AFTER witnessing Leeds United finally end their goal drought with Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw against Fulham at Elland Road, Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by the Whites’ latest match at Elland Road.
The crowd are voting with their feet
Leeds United’s supporters should forever be applauded for sticking with their team through thick and thin, but Tuesday night’s 17,103 attendance - with Fulham only bringing 364 - is proof that thousands of Whites fans have seen enough as far as this season is concerned.
Tuesday night’s gate was the lowest Elland Road crowd this season in the league, with barely over 1,000 more than the 16,039 which witnessed the FA Cup third round clash with Rotherham, for which the South Stand was closed. United have around 12,000 season ticket holders, meaning just shy of 5,000 bought a one-off ticket for the Fulham clash, when more like 10,000 extra were attracted to the home clash with Nottingham Forest at the beginning of the month which drew a gate of 24,079, with 2,266 from Forest. It’s worth noting that around 6,000 extra were attracted to a week last Monday’s home clash with Middlesbrough which drew a gate of 20,424, with Boro bringing 2,782. The argument there is that more Whites fans would have bought tickets for that game had it not been shown on Sky. Either way, the Fulham attendance is very clearly a sign of the times, evidence of the frustration felt amongst the club’s undoubtedly loyal support, and, essentially, nothing to do with Sky.
Lewis Cook has one hell of a shot on him
It’s crazy to think that Cook’s stunning equaliser was his first league goal for United in 66 appearances, even more so when the quality of his 35-yard strike is considered, which had to be seen to be believed. Goal of the season without a doubt. On Tuesday night’s evidence, Cook should be pulling the trigger more often. As the old saying goes, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score, and Cook’s pearler ought to give him more confidence to try his luck on a more regular basis. It is hoped this stunning league effort is the first of many more to come.
Steve Evans will soon have a quandary at right-back
Lewie Coyle excelled on his full league debut on Tuesday, and could easily be a regular starter in that position. Yet Gaetano Berardi, named as an unused substitute, is evidently very close to returning from the ankle ligament injury that has kept him out since September. Evans rates Berardi as one of the club’s best players, quite rightly, and there’s no way he won’t force his way back into the first team imminently. With Charlie Taylor also guaranteed to start at left back, that leaves Coyle with a real battle on to be a regular starter. A shame that United are blessed with quality full backs but are so short on attacking options.
Lee Erwin must be close to starting upfront
Erwin has had few opportunities since signing from Motherwell in the summer, and Evans has often said that the 21-year-old needs to show more to be named in the first XI. The striker had 21 minutes to impress after being brought on as a second-half substitute on Tuesday, and hardly set the world alight, but neither did Mirco Antenucci who he was brought on for. Souleymane Doukara’s recent improvement also seems to have subsided. With Chris Wood still ten days to two weeks away from making a return, it could be argued that Erwin could be worth a start for next Monday night’s clash at Brighton, especially as Antenucci looks likely to leave in the summer.
Sol Bamba looks back in business
Club captain Bamba had been kept out of the side by the centre-back axis of Giuseppe Bellusci and Liam Cooper - when both were fit and available - but injury to Cooper before Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Watford, followed by Bellusci’s suspension last night, opened the door for the passionate 31-year-old. Bamba was one of United’s best players against Fulham, twice saving likely goals, first with his header on to the crossbar from Ross McCormack’s fierce shot, and then with a fantastic last-ditch tackle as Moussa Dembele prepared to pull the trigger when one-on-one. Bamba will surely start against Brighton with Bellusci serving the second game of a two-match ban and a good performance there will likely keep his place in the team. With Coyle and Berardi fighting it out for the right back spot, Scott Wootton’s prospects are looking bleak.