LEEDS UNITED ended a run of eight matches without a victory with a much-needed 3-1 weekend win over visiting Blackpool and here’s five things we have learned from Saturday’s success.
Liam Cooper has displayed a strong case for being a regular
The former Chesterfield centre-back’s goal was a bonus; a thumping half-volley to set United on their way on nine minutes when he showed instincts of a striker. But it was his bread-and-butter defensive work and partnership alongside skipper Jason Pearce which was more fundamentally important.
Has had to wait patiently for his chance and hopefully patience will now prove a virtue and he certainly looked the part alongside Pearce. As centre-halves, both aren’t afraid to throw their bodies and heads in the way of anything and clearly ‘enjoy’ defending. Ditto Stephen Warnock.
Speaking about his partnership with Pearce on Saturday, an enthused Cooper said: “Me and Jase played well. He’s a leader and is always talking to me and vice versa and Stevie (Warnock) is great to play alongside as well.
“We all just work off each other and get to know what each other does, so we can act on that.”
If Cooper was left out of the starting line-up at Blackburn on November 22, it would represent an extremely tough call.
Sam Byram is getting back to his best
The kids are certainly alright on Saturday and while the performances of teenagers Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook were worthy of acclaim, again, arguably the more pertinent development was the performance of Byram, who rewound the clock to his highs of 2012-13 when he catapulted himself onto the scene.
Byram was back to his marauding best in the first half down the right, where United undressed Blackpool time after time with the full-back having a field day, linking up with the attack constantly and powering forward almost at will. His performance was not lost on YEP columnist Eddie Gray, who labelled Byram as the hosts man-of-the-match on a day when there were plenty of contenders.
It represented a thoroughly positive way for Byram to sign off before the international break and the hope of all and sundry is that he can kick on with some more dynamic performances when Leeds resume Championship business at Ewood Park.
Adryan has the quality to open up teams
The young Brazilian play-maker is starting to make a belated impact and get up to speed in the Championship and showed some tantalising glimpses of the damage he can do against Blackpool, with the challenge now to do it on a regular basis.
Floating in behind the frontmen and just in front of the central midfielders, Adyran was a real menace at times for the Seasiders, who barely touched the ball in the first half-an-hour.
Saturday’s game was always likely to be key in terms of his development at Leeds and his starring role in the lead-up to a stunning second-goal from Leeds, perhaps the best team goal seen at Elland Road this season and perhaps for a good while before that, worthy of praise.
His confidence should have been significantly bolstered by his weekend efforts and with the benefit of a fortnight’s work on the training ground at Thorp Arch under the tutelage of Redfearn, Adryan can approach the lengthy winter run with a spring in his step.
Mirco Antenucci and Souleymane Doukara were back on song
Italian frontman Antenucci, fresh from his partner giving birth to his first child on Friday, crowned a special few days by netting his fifth goal of the season just before half-time against Blackpool, to put the seal on an exhilarating first half from Leeds.
Antenucci’s menace and movement unhinged Blackpool at regular opportunities with the forward able to head into the international break in a positive frame of mind.
Doukara’s goal, his first at Elland Road since September 20, crowned an industrious display when he gave the visiting rearguard problems and he punched his weight well.
Both strikers faded on the restart, but still had plenty of credit in the bank by the time Stuart Attwell blew the final whistle.
The value of the pair both finding the net heading into the international break should not be underestimated.
Blackpool look doomed
For all United’s scintillating first-half play, it should be factored into the context of the rock-bottom Seasiders comfortably being the worst team in the Championship.
Boasting just one win in their previous 27 away matches, the Lancastrians looked every inch a side destined to be playing in League One on their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
That said, you can only beat what is in front of you and Leeds were very good in a first half when they would have blown away better sides than Blackpool.
The only criticism on the day was that Leeds could not kick on in the second half and boost their goal difference, but in fairness to the visitors, no doubt given the hair-dryer treatment by Lee Clark, they were better on the restart. Still a pretty comfortable win for Leeds.