Leeds United eye swoop for striker

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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Leeds United plan to sign a new striker before Saturday’s clash with Millwall after heeding a warning from Brian McDermott about the absence of a prolific goalscorer at Elland Road.

United’s owners are understood to have promised their manager immediate funds for a high-profile loanee in the aftermath of the club’s 2-1 loss to Burnley.

Leeds suffered their third league defeat of the season despite producing 22 shots on goal, prompting McDermott to voice concern about the strike-rate of a squad who have scored only seven times in eight league matches.

Matt Smith’s 79th-minute header dragged Leeds back into Saturday’s game after Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes put Burnley 2-0 up in the first half but McDermott was left to rue a string of missed opportunities as a draw went begging.

Leeds were watched at Elland Road by chairman Salah Nooruddin and managing director David Haigh, and Haigh is to remain in Leeds this week with United’s directors set to finance the addition of a new striker ahead of their visit to the New Den.

McDermott and his board are believed to be considering several targets, the majority of them on the books of Premier League clubs.

Luciano Becchio, who left Leeds for Norwich City in January, is rapidly emerging as a realistic option after failing to settle at Carrow Road and the Argentinian is thought to be interested in a return to Yorkshire on loan.

McDermott could also look to target Shane Long, a player he scouted for Reading in 2005, with Long on the fringes of West Bromwich Albion’s side after the collapse of a proposed £5m transfer to Hull City last month.

United, meanwhile, were yesterday linked with David Bentley, the former Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur winger who has been without a club since leaving White Hart Lane in July.

Leeds would be able to sign Bentley on a permanent basis due to his status as a free agent, while emergency loan deals for under-contract players could run to a maximum of 93 days – ending shortly before the January transfer window.

Speaking after the loss to Burnley, which left Leeds 13th in the Championship, McDermott said: “It’s obvious that we haven’t scored enough, especially at Elland Road.”

Meanwhile, striker Smith has spoken out in defence of Leeds United’s squad after Saturday’s defeat.

The forward claimed Leeds were guilty of inviting trouble during the frustrating 2-1 loss to Burnley, saying: “The first-half performance killed us.”

But he refused to be despondent about a result which followed on from United’s collapse at Reading last Wednesday, insisting that Leeds were capable of “competing right at the top” of the Championship.

Smith said: “We left ourselves with a big uphill battle by conceding two sloppy goals but we showed more bottle after that and towards the end of the game there was only one team who were going to do anything in front of goal. That was us.

“We were unlucky not to nick a point and when my goal went in I thought we’d probably get a second. It wasn’t to be. The first-half performance killed us.

“But we’re going in the right direction. We’re a very close-knit team and I certainly think that if you put our team on paper, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be competing right at the top of the table. I’m sure things will turn.”

Leeds missed countless chances on Saturday and boss McDermott was also critical of their display before half-time, admitting that his team “got beat up.”

Smith said: “He put his opinion across to us at half-time and said we were getting outbattled. Anyone watching would probably say that was the case.

“Burnley were honest, hard working and very physical and maybe we didn’t match that which is why we came in two goals down. But we’re missing a little bit of luck as well.”