Tim Steere returns with his weekly article this season on Vital Leeds United and in his first instalment he looks back at the performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend and ahead to tonight`s game with Blackpool.
First game into the new league season and three points secured for a new look Leeds United.
When a new manager comes in and signs a host of players to revamp and stamp their own mark on a squad, it can take time for noticeable changes to happen.
The footballing cliché`s come out of needing time to gel and they`ve got to get to know each other.
This to a degree is true, plus it takes time to adapt to a manager`s preferred style of play. Watching the Wolves game on Saturday did give an almost immediate indication that a dramatic change has happened at Leeds United.
Without stating the obvious, one of the dramatic changes is obviously the ten new signings at the club and nine of them making their league debuts (plus a senior debut for Sam Byram). But what I`m more referring to is the startling difference of how the team approached the game.
Wolves are no mugs, relegated from the premiership with a whimper but still having a squad that could cause most teams in the Championship problems, Leeds stood up to the challenge physically as well as attacking wise. It wasn`t perfection, far from it.
Breaking it down, in the first half Leeds broke on the counter attack several times with McCormack especially threatening drifting out to the left wing, Green, Becchio and Varney also contributing. Austin and Norris showed the battling qualities in midfield that have also been desperately lacking, proper tough tackling, unafraid of throwing themselves into the fight.
As well as a lack of defence last season, the midfield was especially weak at protecting the backline, definitely no fear of that with the Jamaican beast that is Austin and Norris, who also did his fair share of creating chances.
The second half showed how well Leeds could defend. Wolves certainly were lax and sluggish in the first half. They certainly turned up the pressure and Leeds were under the cosh for the most of the final 30 minutes. But despite that, Kenny didn`t really have a save to make.
Byram at full back was a sensation. Facing a former England winger in Matt Jarvis who is being linked with a move to West Ham, but despite a couple of skinning`s, the 18 year old was very impressive in keeping him in check.
Peltier and Pearce at centre back were certainly stand out performers, with Pearce winning Man of the match in Sky`s eyes. Understandably so, his positioning was spot and the number of headers won was a joy to behold. The £500,000 signing showed why Warnock made him arrival number one at Elland Road.
Every player was committed to the cause; it had the hallmarks of a Warnock side already, only one game into the league season.
The negative would be that Wolves were allowed to put Leeds under so much pressure for a long period of time, but after a sublime pass from Kenny, which led to an equally delightful cross from McCormack for Becchio to head in, Leeds ground out the win. And sometimes that is what you need to do. For a large portion of last season, it is exactly what Leeds failed to do.
This was perhaps the most encouraging sign. With a side containing Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Doyle, to keep a clean sheet must be pleasing to a manager who has been more than frustrated with the recent off field happenings at the club.
The squad may lack the marquee signing that Warnock desires but as he said before the season started, he would be happy to have these lads in the trenches alongside him. After Saturday`s performance, you can see why.
It`s this mentality that Leeds will need tonight at Blackpool. No amount of alcohol or intense therapy to wipe out the memory of last season`s hammering to Blackpool for those who were there, but a win at Bloomfield win would go some way. A 6-0 win would do the job!
Last season was the first time in 40 years the sides had met in the league. Most Leeds fans wished on that dark night in November that they had to wait a bit longer.
The only bright side is that LuaLua and Shelvey who terrorised and scored the goals aren`t at the club anymore but they still have major threats.
Thomas Ince has already scored twice this season and is certainly attracting attention from the Premier League. Pacey, creative and with an eye for goal, young Sam Byram will have another stiff challenge tonight to keep him under wraps. Away from home, I wouldn`t be surprised if Peltier gets moved out to right back and Lees comes back in at centre back to take the pressure off the youngster, recently rewarded with a new three year deal.
Green`s injury means Diouf will most likely step into his right midfield position. Despite the vitriol directed his way for most of his career, at this level he has the ability to win games. If he links up well with McCormack and Becchio tonight, Leeds would be expected to grab at least one goal.
As far as starts to the season go, Wolves then Blackpool and Peterborough away followed by Blackburn at home is a baptism of fire. Warnock`s men came through the first test well. Tonight is another stern test, perhaps a tougher test considering how consistent Blackpool have been at this level in the last couple of seasons.
A win at Bloomfield Road tonight would certainly send a message out to the division, but also to Leeds fans that unlike last season, we are no longer pushovers when it comes to crunch.
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