30th July 2023, Pre-season friendly.
Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh.
Leeds rounded off their pre-season schedule with a strong performance against Hearts, albeit the Scottish side looked pretty underwhelming themselves as they too start their league programme next week. It was encouraging that, for me, having watched all four of the ‘public’ games, we steadily improved, game by game, as is always the hope during these pre-season games.
Heart didn’t really offer too much to be honest and, for the majority of the game if was Leeds midfield and attack against The Hearts defence. Illan Meslier had just one save to make all game of any substance. If there is a criticism of Leeds it was that, despite their total dominance of the game, we only came away with a single-goal win. It ought to have been two, a fine solo run and curling shot from Dan James also found the net but Patrick Bamford was adjudged to have obstructed the Hearts keeper as he ran through looking for a pass. Other chances were few and far between with Luis Sinisterra having an early shot well-saved and Patrick Bamford coming close a couple of times but, as I say, for all our possession we didn’t fashion enough clear-cut opportunities and that sadly has been the story of pre-season. The goal, when it came in the 38th minute was a good move with Sinisterra and then Summerville playing their part before an overlapping Luke Ayling struck the ball past Clark in the home goal only for a defender, running back, to help it into the net. I’ve left it as a Luke Ayling goal but it might well have been an own goal.
The big question everyone is now asking is whether we got any clues as to the starting line-up against Cardiff City next week? Often managers will use the final warm-up game to give their preferred XI some time together on the pitch but I’m not sure that was the case this time with Patrick Bamford not starting this game; surely he would have been a preferred starter next week if there wasn’t now the injury doubt over him. With Georginio Rutter also going off injured to bring Bamford into the game in the first place, who knows who might have to lead the attack? Presumably Joffy or Mat Joseph.
So, what clues did we get? Well, I’d now put good money on Archie Gray starting in midfield since he took every set piece and corner while he was on the pitch; that has to be more than a clue. It would now be nonsensical if he’s left out and someone else was given that duty! We have to assume Illan Meslier will be between the posts too, for at least as long as he’s with us. Obviously, if he was to move away this week then it will be Karl Darlow.
Centre backs? Coops and Struijk I’d say, but once again if the rumours about Pascal possibly leaving are true, and if it happened this week, then I’m sure Charlie Cresswell is ready and willing to play his part. Luke Ayling will fill that right-back spot but it’s still anyone’s guess who Farke will go for on the left; Leo Hjelde or Sam Byram I guess (if Sam is given a contract!)
With Archie Gray in midfield it is clear that assuming he’s fit, Ethan Ampadu will start alongside him although Ethan looked to be limping toward the end of his stint on the pitch.
And that leaves the two wide men. I was disappointed with Luis Sinisterra yesterday, he was involved in a lot of the play but his final ball was mostly poor. Has that opened the door for Ian Poveda I wonder. Once again he looked well up for it yesterday although he only got a cameo half hour again when he replaced Cry Summerville. Summerville had a quiet first half apart from his assist for the goal but looked much sharper in his second-half stint. Dan James had his moments and scored that unfortunately disallowed ‘goal’ so, I would be hard-pressed to say which two from the four Farke will start with. It will be fascinating now to see.
Heart of Midlothian 0
Leeds United 1 (Ayling 38’)
Hearts: Clark (GK), Atkinson (Sibbick 71’), Kingsley, Kent, Rowles, Haring (Halliday 80’), Oda (Cochrane 61’), Nieuwenhof (Smith 74’), Shankland (C), Forrest (Wilson 86’), Grant (Devlin 61’). Subs not used: McGovern (GK), Neilson, Denholm, Stone.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Ayling (Shackleton 67’), Ampadu (Gyabi 78’), Cooper (C) (Cresswell 78’), Summerville (Poveda 57’), James (Gnonto 67’), Struijk, Gray, Sinisterra (Gelhardt 78’), Rutter (Bamford 26’ (Joseph 81’)), Hjelde (Byram 57’). Subs not used: Klaesson (GK), Darlow (GK).
Referee: David Dickinson