Leeds United: Connolly on the way back

Paul Connolly.

Paul Connolly.

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Paul Connolly put himself in contention for a first-team recall at Sheffield United with a 90-minute appearance for Leeds United’s second string last night.

Connolly came through a second reserve appearance in the space of eight days to prove his fitness and stake a claim for a role in Saturday’s Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane.

The right-back has not featured for United’s first team since pulling a hamstring in the club’s victory over Coventry City on February 5, but his comfortable outing in a 6-0 rout of Gateshead has given manager Simon Grayson the option of recalling him ahead of on-loan Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj.

Connolly featured at centre-back last night and was joined in United’s line-up by seven other senior players. Club captain Richard Naylor did not play at Elland Road despite being named in the original starting team.

The weight of experience on the side of Leeds threatened to tell from an early stage, and goalkeeper Jonny Ball kept Gateshead in the game by blocking three attempts in quick succession from Ross McCormack, Ben Parker and Ramon Nunez.

Gateshead’s best chance fell to Gary Mulligan, whose glancing header found the safe hands of Shane Higgs, but the Blue Square Premier club fell behind in the 31st minute when Nathan Turner slipped in behind their defence and knocked a pass from Nunez under Ball’s body.

Nunez removed any doubt about the outcome by striking in the 63rd minute, his fifth goal in two reserve games, and McCormack and Sanchez Watt rounded off the scoreline with two classy finishes apiece in the final 20 minutes.

United: Higgs, Thompson, Connolly, L Turner, Parker, Sam (Baxendale 75), Clayton, Nunez, N Turner (Snodin 84), Watt (Booker 81), McCormack. Subs (not used): Cairns, Taylor, Payne, Birbeck.

lLeeds United pair Davide Somma and Neil Kilkenny have been called up by South Africa and Australia respectively for international fixtures later this month.

Somma will link up with South Africa for a clash with Egypt on March 26 while Kilkenny is in the Australian squad for their friendly against Germany three days later.

lSHEFFIELD UNITED boss Micky Adams admits he is already considering his future at the club.

Former Leeds defender Adams has so far presided over just one win since taking over in December.

Adams said: “I have to be honest with myself and consider my position. I’m not saying I am going to quit, but I will consider it if things don’t improve because I came here with my eyes wide open and gradually they are shutting.”

Garry Monk.

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