CHRIS Wood was a spectator at North Ferriby United and by the end of a very one-sided friendly it was hard not to think that with the Kiwi on the pitch, Leeds United would have treated Church Road to a cricket score.
Thomas Christiansen held Wood back last night, refusing to stretch his most proven goalscorer after a late return to pre-season training, but the opportunities that went begging in a relative mismatch reiterated the value of the asset which United’s head coach has waiting in the wings.
North Ferriby were comprehensively outclassed in the manner of a National League North side hosting a Championship club and reprieved only by Leeds’ repeated failure to apply the killer touch when it mattered. Marcus Antonsson opened the scoring in the 18th minute but was guilty of compromising some clever movement with a spate of wasteful touches at point-blank range. The striker could have bagged five before half-time. North Ferriby were at risk of conceding 10.
Leeds put four goals past Harrogate Town last Wednesday and scored five times at Guiseley on Saturday and despite the charitable tendencies of his team last night, Christiansen has seen the front end of his team flourish against non-league opponents, in line with a recruitment process which has focused on the front end of his team in the past few weeks.
Leeds have Wood in reserve and new signing Caleb Ekuban on board, alternatives who might have made much more of North Ferriby’s limitations, and eyes are turning now to United’s plans for their defence.
The club have playmaker Samuel Saiz in the country, waiting to sign from Huesca, and are in the advanced stages of their fight to sign winger Ezgjan Alioski from Lugano. Attacking options in theory will abound at Elland Road but at the back, Christiansen is shorter of numbers and more than than ever after his and Leeds’ decision to jettison Giuseppe Bellusci.
Bellusci was left out of Christiansen’s squad at North Ferriby and will miss their tour to Austria after being told by United’s that he has no future at Elland Road. His outing at Guiseley, where he crossed swords with a section of the crowd, is likely to be his last for Leeds, leaving Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper as United’s only established centre-backs.
Cooper and Jansson featured for the first 45 minutes last night and neither defender was bothered by a North Ferriby attack who struggled to escape from their own half. The trend continued after the break and Kemar Roofe finally put the result beyond doubt with a fine effort on 55 minutes. It secured a third win from three for Christiansen, with more difficult pre-season friendlies to come.
Ekuban, Leeds’ latest signing, watched from the stands and injury ruled out Mateusz Klich again. Hadi Sacko was also absent along with Rob Green, Lee Erwin and Pablo Hernandez - linked with Maccabi Tel Aviv by reports in Israel yesterday - but Vurnon Anita made his maiden appearance in the second half after signing a three-year deal last week. Christiansen’s initial side had the smallest hint of a preferred line-up about it, much as the Dane insisted beforehand that he was some distance from deciding on a team.
His ideas will shift as other players arrive and Leeds are still waiting to complete the signing of Saiz, a transfer which the club are investing much time and patience in. Saiz has been in England since Monday, brought over from Spain to undergo a medical and complete the formalities of a move which seemed all but sealed, but United are yet to confirm that he will be on the plane when Christiansen’s squad fly on tour to Austria tomorrow.
Leeds’ pre-season opposition has not required Christiansen to call on the cavalry and North Ferriby found United’s passing and movement difficult to negate. Antonsson might have scored four times before he found the net on 18 minutes, twice shooting over the crossbar from a few yards out and letting North Ferriby off the hook. A break in the deadlock came when the Swede chested down a long ball and slotted a shot under home goalkeeper Ross Durrant.
Durrant did his bit with a string of saves and his diving block kept out a goalbound header from Roofe. Souleymane Doukara was denied by the base of a post late in the first half but a raft of seven changes at half-time did not offer North Ferriby any respite. Roofe forced a second goal 10 minutes after the break when his 20-yard shot flew in off the bar, sealing a result which had been on the cards from the first kick of the ball.
Leeds United: Wiedwald (Silvestri 46), Ayling (O’Connor 71), Jansson (Diagouraga 46), Cooper (Anita 46), Berardi, O’Kane (Shaughnessy 46), Bridcutt (Phillips 46), Roofe, Dallas (Vieira 46), Doukara (Gomes 46), Antonsson (Stokes 71).