Fleetwood Town 2 Leeds United 1 - Young Whites can take lessons from Cod Army meeting
Leeds United’s development side have earned the right to enjoy trips to the likes of the Emirates and the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
Last year’s promotion to the top tier of the Premier League 2 pyramid has meant the Whites are playing at the highest level English academy football has to offer.
There was, though, no romance in a trip to League One Fleetwood Town on Friday night; United’s rising stars travelled to the Lancashire coast for business.
Preparation at Thorp Arch for the upcoming campaign has been gruelling for all of Marcelo Bielsa’s troops over the last month or so but this week competitive pre-season action has kicked into life.
A run of four games in five days tells you how seriously Leeds are taking the lead up to a second term in the Premier League.
With the Whites ‘senior’ players taking on La Liga outfit Real Betis at Loughborough University on Saturday lunchtime, Bielsa sent another youthful line-up into deepest, darkest Lancashire to face former Elland Road boss Simon Grayson at Highbury.
Adam Forshaw – who continues to recover from a long-term hip issue – started the night after making a substitute appearance at non-league Guiseley on Tuesday.
There was a spot on the bench for headline Under-23s summer signing Lewis Bate while Charlie Cresswell captained Mark Jackson’s outfit with the development boss in the dugout again.
Leeds started the better with Crysencio Summerville playing a more central role than usual.
Although United were young in what was essentially an Under-23s squad, they more than held their own and even dominated once the game settled into a rhythm.
Stuart McKinstry saw a cross-cum-shot tipped wide by former Leeds academy product Alex Cairns in the first attempt of the night.
Forshaw, meanwhile, buzzed around the middle of the park giving the visitors an element of control, making his presence known thanks to a number of heavy – but fair –challenges.
Leeds took a deserved lead against their Football League counterparts – laughing off the ‘inexperience’ tag to go ahead through Cresswell on 25 minutes. The 18-year-old centre-back jumped highest at an inswinging McKinstry corner to power a header into the back of the net.
Amid the celebrations more United fans made themselves known in the home end - almost certainly doubling the ‘official’ travelling support figure of 1,400.
Leeds were buoyed by the goal and went in search of another. Summerville forced Cairns to push onto the bar before Max Dean flashed a low shot inches wide of the mark after some lovely link up play from Cody Drameh down the right.
Fleetwood responded with Leeds fans in a jovial mood; first asking Grayson to give them a wave then demanding substitute Ian Poveda to give them a song.
The Cod Army, though, raised the noise in the away end all by themselves, missing a trio of chances to level ahead of the interval.
Harrison Biggins first blazed over the bar before Callum Camps dragged an effort wide after bursting through on goal.
Hosts captain Jordan Rossiter then tamely scuffed a side-footed shot agonisingly past Dani Van Den Heuvel’s far post much to the annoyance of provider Shayden Morris.
Leeds made two changes at the break with the lead in hand; Forshaw and Amari Miller departing for debutant Bate and the returning Ian Poveda.
After a busy start to the second period when hour ticked over Jackson's men had lost their control, their captain and were subsequently behind on the scoreboard.
It required a mistake to haul Town level as Van Den Heuvel failed to clear his lines - leaving man of the match Morris to tap home into an empty net.
Cresswell’s substitution for a blow to the head appeared to cause brief confusion and allowed the hosts to win themselves a penalty – Bate felling Rossiter just inside the area, though replays showed it was a touch soft.
Ged Garner converted despite Van Den Heuvel guessing correctly and all of United’s good first half work was undone.
Fleetwood smelled blood and goals as Grayson's men stepped up the intensity; first hitting the bar through Garner with the forward then seeing an overhead kick palmed away.
Leeds did almost level late on.
Dean, who was in the right place at the right time again, cushioned Bate's cross at goal but goalkeeper Cairns - who was having an impressive match between the posts - was equal to it and threw a leg in the way to deny the striker.
Summerville also provided a late spark for United.
The Dutchman danced at the Fleetwood defence not once but twice; though he could only fire into the side-netting at the second attempt.
As it was, United's youth ran out of time just as momentum was building; losing their way for a long enough spell to signal defeat in disappointing fashion from their own doing.
It was a sterner test against tougher opposition, though, which brought plenty of positives - particularly in the opening 45 minutes - and lessons.
If this game was a barometer for the club's involvement in the EFL Trophy this season under Jackson; then there was plenty of food for thought at full-time.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Halliday, Andrew, Clarke, Morton, Camps, Rossiter, Morris, Hill, Biggins, Clark. Subs: Crellin, Johnston, Pilkington, Lane, McMillan, Trialist, Holgate, Garner.
Leeds United: Van Den Huevel, Drameh, McCarron, Forshaw (Bate 45'), Cresswell (Moore 55'), Kenneh, Summerville, Jenkins, Dean, McKinstry, Miller (Poveda 45'). Subs: Caprile, Allen.
Referee: M Donohue