LEEDS UNITED secured their first Championship win in six matches against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday to provide a spot of respite for beleaguered head Steve Evans. For the time being at any rate.
It was tense, edgy and non-vintage, but let’s face it, the brochure always read that way, didn’t it. Leeds got over the line – just – and for that, we should be grateful.
Here’s five things we have garnered from Saturday’s Roses win over relegation-haunted Wanderers.
1: A touch of respite – for now – for Steve Evans.
It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce what the consequences could well have been for the Scot if Bolton had ended their 11-month wait for an away success. If United had lost, there’s a fair chance that the 53-year-old would have received a phone call or a tap on the shoulder that would not have ushered in welcome news on Saturday evening. Evans and Leeds had to win and they did. It wasn’t convincing or a best seller, but a win is a win. A big win also, given that the struggling trio of Charlton Athletic, Rotherham United and MK Dons all won too.
2: Mirco Antenucci back at the party again.
The Italian has not wintered well, as he didn’t last season with the dark nights not bringing out the best in the frontman. Thankfully, Spring is here and Antenucci, while not producing a wholly convincing performance in open play, took the two chances they were afforded him in clinical fashion.
His close-range opener was instinctive and predatory, while his beautiful second was a rewind to happier times for the striker and a bit of a rewind to his sumptuous opening-day strike against Burnley when dreams and optimism was abound. On his day, Antenucci has vestiges of quality in his locker – something that not too many Leeds players have.
3: Tough luck for Lewie Coyle.
It was cruel misfortune for the Hull-born defender when he was stretchered off after coming off second best following a challenge from Jay Spearing, although no blame could be attached to the combative midfielder, whose endeavours to win a tackle for his team were honest.
It looked grim when several medics appeared on the pitch and Coyle was taken off. Thankfully, the sight of him walking away from the dressing room following the game, albeit with a medical boot, was welcome. Touch wood, it would be too bad an injury.
4: The state of the Elland Road pitch.
United weren’t exactly free-flowing and the odds were always on that being the case given the palpable tension ahead of proceedings, when victory was the be-all and end-all. But the state of the pitch, which was bobbly and pock-marked in significant parts, precluded precision passing football and it was the sort of surface where you have to play the percentages a little. No midfielders on show seemed to get to grips with it at all.
5: Marco Silvestri’s Dracula-like aversion to crosses.
When it comes to shot-stopping and reaction saves, Silvestri – athletic and lithe – is up there with the best in the Championship. It is bread and butter stuff which he is rather less proficient at and he looked wholly suspect all game when balls were thrown into the box. Hesitant, unconvincing and weak and better and more convincing sides than Bolton would have exposed those deficiencies.