AFTER seeing Leeds United claim their sixth win from their last ten games, Lee Sobot looks at five things we learned from Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat of Wolves at Elland Road.
Lewis Cook remains on Bournemouth’s radar
Just two days after winning the Football League’s young player of the year award, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was in the Elland Road stands to watch United’s star teen midfielder, who had a blinder. The Cherries’ desire to sign Cook is no secret and it seems inevitable that Bournemouth will table a bid for Cook’s services when the transfer window re-opens on July 1. Cook is clearly destined to play in the Premier League very soon but the 19-year-old stated this week that he still dreams of achieving that goal with Leeds. This summer is now huge for United who must offer Cook a decent new deal to get the midfielder’s contract extended long after next summer when it currently expires. Just as importantly, the club also have to show Cook their ambition by signing decent players - and by keeping the best of what they have got. The club’s innovative offer regards frozen season ticket prices with money back if they don’t at least reach the play-offs offers genuine hope that chairman Massimo Cellino will give it a real good go.
Whites are odds-on for a top half finish
There were genuine fears that United could finish 21st after the 1-0 loss at Burnley made it four games without victory but another hat-trick of wins has shot Leeds up to 11th, such is the tightness of the division. With three games left, Leeds are one point clear of both 12th-placed QPR and 13th-placed Brentford - who have a game in hand. QPR travel to Burnley in their penultimate game of the season - where the hosts will be long odds-on to bag a victory - with home clashes against Reading and Bristol City also awaiting the Hoops. Brentford face away days at MK Dons, Hull and Huddersfield plus a home match with Fulham. If Leeds can gain six or seven points from Hull away, Charlton at home and Preston away then a top half position - maybe even top ten - should be theirs for the taking as the Whites are only one point behind tenth-placed Preston. It’s not the end of season chase the club wanted but a top half or top ten finish would still be a decent effort from Steve Evans, given the predicament when he came in. He really should be given the chance to take United forward and if Leeds don’t have him then someone else will. Anything higher than a 13th-placed finish would also be United’s best effort since 2010-11 when they ended up seventh. Leeds are 1-2 to finish in the top half with the bookies.
Hope for Jordan Botaka and Lee Erwin
Botaka’s prospects at United looked bleak when he went several games without even making the bench but the former Excelsior winger remains popular with United’s fans who were singing his name as he came on as a 75th-minute substitute on Tuesday. The 22-year-old did not have long to make an impression but was extremely unlucky not to score when his measured effort hit the crossbar. On this evidence, more opportunities for him will follow. Striker Erwin, handed his first Leeds start on Tuesday, didn’t exactly set the world alight but did go close on one occasion and made a nuisance of himself upfront which would have helped Chris Wood. Erwin received a healthy applause when being substitute and also did his long term Whites prospects no harm at all.
Expect goals from unlikely sources
Chris Wood looked by far and away the most likely United player to net first on Tuesday - he had a particularly good first half - yet up popped centre-back Sol Bamba of all people with a 20-yard stunner. A complete one-off yet Steve Evans revealed that he has specifically asked his players to shoot on site more often with the Whites previously criticised for having very few efforts on goal. More of the same please.
Jack McKay could be nearing a place on the bench
There’s always much interest in which of United’s youngsters will be the next to get a chance - and there’s evidence to suggest 19-year-old striker McKay is high up in Steve Evans’ plans.
Signed in January from Doncaster Rovers along with his centre-back brother Paul, the forward traveled to Tuesday’s game with the match-day squad and has been in decent form for United’s under-21s. Evans has previously spoken in glowing terms about another young Whites striker in Eoghan Stokes but he has only just come back from injury and it may be that we see McKay’s name on the team sheet first before the season’s conclusion.