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Leeds United: Loan raider will be just the job - Matteo

BOOST: Dom Matteo is looking forward to the return of injured  Ross McCormack.

BOOST: Dom Matteo is looking forward to the return of injured Ross McCormack.

  • by Dominic Matteo
 

Assuming it happens, the possibility of a loan signing coming to Leeds United in time for the clash with Watford is an unexpected bonus.

Call me cynical but I’d just about given up on new players arriving before the end of the emergency loan window. There’s only so many times you can hear that a takeover or fresh funding is “very close” before you lose faith. We’ll all die waiting if we hold our breath much longer.

But the club appear to have found the money from somewhere and it’ll do them no harm at all to add an extra string to their bow before the January transfer window opens. What happens then is another matter altogether but, in the short-term, this season is going to depend on Neil Warnock and his team getting through to Christmas with a decent league position intact.

Every time I’ve heard Warnock speak about loan signings, I got the feeling that he was resigned to the emergency deadline passing this month without success. This proposed deal really has come out of the blue. But fresh inspiration can also be found within Thorp Arch – from the two or three players who Warnock could realistically expect to give United a shot in the arm.

Ross McCormack and Davide Somma are due to resume full training next week and that’s great news at the right time. I’d be wary of putting too much pressure on either player – Somma especially – but if Warnock’s looking for match-winners or lads who can change a game then he’s got two right there.

My opinion of McCormack is no secret. He’s a class act in the Championship. And realistically, the amount of time he’s been out means Warnock should be able to call on him fairly quickly. One game on the bench and then into the team, perhaps. I wouldn’t wait any longer than necessary. In terms of their attack, Leeds have really missed him.

In some ways you could say the same about Somma. I don’t think his all-round game is the best but the lad can finish any sort of chance. He’s a goalscorer in the truest sense. The problem for him is that he’s been injured for almost a year and a half and he’ll take much longer than McCormack to bed back in.

As fit and in shape as he is, Somma’s body will be out of the habit of standing up to Championship football. He’ll return to his former level in time but it won’t happen overnight. Push him too hard and he’ll be hampered by set-backs and it’s important not to ask too much of him. But at the same time, Somma on the bench is a real asset, the trick up the sleeve every manager needs.

But there’s another option as intriguing as those two – Ryan Hall. I’m not quite sure what the situation is with him but it’s been strange to see him come in from Southend and then play virtually no first-team football. He’s got pace and he scores goals and, by Warnock’s own admission, that’s what Leeds have been missing.

I get the impression that Hall’s fitness isn’t what it needed to be. I wonder if Warnock was wary of throwing him in half-fit and leaving him open to criticism. But Hall scored four times for the youth team on Wednesday and that’s as much convincing as anyone should need. There’s no excuse for leaving him out now. He might be the spark that Leeds are looking for.

They definitely need something to pick them up. Normally I’d be pretty confident about a game at home to Watford but the pressure’s on tomorrow. The players are bound to feel it and they’ll know that people outside the dressing room are starting to question them.

I’ve seen enough team-talks in my time to guess what Gianfranco Zola will say to his players before kick-off.

“Get an early goal, silence the crowd and the game will be ours.” That’s exactly what he’ll be thinking. And he’s probably right. At its best, Elland Road is a hard ground to visit. But it’s a tough venue for Leeds when things aren’t going too well.

What Leeds really need in the long term is the addition of three or four players who will worry the opposition. I don’t know much about Hall but from what I’ve heard of him, he’s got the sort of pace that defenders hate. If I was playing against United at the moment, I don’t think I’d be in any way scared. And really, that’s the problem.

Leeds United v Watford: It’ll be a tight tussle

It’s funny how prior to the loss at Burnley the form guide showed one defeat in eight for Leeds United.

The next thing you know, Charlie Austin grabs his 20th goal of the season and Leeds have just one win in seven. That’s the nature of the Championship and their recent performances haven’t warranted many more points.

The bookies still fancy Leeds at home to Watford tomorrow and they’re 11/10 to pick up the points with the draw at 23/20.

Gianfranco Zola’s side have won three games away from home this season but they’re hardly in great form and Leeds really should have the nerve to see them off. They really need to be beating teams like Watford at Elland Road.

Recent form points to a sluggish game tomorrow. Leeds have only scored six goals in their last six league games whilst Watford have notched just five so don’t expect United race into a big first-half lead. Those backing the goal markets will probably latch onto the 10/11 price for under 2.5 goals, though I’d be more inclined to side with a couple of correct score bets.

Leeds to win 1-0 goes at 7/1 while 2-0 is on offer at 9/1. You can also back the half-time correct score with Sportingbet, and 0-0 is 13/8 favourite. That said, I wouldn’t rule out Leeds going into the break 1-0 up at 3/1. Or, if you fancy Neil Warnock to really fire the players up, the 2-0 half-time score pays out well at 11/1.

The best bet of the game for me is the Draw-Leeds double result at 21/5. As I said, I don’t think it’ll be a goal-filled game and given how we’ve struggled to break sides down I can easily see us coming in level at the break before going on to win in the second half. A £52 return wouldn’t be bad for a tenner staked.

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