ON the back of Leeds United booking their place in the last 16 of the FA Cup, Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Bolton Wanderers.
Sunday tea time could be an exciting time
The poor old FA Cup has come in for its share of criticism over the years and there was a feeling that United’s third-round hosting of Rotherham United was actually something of an unwanted distraction in light of the club travelling to Ipswich just three days later amidst genuine hope the Whites could yet gate-crash the play-offs. Realistically, that hope rather disappeared after losing that clash at Ipswich and the subsequent hosting of Sheffield Wednesday.
Ironically, it was beating Rotherham the Saturday before that has now set Leeds up for something to shout about, with some arguing that realistically the FA Cup is all that remains to the club’s season.
United are now into the last 16 of the FA Cup - the fifth round - and ball no 2 is the one to watch for in tonight’s 6.15pm draw. There’s more than a 50 per cent chance that Leeds will land a ‘big gun’ such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton or the winner of Liverpool and West Ham.
That really would be something to get excited about.
On the flip side, if Leeds pull out Shrewsbury Town for example, that will offer genuine hope that United can make the quarter-finals.
Don’t rule out deadline day acquisitions
The excitement of tonight’s FA Cup draw will swiftly be followed by the grand expectation of Monday’s transfer deadline day when United’s fans will be desperately hoping the club both make further additions and keep hold of their crown jewels.
Evans gave an update into his recruitment search in the aftermath of Saturday’s game, saying he is chasing an overseas player - someone he has targeted previously - plus two domestic players.
The head coach also confirmed that United had made a bid for Barnsley striker Sam Winnall but won’t bid again with the Glaswegian believing the initial offer was a fair one.
Evans also indicated that he had approached Crystal Palace about Fraizer Campbell but implied that a loan deal isn’t possible.
Leeds might have landed a gem in Toumani Diagouraga
United’s pursuit of Diagouraga had been kept very quiet with the defensive midfielder’s name not mentioned as the Whites were continually linked with bids for the likes of Kyle Lafferty as the need for a new striking option seemed to outweigh the desire for a new centre midfielder. But Diagouraga excelled on his full Whites debut on Saturday and helped United look a totally refreshed side as he sat alongside Liam Bridcutt and allowed Lewis Cook the freedom to get forward. Diagouraga may prove not only a good signing in his own right, but also an excellent one in helping further utilise the undoubted talents of the club’s England under-19s star.
“You know why half the Premier League wants him for multi-millions,” said Evans of Cook. “He was sensational.”
Souleymane Doukara is answering his critics
Doukara has not exactly proved a crowd favourite since his switch from Catania but rather announced his potential by transforming December’s league game at Wolves when coming on as a 30th-minute substitute. The important call then was for the French-Senegalese player to perform in such a manner on a consistent basis which failed to happen in the immediate aftermath of the Molineux win. Ten outings later, Doukara has scored four goals in his last six games, goals that have been crucial amid the continued hamstring problems being experienced by Chris Wood.
Giuseppe Bellusci is also silencing the doubters
In a similar fashion to Doukara, Bellusci faced a real challenge to win over his club’s supporters, many of whom said the Italian should never play for the club again after his torrid display in September’s 3-0 loss at Middlesbrough. Four months later, the 26-year-old is now receiving weekly praise for his displays, including from the YEP’s chief football writer Phil Hay who has singled out the Italian’s contribution for two weeks running. With Liam Cooper out injured and Sol Bamba failing to shine amidst a rather unsettling period, Bellusci’s presence was as important as ever at Bolton.