Millwall 1 Leeds United 1: Harrison's striking impression, the return of Forshaw and psychological gains - The Final Word

GET IN: Jack Harrison puts Leeds United level at Millwall.
GET IN: Jack Harrison puts Leeds United level at Millwall.
0
Have your say

AFTER seeing Leeds United grab a dramatic 1-1 draw from Saturday's Championship clash at Millwall, Lee Sobot has the Final Word on the weekend clash at The Den.

Jack Harrison in the lone striker role

United's available striker options dominated talk approaching Saturday's clash to Millwall and Jack Harrison potentially added his name into the mix with a surprise late stint in the lone forward role and 89th-minute leveller.

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa had 17-year-old forwards Ryan Edmondson and Jack Clarke as potential alternatives to Tyler Roberts in the absence of Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford through injury but it was Manchester City loanee winger Harrison who was pushed upfront following the withdrawal of Roberts with 22 minutes left.

Roberts could have had a hat-trick on his Whites league debut though Bielsa was impressed that the 19-year-old had put himself into such promising positions and praised his performance in his post match press conference.

That said, United needed goals and quickly following Jed Wallace's 55th-minute opener and even Harrison himself was surprised to be pushed upfront.

Bielsa admitted before the contest at The Den that he would need to find the "right moments" to introduce teen stars Edmondson and Clarke to first team football - to not use the duo as "solutions to problems" - and the Argentinian stuck to his word with both staying on the bench.

But with Harrison ultimately producing the goods with his superb leveller, the question now is what will be the striking pecking order moving forward and ahead of Tuesday night's home clash with Preston North End.

Leeds now face two very different fixtures to Saturday's encounter at hostile Millwall in the shape of Elland Road dates against Preston and Birmingham City and it might well be that Bielsa sees those clashes as more suitable games to feature Edmondson and Clarke.

Harrison, it seems, is now another genuine option too.

But Bielsa's words about Roberts suggest that the Wales international will remain the main striker option in the absence of Bamford and Roofe who are looking at absences until after Christmas and around the end of the month respectively.

It should be remembered that Roberts is still very young and inexperienced himself and his positional play on Saturday is to be commended but it is hoped that his first goals for United are soon forthcoming at a time when Leeds now have a golden opportunity to kick on at the top of the division, even allowing for the injuries.

The psychological gains

There is no doubt that Saturday's draw at Millwall was regarded as a point gained in the circumstances, even if Leeds did create enough chances to win the game.

But it could well be that the psychological benefits of Harrison's late leveller even outweigh the point itself.

Yet another loss at Millwall would have been a difficult pill to swallow yet instead Bielsa has again produced the goods by breaking a hoodoo and with results also going United's way, Leeds can approach the new week with a huge spring in their step, still top of the division and unbeaten ahead of the home clashes against second-bottom Preston North End and fourth-bottom Birmingham City.

Neither will be pushovers - Preston showed that in their Carabao Cup victory albeit the sides will now be different while a battling Birmingham will arrive under former head coach Garry Monk adding obvious spice to the fixture and United's injuries are impossible to ignore.

Yet seven games into the new season, Leeds are undeniably in a superb position having successfully navigated a variety of very tough tests.

The return of Adam Forshaw

Moving forwards, it will be interesting to see if Bielsa makes any changes for Tuesday's clash with Preston and how, if and when the returning Adam Forhshaw gets himself back in the starting lime up.

Forshaw returned from injury in place of Kalvin Phillips as a 74th-minute substitute at The Den with Phillips having dropped even further back than his deep lying midfield role to operate as a third centre-back at Millwall alongside Pontus Jansson and captain Liam Cooper in the absence of Gaetano Berardi with injury.

Mateusz Klich, who had to operate in a deeper role than usual given Phillips' position, had earlier been taken off for Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker one minute after the hour with Klich failing to shine but defended by Bielsa who highlighted the fact that the Pole was effectively playing as fourth defender in front of a back three and thus unable to implement his attacking game as much.

But it ought to be business as usual against Preston and with Bielsa having been very loyal to those players starting, it would seem likely that Phillips will resume his normal place in front of a back four for the Lilywhites clash with Klich given his usual freedom in front of Phillips but behind no 10 Samu Saiz with Gjanni Alioski and Harrison on the wings.

Bielsa had admitted that Forshaw could do with some game time for United's under-23s before playing for the first team but evidently felt it was needs musts in the second half at Millwall and his return is a huge boost for the Whites, intensifying competition for the centre midfield roles.

Get well soon Eunan O'Kane

The final, final word this weekend should be on United midfielder Eunan O'Kane who suffered a double leg fracture playing on loan for Luton Town in Saturday's 1-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers.

O'Kane has endured a tough 12 months since signing a new deal with Leeds last summer and while clearly not part of Bielsa's current plans, the 28-year-old would clearly have been hoping to shine at Luton in a bid to take his career back on an upward trajectory.

And now this, with the Irishman having fractured both his tibia and fibula and naturally now set to miss the rest of the campaign.

The midfielder will return to Thorp Arch for his rehabilitation following his discharge from hospital.

Rotten luck for a popular figure in the Whites dressing room with Liam Cooper and Stuart Dallas among those to have offered get well soon messages to the midfielder on social media which are also echoed here.