Leeds United mock deadline day jitters as youngster sends new boy message - Graham Smyth's Verdict

The way Leeds United ticked off another win at Bristol City made the tension that existed right up to the 11th hour on transfer deadline day feel like much ado about nothing.
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Although the deal to bring in Connor Roberts on loan from Burnley was as straightforward as last day business can go, Leeds held off on announcing it until the very last minute. His media duties were fulfilled hours before the confirmation of the loan move and there was never any danger of dramatics like those that engulfed his Wales team-mate Daniel James once upon a time at Elland Road. The signing might have been simple, but it was an important one. Leeds were light in the full-back area and insurance is smart, no matter which end of the table your fight can be found.

But 24 hours later, in the light of what was as routine a 1-0 victory as you will see, Roberts and everyone else were reminded that he is joining a team that is purring along really nicely. Unbeaten in 2024, second - albeit probably temporarily - in the Championship table with five league wins on the spin and four clean sheets to boot, Leeds are not playing like a team in desperate need of transfer surgery.

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And Roberts, not registered to play in, was not needed in any case at Ashton Gate thanks principally to a young man who sent a message to the new boy. Archie Gray made a bright start to the game and carried on from there to say welcome to Elland Road Connor, now wait your turn. There was a tidy bit of play on the ball and a big tackle on Cam Pring to stop Bristol City breaking in behind on the left. The youngster had to be bright because that was where the Robins focused all of their attention in the first minutes of the game. If the plan was to target a 17-year-old still learning a relatively unfamiliar position it did not bear immediate fruit.

MESSAGE SENT - Archie Gray put in a performance at Bristol City for Leeds United that ensured new boy Connor Roberts knows it will not be easy to break into the team. Pic: Ryan Hiscott/Getty ImagesMESSAGE SENT - Archie Gray put in a performance at Bristol City for Leeds United that ensured new boy Connor Roberts knows it will not be easy to break into the team. Pic: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images
MESSAGE SENT - Archie Gray put in a performance at Bristol City for Leeds United that ensured new boy Connor Roberts knows it will not be easy to break into the team. Pic: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

But in the 12th minute, having sent every possible ball to that flank, the hosts very nearly found what they were looking for. Keeper Max O'Leary's aerial ball was flicked on by Pring, who got up above Gray, to put Nahki Wells in on goal until Ethan Ampadu appeared to block his path. That was the last time Gray looked remotely ruffled.

The player Bristol were likely most concerned about when putting together their strategy was Crysencio Summerville, freshly returned to the starting XI along with Gray having missed the FA Cup draw with Plymouth Argyle. The Dutchman looked sharp enough when he nicked the ball off the last man to race away on a one-v-one with O'Leary, but the finish was uncharacteristically tame. An attempt to loft the ball over the keeper fell shy, allowing O'Leary to paw it clear and Bristol City breathed again.

What opposition managers continually point out about Leeds is that they carry far more than one threat and even if one star man is a little off it, another pops up to shine. Georginio Rutter began to come to the fore as the half went on. He slid Patrick Bamford in for a shot that was too close to O'Leary, then caused enough chaos to tempt the keeper into a risky challenge that referee Stephen Martin might have taken a closer look at. The next big chance fell to the Frenchman too, after good work from Gray and Bamford, whose tidy feet took him away from a challenge out wide and when his cross was blocked Rutter ran onto the loose ball and fired it at O'Leary instead of into the net. And while Leeds were lacking that little bit of composure and crispness in their final third work, Bristol City's defence and referee Martin were found equally lacking when Summerville, Bamford and Rutter's slick passing ended with a penalty appeal that somehow fell on deaf ears.

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All the while, Leeds were gradually taking a reasonable grip on the game. Ilia Gruev in midfield and Gray in particular made sensible decisions to keep things ticking over, even if it wasn't the most fluid of performances from the Whites.

One man who was unable to do much to shine or even really justify his spot in the team during the first half was Willy Gnonto. Preferred to Jaidon Anthony, despite making less of an impact than the Bournemouth loanee in the FA Cup, Gnonto has struggled to cut the same dynamic figure as the one who burst into the side in the Premier League. So with Leeds in need of ruthlessness in front of goal, there was no better time for the Italian international to emerge from his slump with a goal inside two minutes of the restart. Junior Firpo's nice pass inside was flicked on by Bamford, Gnonto sniffed danger and pounced, rounding his marker and slotting past O'Leary. The celebrations showed exactly what it meant. The uplift in his energy levels and performance showed what a goal can do for a player.

With their tails up Leeds went after a second, Summerville repeating his trick of robbing a defender and setting off on a counter. This time he had support in the form of Glen Kamara's lung-busting run, before the midfielder's heavy first touch and subsequently rushed second let Bristol City off the hook again. The Robins were living dangerously and learning no lessons. Summerville stole a third ball, raced into the area and was once more wasteful.

Earlier in the season Farke got the feeling that his players had enjoyed their superiority a little too much against Rotherham United before conceding a late equaliser. There was a slight danger of that at Ashton Gate, where they gave the hosts a horrible time of it after the break, and yet could still have been pegged back after Anis Mehmeti surprised Joe Rodon with a run in behind, Meslier's save, while not his most technical, was important.

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From there on in it was the Leeds United show. Rutter carried the ball like a man among boys, Summerville did everything but put the ball in the net and Gruev kept his and the Whites' foot on the Bristol City throat right to the finish. Rutter shoved Gnonto in front of the away end for the moment of reconciliation he has been waiting for since that early season transfer request, and if there's more of that to come for the Italian then it further adds to the sense that Leeds have gone through and emerged from the transfer window in ominous shape.