Guiseley 0 Leeds United 2: Hockaday happy with friendly victory

Leeds 'United's Tomasso Bianchi beats Guiseley's Danny Hall.
Leeds 'United's Tomasso Bianchi beats Guiseley's Danny Hall.
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The value for money at Nethermoor was in the seats beside Massimo Cellino. For 60 minutes in intimate surroundings, Leeds United’s owner gave a riotous running commentary to the sound of hysterical laughter and the smell of cigarette smoke.

Even Cellino’s animation ran out of steam as a stereotypical friendly between Leeds and Guiseley ground towards full-time but he was roused before the end by goals from Jason Pearce and Matt Smith.

This was not football as he dreams of it but pre-season rarely is – and few owners of United go looking for it at a non-league ground in West Yorkshire.

His predecessors were not inclined to attend matches with such a low profile.

At stages of last season it seemed hard enough dragging representatives of Gulf Finance House to games of much greater importance.

As he rocked and rolled at the back of Nethermoor’s main stand, you wondered how Cellino’s heart would put up with 46 league fixtures a season and all the stress surrounding them when a simple friendly caused such fervour and anxious chain-smoking.

Saturday’s friendly was a simple contest – tight and rusty, as games so often are this far out from the season – and while Cellino fizzed, Leeds kept their powder dry.

The Lions are four levels below United in the English pyramid but they were fit, disciplined and organised enough to keep the game goalless for 85 minutes.

Pearce eventually cracked them with a header from six yards and Smith put the result beyond doubt as referee Adrian Holmes prepared to blow up in injury-time.

In previous summers, Leeds have used non-league opponents – Guiseley, Farsley, York City and others – to start their pre-season schedules and in a sense, Saturday’s friendly was their first.

Guiseley are a Conference North side but a world away still from the village team beaten 16-0 by Hockaday’s squad in Italy or the Leeds-on-Leeds practice match arranged after Romanian club Viitorul Constanta pulled out of a scheduled game eight days ago.

“Guiseley are Conference standard, a good footballing team,” said Hockaday, who along with his players was taken by Cellino for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Leeds before kick-off.

“The game served its purpose because what I wanted was to dominate possession, keep a clean sheet and win the game.

“What we do with the ball is what we need to work on now but the basic culture of the team is different.

“We want to try and keep the ball but in the final third we need to get better.

“If we’d done that, we could have run out very comfortable winners. But winning isn’t the be-all and end-all of pre-season games. At the moment it’s about match fitness and coming through unscathed.”

Hockaday understands the scepticism caused by his appointment at Elland Road and has ridden through it without flinching but his promise of patient football – a promise made at his first press conference – was in evidence at Nethermoor.

That United’s football felt heavy and underwhelming did not change the fact that it was devoid of the anti-Christ which has come to be known as ‘hoofball’ in Leeds.

There is, all the same, plenty left for the club and Hockaday to iron out.

Eleven players completed an hour against Guiseley including three of United’s foreign signings.

Hockaday started and persisted with a diamond midfield, the formation which failed Brian McDermott last season.

Tom Lees took the armband from the outset and Pearce captained Leeds for the final half-hour.

There was no Dominic Poleon – sent instead to Garforth Town with the Under-21s – but 17-year-old Lewis Cook played from the start and stuck his head above others around him.

How much should anyone read into any of that? “Absolutely nothing,” Hockaday said.

“We’re having a look at lots of formations and combinations – people playing with different people to see if the chemistry’s right.

“We had Lees as captain in the first half and Pearce as captain in the second but we’ll give the captaincy to other people now and then see what’s what.

“In pre-season, every place has to be up for grabs. You can’t just say ‘on the back of last season, that’s your position.’

“Everyone is fighting for the jersey and fighting for it is the easy bit. The hard bit is keeping it.”

It is during the traditional jostling for position that pre-season usually throws up a surprise.

There is money already on Cook providing it. The teenager’s talent is an open secret at Thorp Arch – broadcast further afield by his role in England’s European Under-17 Championship-winning squad – but United’s support will look for him now, the next academy story.

Used as the hindmost point of the diamond on Saturday, his strengths were obvious: intelligence and energy in front of the defence and feet which can trap a ball like glue.

Cellino is said to have singled out Cook’s ability already Hockaday did not try to shield the midfielder afterwards. “I think highly of him,” Hockaday said. “Very highly.”

Twenty yards behind Cook, Marco Silvestri’s 60 minutes in goal amounted to a quiet hour in which he tipped a Danny Forrest shot over his bar but did little else.

Jake Lawlor should have opened the scoring early in the second half but dinked the ball around Silvestri’s right-hand post and the match lost its way at each end of the pitch.

In the last half-hour, Guiseley lost their way too. Leeds were annexing the home penalty area in the minutes before they finally scored. Width in Hockaday’s team came predominantly from left-back Charlie Taylor and his cross created the first meaningful chance which Steve Morison headed into the side-netting after 13 minutes. Morison was paired up front with Souleymane Doukara, a French recruit with the physique of Carlton Cole but more mobility about him. There were flickers of vision and movement from Doukara but quiet periods too. “He’s only trained for a day-and-a-half and it’s obvious that he isn’t match fit yet,” Hockaday said. “We wanted to start him and make it hard for him.”

Tommaso Bianchi, the midfielder brought to Leeds from Sassuolo two weeks ago, had much the same experience: involved in patches but passed out of the game in others. His shot on the half-hour – tipped away brilliantly by keeper Steve Drench – was as close as Leeds came to a goal until the final five minutes.

Hockaday withdrew his entire starting line-up around the hour and fresh legs took hold of the match.

Pearce was first to score on 85 minutes when Dench midjusged Aidan White’s corner and allowed the defender to head into an empty net, and Smith struck from point-blank in injury-time when Sam Byram rose above the combative standard to pick him out with a clever delivery.

“It’s a good foundation,” Hockaday said. “I’m happy with that.”

Guiseley: Drench, Holdsworth, Parker, Lowe, Hall, Lawlor, Brooksby, Stockdill, Boyes, Forrest, Rothery. Subs: Toulson, O Johnson, Harrison, Ible, Porritt, Crossley, Marshall, Walker, Scott.

Leeds United: Silvestri (S Taylor 60), Thompson (Byram 55), Lees (Wootton 60), Killock (Pearce 60), C Taylor (Warnock 60), Cook (Austin 60), Tonge (Murphy 60), Bianchi (White 60), Norris (Hunt 60), Morison (Walters 60), Doukara (Smith 60).

Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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