Leeds United 0 Middlesbrough 0: Formation change brings best out of Whites

FRESH from witnessing Monday night's goalless but entertaining draw at Elland Road, Lee Sobot looks at a selection of issues raised by the Championship stalemate with Middlesbrough.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 9:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 9:50 am
SO CLOSE: Leeds United's Souleymane Doukara forces a fantastic save from 'Boro' keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos. Picture by James Hardisty.
SO CLOSE: Leeds United's Souleymane Doukara forces a fantastic save from 'Boro' keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos. Picture by James Hardisty.

Two upfront looks the way to go at home

United experienced scant joy going forward against Nottingham Forest with Mirco Antenucci playing a lone striker role, supported by Stuart Dallas and Souleymane Doukara on the flanks and with Lewis Cook in a false no 10 role. It didn’t work.

But pairing Antenucci and Doukara up tops together gave Boro plenty to think about on Monday evening with Leeds creating countless chances in what at times almost looked like a 4-2-2-2 formation with Dallas and Cook supporting the front duo and sat in front of Toumani Diagouraga and Liam Bridcutt. With Cook and Dallas also managing to give Leeds enough width, it worked. Leeds had 16 shots compared to ‘Boro’s 11 and the better of the chances, for all that Aitor Karanka was left fuming about Jordan Rhodes’ disallowed ‘goal’.

Lewis Cook looks revitalised

Cook was disappointing in the false no 10 role in the 1-0 loss at home to Forest and there were those that felt the 19-year-old was suddenly struggling to fulfil his potential at Leeds. But the teenager was back to somewhere near his best against Middlesbrough, full of energy and pace throughout and earning huge praise from head coach Steve Evans afterwards. United’s next move needs to be extending the England under-19s player’s contract beyond the summer of 2016, ditto with Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt.

Giuseppe Bellusci is becoming one of United’s best players

That sounds ridiculous when you consider the stick Bellusci has received since joining from Catania with many fans arguing that the defender should never represent the Whites again after his horror show in this season’s reverse tie at Middlesbrough. But the 26-year-old settled the score with another impressive display on Monday which included two goal-line clearances and by and large a solid performance at the back alongside Liam Cooper, with club captain Sol Bamba still kept out of the team. Bellusci has put in strong performances for several weeks in a row now and seems to have found a new lease of life. Long may it continue.

Fans will go to eye-catching measures to oust Massimo Cellino

United, of all clubs, are used to holding protests but the efforts of The Time To Go Massimo group, in conjunction with MMF Technology, took things to another level and era on Monday. Cellino was still in Italy but make no mistake that the 30ft high images of him projected on to the side of the East stand along with messages for him to leave will have reached him loud and clear. Much more eye-catching and imaginative then the usual chanting and clapping and very much a protest for the 21st century. An effective one that Cellino will have found impossible to miss.

United’s dispute with Sky is showing no signs of stopping

Monday night’s game was United’s 12th appearance live on Sky since the season began in August and both Massimo Cellino’s programme notes and revelations after the game confirmed that the row with the TV broadcaster is continuing to intensify. Cellino faces his own battle with his club’s fans but made it clear in his programme notes that he still found Sky’s continued coverage and re-scheduling of United games unacceptable - hurting both the club’s fan-base and finances. A gate of 20,424 witnessed Monday night’s encounter and Cellino knows it would have been more but for yet another Sky broadcast. It was also revealed after the game that Leeds rejected an offer to stage the clash with Middlesbrough at 12.30pm on Saturday instead, with 3pm on Saturday the only outcome on Cellino’s mind. The row continues and doesn’t look like ending any time soon.