27th January, 2024, FA Cup Round 4.
That was so predictable; in fact I did predict it in my little preview piece in the YEP, well, I predicted 2 – 2, I just had a horrible feeling it would be a draw! The one result Leeds and our fans didn’t need or want is the one we got served up with. Many years of following the Mighty Whites means I always expect us to achieve the unthinkable, especially when it then complicates our lives!
Once again today we saw how, whenever we stray away from our best starting XI, we are not then quite good enough to get the result we need. On paper, the side looked strong and, in the cases of Archie Gray and Dan James they were ruled out through injury anyway. The four other changes, leaving out the in-form Patrick Bamford, the dynamic Cree Summerville, an improving Junior Firpo, and the usually solid Glen Kamara, meant six changes in all and it was probably too many, to leave us comfortably better than an in-form Plymouth Argyle. In came Jamie Shackleton, Sam Byram, Liam Cooper, Jaidon Anthony, Willy Gnonto, and Joel Piroe. Of those only Sam has really caught the eye in recent weeks.
Still, after a slow start, Leeds bossed the first half and should have improved on the one goal we got, a superb solo effort from Jaidon Anthony, darting between two defenders, going around a third, and then bending an unstoppable shot into the far corner. It was a goal worthy of the tribute to his late mother revealed when he peeled off his shirt to celebrate and, for a moment, Jaidon looked to be every bit as potent on the wing as Cree has been.
It was only down to a combination of the woodwork and a determined Plymouth defence that kept us out until that special Anthony moment . In one frenetic Leeds attack we saw Jaidon Anthony smack the post with a left foot shot, Willy Gnonto fire the rebound towards the roof of the net only for Conor Hazard in the Argyle goal to tip it onto the bar, and then another follow-up shot from Anthony get blocked away. We’d also seen the keeper deny Joel Piroe with his stretching leg and Ethan Ampadu with a more standard catch from a long-range effort.
Leeds’ tempo and effectiveness took a downturn in the second half and there was a feeling of inevitability that the equaliser was coming. The first warning came when Liam Cooper missed a clearing header on the edge of the box and Ryan Hardie hooked the ball over the stranded Illan Meslier. Thankfully Sam Byram was on the line to head clear, albeit at the cost of a battering from the post. When the equaliser did come though, It had echoes of the way we defended earlier on this season, leaving a man to run free at the back post. Jaidon Anthony will not be proud of the way he slowly jogged back after Adam Randell, allowing the Plymouth man to run unchallenged into the box to meet a simple low cross. Randell made no mistake from 12 yards out.
It was all very annoying, and we now face two long trips to Plymouth in February as if this damn Championship hadn’t cost us enough time and money already! Daniel Farke claimed “It's not frustrating, it's just unlucky” but I have to say it all felt frustrating and needless to me.
We have to remember though that this FA Cup run, short or long as it may prove to be, is only a sideshow to the main event and that means we need to be bang on it again next Friday night when we face an unpredictable Bristol City. Maybe resting the likes of Cree and Bamford will have the desired outcome with them firing on all cylinders next week.
Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Leeds United 1 (Anthony 31’)
Plymouth Argyle 1 (Randell 73’)
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Ampadu, Cooper (C), Piroe, Anthony, Rodon, Shackleton (Bamford 82’), Georginio (Joseph 89’), Byram (Firpo 82’), Gnonto (Poveda 74’), Gruev. Subs not used: Klaesson (GK), Christy (GK), Cresswell, Kamara, Gelhardt.
Plymouth: Hazard (GK), Mumba, Hardie, Whittaker (C), Wright (Bundu 56’), Miller (Sorinola 77’), Gibson, Randell, Galloway, Phillips (Pleguezuelo 85’), Roberts (Butcher 56’). Subs not used: Burton (GK), Scarr, Edwards, Waine, Issaka.
Referee: Lewis Smith
Booked: Anthony (Leeds)
Venue: Elland Road