Leeds United: Sharp shooting for good run of results

Billy Sharp
Billy Sharp
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Billy’s Back: Billy Sharp says Leeds must now push on after unleashing his own pent-up frustration from the spot at Forest. Leon Wobschall reports.

TOP of the world may have represented a somewhat excessive assessment of how Billy Sharp felt after netting in Saturday’s draw at the City Ground, but you kind of understood the sentiment.

Given the way things have gone since joining Leeds United, all this after making a picture-perfect introduction on his Whites debut against Middlesbrough on August 16, only the biggest cynic would have begrudged Sharp thoroughly enjoying his moment after he calmly blasted Leeds level from the spot in the 54th minute of the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.

The Sheffielder, whose celebration when he netted a late winner against Boro in front of the Kop in early-season was one of the more exuberant of those performed by United players this season, was a bit more reserved when he struck against Forest, more than likely out of respect for one of his former clubs.

But it is safe to say his emotions were racing inside after he crowned his first start for the club since September 16 with just his second goal for Leeds.

As the late David Coleman once uttered, goals pay the rent for strikers worth their salt and Sharp, 29 in February, has hit his fair share over the years for the likes of Scunthorpe, Doncaster Rovers and Southampton.

Reacquainting himself with that sensation felt mighty good on Saturday and he hopes to be doing it with a bit more frequency in the weeks and months ahead.

After cooling his heels on the substitutes’ bench during the first half of the season, with an injury not helping his cause, Sharp’s aim now is to harness that frustration to his and United’s advantage.

Sharp, who struck 11 goals during a season-long loan at the City Ground in 2012-13, said: “I am probably not in the biggest vein of confidence at the minute and that (goal) has done the world of good to me. Getting a start was brilliant too.

“It is amazing what a goal can do. I was on top of the world, even though it was only 1-1. I thought I was going to score again and (Karl) Darlow pulled off a good save.

“But I probably wouldn’t have hit that if I hadn’t scored a goal. I would probably have had a touch.”

Offering his take on the season so far for him, he added: “It’s been very frustrating. We’ve had three different managers and I got injured in between. I am at the stage of my career now where I want to be playing every week and it has been frustrating.

“But the lads in patches have done really well. I am just thankful and happy I started and I enjoyed being on there.

“I seem to score against my old clubs a lot and I had a great time at Forest and it’s a great club. I am sure they will do well this season, but I was just happy to help the team get something out of the game.”

Sharp did not manage to last the duration in the East Midlands, with a bout of cramp ensuring he left the fray on Saturday, to be replaced by his ex-Sheffield United team-mate Michael Tonge.

But Sharp, playing in a wide-sided attacking role, which also saw him do his bit defensively to support Stephen Warnock, could not be accused of not putting in a shift, with his diligence symptomatic of a much more resolute display on the road from United.

Dogged was the word that Neil Redfearn used to describe the showing and while it was hardly the most free-flowing performance from Leeds, the players at least started to show their backbone after a wretched humbling in their previous away outing at Ipswich, when it really was a case of men against boys.

It has also provided the players with a much-needed shot in the arm ahead of the home clash with struggling Wigan on Boxing Day – when a victory is imperative.

Happy to do his bit in an unaccustomed role to help the team, Sharp said: “I want to start every game, but it’s a team game and I am a squad player.

“I have been disappointed I haven’t started in the last 15 or 16 games and it was tough to come in.

“I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to. But I have been hungry and eager to try and help the team get the results we need.

“I really enjoyed the game, even though I was out of position. It was good to get out there and do battle for the lads.

“The main thing was the character. We could have quite easily lost that two or three-nil with the away form we have had. It was good to get something out of the game and we can build on it.

“I hope the fans are happy with the way we came back from 1-0 down and we haven’t got a result away from home for a long time now.

“We had to stop the rot and a point is better than nothing.

“Hopefully, we can go into the home game now and get a win. We just need some momentum where we can win two games on the trot and go away and get a point and then come back full of confidence.

“They (Wigan) are struggling, but we need a win at home ourselves. It will be a big game and a big crowd and hopefully we can get a win for the fans.

“When you look at the table, it’s not nice and you don’t want to be down there.

“But if you can get two or three wins on the trot, it shoots you up the table. It’s about getting some momentum.

“Our home games are important and we need to start winning more at home and then draw more games away.”

Not for the first time this season, the player to shine out above everyone else on the pitch on Saturday was Lewis Cook, who produced another masterful performance, with it increasingly hard to believe that he is not 18 until February.

Sharp is a paid-up member of his fan club and believes the future of United is in good hands with Cook, Alex Mowatt and Sam Byram strutting their stuff in the first team and other young talents waiting in the wings.

Sharp said: “When I first came to Leeds, I didn’t know anything about Cookie. But since he’s been in, he’s been top-drawer.

“He’s just 17 and you forget that.

“But he is playing a lot of football and for me, he has a great future ahead of him.

“It is great to have Sam, Alex and Cookie full of energy. They have so much ahead of them.

“I don’t think they realise how good they could be, but all three of them are top players. It’s good that we have got them at our club.”

Kemar Roofe celebrates his second goal with his team-mates.

Leeds United: Hat-trick hero Roofe won’t demand role as first-choice striker