Good day for forgotten Leeds United man, bad day for teen and off-camera moments in Carabao Cup win

Leeds United midfielder Jamie Shackleton had an evening to be proud of at Elland Road on Wednesday night, but the conspicuous absence of Willy Gnonto loomed like a spectre at the feast.
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Leeds’ Carabao Cup First Round triumph over Shrewsbury Town saw the Whites needing to come from behind to salvage something from the tie, just as they had done three days prior at home to Cardiff City in their season opener.

The Whites found themselves a goal down at half-time, courtesy of Taylor Perry’s heavily-deflected effort, which just so happened to be the League One side’s first shot on target of the evening.

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A double change and a few tactical tweaks at half-time ensured Leeds were in the driving seat for the entirety of the second half, quickly drawing level before going in front through Pascal Struijk.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: Archie Gray of Leeds United acknowledges the fans following the Carabao Cup First Round match between Leeds United and Shrewsbury Town at Elland Road on August 09, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: Archie Gray of Leeds United acknowledges the fans following the Carabao Cup First Round match between Leeds United and Shrewsbury Town at Elland Road on August 09, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: Archie Gray of Leeds United acknowledges the fans following the Carabao Cup First Round match between Leeds United and Shrewsbury Town at Elland Road on August 09, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Here is the YEP’s verdict on which individuals had a good day at Elland Road, those who didn’t fare so well and some off-camera moments.

Good day

Jamie Shackleton

Leeds’ forgotten man, returning from a loan spell at Millwall where he featured here-and-there, gave a good account of himself on Wednesday night. Predictably, the 23-year-old was energetic right from the off, didn’t run out of steam and covered for Luke Ayling when the defender found himself exposed down the right. His performance served as a reminder of what a useful asset he could prove to be to Daniel Farke over a long season.

Archie Gray

Once again, it was scarcely believable that Gray’s second appearance in a Leeds shirt was in fact just his second run-out as a professional. Deployed initially in the No. 10 position, Gray made intelligent runs which too frequently were not found during the first half, then in the second, dropped deeper to facilitate Leeds’ build-up, escaping pressure with body feints and progressing the ball with carries and forward passes.

Bad day

Leo Hjelde

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Again, the Norwegian youth international was substituted at half-time after a difficult opening 45 minutes on the left-hand side of Farke’s defence. Sam Byram is not yet at a stage where he is capable of finishing 90 minutes, though, which is likely to offer the 19-year-old plenty of match practice for the foreseeable.

Darko Gyabi

Another teenager who was brought off at half-time, Gyabi showed glimpses of what he is capable of, but too often his passes were astray in dangerous areas. The ex-Man City youngster couldn’t get close enough to Shrewsbury goalscorer Perry as he made his way towards goal, eventually letting off a strike which found the back of the net.

Willy Gnonto

The 19-year-old was left out of the matchday squad against Shrewsbury despite not suffering with an injury, Farke confirmed post-match. The German’s quotes brought a tidal wave of speculation amid unconfirmed reports in a national newspaper that the Italy international had requested not to play. Whatever the situation, Gnonto’s absence did not go down well with supporters, many of whom harked back to Liam Cooper’s quote following the last game of the 2022/23 season which implored those who no longer wished to be at Elland Road, to move on.

Off-camera moments

Familiar face

Leeds academy graduate Nohan Kenneh made a return to Elland Road with loan side Shrewsbury and wasted little time in greeting familiar faces from his time at the club. The midfielder was spotted hugging members of Leeds staff at the players’ entrance before kick-off.

Sportsmanship

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During the second half, Sam Byram momentarily stopped to check on Shrewsbury forward Dan Udoh after innocuously catching his opponent in the throat with a stray arm. Byram tried to get the attention of referee Seb Stockbridge as the game carried on, before Udoh got to his feet, thanked Byram for his sportsmanship and the match continued without stoppage.

Rehearsed patterns

During the warm-up, Leeds’ players were engaged in an exercise which was then replicated on the pitch several times during the match. With full-backs and wide players stood outside a coned-off area, while other members of the United squad would progress the ball from left-to-right and vice-versa, through traffic, with aim of switching play to the other side using short, sharp interchanges, give-and-goes and one and two-touch passing.