them into a unit. An early second half goal was enough to dowse the Newport fire; an instinctive volley from Roofe after Dallas weaved his way down the left. That second goal from Roofe may just be the catalyst to unlock Roofe’s undoubted potential – he’s a confidence player who, throughout his time with Leeds, has never quite got going. Another sign was his outrageous attempt to chip the keeper from thirty yards that hit the crossbar. He did complete his hat-trick with a goal that, ironically, was not dissimilar to a certain Chris Wood goal in front of the Kop against Fulham; a bicycle kick that crept into the corner. No ear cupping from Roofey though, just pure joy and let’s hope it’s the confidence boost he needed.
The game was over then especially as TC had sent on Liam Cooper to combat the height of the giant Frank Nouble who Newport had turned to try to rescue an impossible situation. The tiny figure of Vurnon Anita was replaced.
Either to make entirely sure of victory, or to give our two new magic men some time to further perfect their double act, Messrs Sáiz and Alioski were given a little cameo appearance near the end; they didn’t disappoint. Sáiz hammered one in from fifteen yards and then he helped set up Ronnie Vieira for the fifth.
At the end of the day it was a great result from what we have to accept is nowhere near our best XI. These days our 2nd XI is much stronger than in the past but inevitably there are weaknesses in it. We offered Newport too many good opportunities - a one on one and a goal line clearance near the end would surely not have occurred on Pontus Jansson’s watch for example – and players like Stokes, Gomes, CBJ and even, dare I say it, Rob Green, didn’t do enough to show they will be back in a league game anytime soon.
Now we have to wait to see who is coming in to fill that number 9 shirt and if it can be a player who can offer more mobility and heading ability than Chris Wood then we may yet prove to be even stronger. For the Forest game I’d be happy enough to see Kemar Roofe play the role again and you know what, I think he might just bag another goal or two now his dander is up!
Leeds U Newport C
Possession 58% 42%
Shots 22 15
On Target 12 8
Corners 4 3
Fouls 12 12