IF Garry Monk was trying to keep his ideas under wraps, it is safe to say that his line-up on the first day of the Championship season will look more like it does at Peterborough United this afternoon than it did away at Guiseley last night.
Leeds United’s head coach promised to spread first team players across back-to-back friendlies in the space of 24 hours but there was obvious weakness about the side who started at Nethermoor, both in personnel and their performance.
Monk, who was on the touchline, will have more to look at in Peterborough later and must be more inclined than ever to favour that group after a 4-3 win over non-league opponents.
Monk talked up the fitness aspect of two matches in close proximity but with two weeks to the start of the season he could not have anticipated his players at Guiseley making themselves look so second-string from the kick-off. Leeds were 3-0 down after 23 minutes as Mark Bower’s Lions sunk their teeth into a makeshift defence and caused havoc with hanging crosses into the box.
There is the makings of a good starting line-up at Leeds after six signings in the past month but the story on tour in Ireland last week, reiterated in the early stages at Nethermoor, is the absence of the depth needed for two first-team friendlies in as many days and for a full season in the Championship.
Guiseley’s goals stemmed from the fact that, with Sol Bamba and Kyle Bartley in Peterborough, Monk was compelled to employ a centre-back pairing of Toumani Diagouraga and Paul McKay. That area remains the biggest priority in the transfer market, if not the only concern.
Neither McKay nor Diagouraga were able to deal with the deliveries which gave Ash Palmer and Jake Lawlor easy finishes inside 13 minutes. Palmer scored again from close range soon after, again as the result of a direct set-piece, and every attempt by Guiseley to hook the ball into the box threatened a goal.
Leeds looked too far adrift to recover but Eoghan Stokes struck at the very end of the first half and a vastly improved second, in which United got a grip and Guiseley began to tire, saw Jordan Botaka, Kalvin Phillips and Souleymane Doukara bank a third straight pre-season win. Monk’s words at half-time had the desired effect.
At face value, the arrangement of two friendlies in such a short period did not seem ideal. Monk, whose belated arrival as head coach limited the range of fixtures available to him, committed to attending both matches and was straight on the road to Peterborough after the dust settled on the trip to Guiseley.
He had been at pains to stress that neither line-up used by him should be seen as his best and that the game at Guiseley was not necessarily the lesser of the two fixtures. In amongst the diplomacy, his primary concern was pushing his senior players through their first 90 minutes of the summer.
There was no doubt, however, that the stronger of the two sides had been sent by Monk to face Peterborough at London Road. His line-up last night was studded with Chris Wood, Doukara, Botaka and Diagouraga but Monk included plenty of youngsters – 16-year-old scholar Jamie Shackleton amongst them as a substitute – and gave Marco Silvestri his first appearance of the summer.
The goalkeeper is training with United’s Under-21s and primed to leave Elland Road but the timing and demands of this week’s games brought him back into the public eye and he started at Guiseley with Ross Turnbull on the bench. Silvestri’s appearance is unlikely to be indicative of a return to favour and he spent much of the first half fishing the ball from his net. Ross Turnbull replaced him at the break.
Around Guiseley’s goals there were chances for Leeds and Wood had one of the best of them, a shot in the very first minute which Guiseley keeper Dan Atkinson tipped past his far post.
Doukara fired another opportunity over the crossbar after a lovely pass from Ronaldo Vieira and then missed by inches having broken from halfway but the first half was without much mitigation until Stokes scored in the 45th minute with a classy volley from 18 yards.
With Monk’s words in their ears, Leeds emerged for the second half and struck the woodwork immediately as Doukara’s header clipped the outside of a post. Their dominance grew as the game edged towards the hour mark and Botaka took advantage of it on 63 minutes when his break down the left ended with a low shot under Atkinson.
Sensing the cavalry coming, Guiseley’s spirit began to wilt and Atkinson had no chance when Phillips brilliantly picked out the top corner of his net in the 71st minute, levelling the score.
Within moments, Doukara tucked away the winner from close range, ensuring the outcome that Monk would have looked for.
Guiseley: Atkinson, East (Boshell 71), Spires, Palmer, Lockwood (Rankine 71), Lawlor, Falkingham, Hatfield, Syers, Johnson (Boyes 46), Preston.
Leeds United: Silvestri (Turnbull 46), Coyle, P McKay, Diagouraga, Denton, Phillips, Vieira, Botaka, Stokes, Doukara, Wood. Subs: M Taylor, Shackleton, J McKay.