AFTER witnessing Leeds United’s 2-1 loss at Rotherham United, Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by Saturday’s derby.
1. Giuseppe Bellusci remains prone to costly errors at centre-back
Bellusci rapidly turned his fortunes around during the middle of the season and his recent form was enough to keep Liam Cooper out of the side on Saturday. But the Italian had a defensive nightmare at Rotherham and should have headed clear the long ball that led to the home side’s late penalty, rather than try a clever overhead kick which he completely fluffed. It would seem highly likely that Cooper will be restored to the side for Tuesday night’s hosting of QPR but Bellusci still has two years left on his contract and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere else soon. In fairness to the Italian, his form and performances prior to Rotherham had been good but after Saturday the jury is out again.
2. Marco Silvestri’s handling is not getting any better
Silvestri’s foul on Lee Frecklington ultimately lost Leeds the game through Greg Halford’s converted penalty but it was the Italian’s continued flapping at countless crosses that was more concerning. The 25-year-old’s ability at shot-stopping is not in doubt - one of the best in the division - but there is more to being a goalkeeper than that. Every high ball into the Leeds area seems to cause panic and that area of Silvestri’s game badly needs improving though you sense that could potentially be coached. In the meantime, in light of his upcoming suspension, Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s chance to shine is imminent.
3. United are badly short of striking options
Souleymane Doukara’s eight-game ban for biting has quiet clearly given Steve Evans one less option upfront but the need for more fire-power was nonetheless highlighted in no uncertain terms on Saturday. Chris Wood still looks some way off the pace and rarely looks like scoring at present. Mirco Antenucci does look like scoring but he remains out of contract in the summer. Other than that, United basically have Lee Erwin who has yet to prove he is good enough for the first team. Then really that’s it. New options are badly needed in the summer.
4. Steve Evans is in demand
Opinion on Evans seems divided at Leeds and there were definite boos from the away end when the Glaswegian took off Lewis Cook. But it appears that another Championship club has made an approach to Evans’ people about managing them next season and Evans eventually confirmed that fact in the post match press conference. Clarity as to Massimo Cellino’s plans with Evans - whether he wants him or not - are needed sooner rather than later.
5. United could have their lowest Championship finish since relegation of 2007
Leeds dropped to 14th after Saturday’s defeat but the Whites are still ten points clear of the dropzone with eight games left to play, which includes a game in hand. Relegation is extremely unlucky - hence United are 250-1 to go down with Sky Bet. Bolton and probably crisis club Charlton look gone and MK Dons, who are four points off safety, are as short as 1-5 to be relegated. But Leeds are only six points ahead of fourth-bottom Fulham and the teams in between them - Blackburn, Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Huddersfield Town, Bristol City and Rotherham, are all capable of overtaking United if they don’t get their act together in the last eight games. Tuesday’s hosting of QPR is extremely important given that United will be unfancied in their following two assignments at Burnley and Birmingham City, especially with a trip to Hull City on the cards too. United have finished 15th in the last two seasons, prior to which they finished 13th, 14th and seventh - in 2011 - the season following promotion after three years in League One. United were relegated to League One after finishing bottom of the Championship in 2007, after being deducted 10 points for going into administration.