17th September 2023, Championship.
Goodness me! This is almost worth getting relegated for! Two away league wins on the bounce! Just one defeat this season so far in eight games, scoring delicious-looking goals! Oh my, I’m starting to feel giddy!
Let’s deal with the details first.
It looks like we are starting to see what Daniel Farke considers his first XI – although maybe it is still too soon to say that with Kamara, Gruev, and Anthony still to be given meaningful minutes and with Djed Spence apparently now out with a longish term injury. We can’t really yet comment on how good those four may or may not be. The starting XI today was the same as started at Ipswich with the one exception of Cry Summerville replacing the now departed Luis Sinisterra – and didn’t Cry play well!
Millwall hit us hard for fifteen minutes and dominated that early period but without actually causing us too many scares. For once it looked as though we were expecting such an early onslaught and we knew how to deal with it – patiently and without errors. There was just one scare when Illan Meslier appeared to have misjudged a high ball but then we realised he’d been pushed and Pascal Struijk was coving on the line anyway. Once Leeds took the lead though we effectively deflated their bubble and cut off the oxygen they were getting from their initially raucous support. And what a goal it was to get us underway!
Okay, there was a bit of luck in that the referee waved play on, first when Luke Ayling seemed to be playing Twister on the turf in his own box and somehow avoided handling the ball, and then when Joel Piroe gave Nisbet a shove. But once Archie Gray came away with the ball it was poetry in motion, almost Bielsaball in fact…is it too early to speak of Farkeball? Archie played the ball forward to the deep-lying Georginio and he then played it wide to the ever-willing Willy Gnonto, who, for once wasn’t clattered to the floor by a dark blue shirt. Willy knocked the ball inside, Joel Piroe instinctively knew what was about to happen and merely jumped over the pass to allow it to pass to Georginio again and his dancing feet played it right into the path of Piroe who did exactly what he was brought in to do; finish with a goal poacher’s knack. Considering it is still so early in the development of this side the understanding shown by the front players is nothing short of superb.
Confidence appears to be surging throughout the side too as we did need Illan Meslier to be on his toes either side of halftime; first diving full length to his left to turn a shot away and then blocking superbly on a rare occasion the Lions did roar in our box. Other than those two attempts though the Lions appeared pretty toothless and, once again, as with every league game so far, they didn’t look to have much quality either.
As always we needed additional goals to make the game safe and this time they arrived in the final fifteen minutes to nip any possible Millwall comeback in the bud – albeit they never looked like producing one.
The second goal was another quick counter-attack that ended with Georginio setting up Dan Janes in front of goal. Okay, he messed up – stumbling over his own feet and merely scuffing the ball towards the back post - but now we have a real goal-poacher in the side, something we missed all last season, and Joel Piroe was on hand to snaffle his third goal in his third game.
There was an element of luck with our third goal, although it came from another rapid counterattack – oh how different things are when we have the lead and the opposition has to come at us! We now seem set up perfectly to counter-attack. Anyway, Dan James broke away in the inside right channel at speed and tried to play in Georginio but his attempted low cross was deflected by a defender. Sadly for Millwall that touch meant that a second defender was then wrong-footed and had gone past the ball which fell perfectly to Georginio who then showed the calmness that we’ve been looking for from him. He shifted the ball from right foot to left and placed a perfect shot around the diving Bialkowski. Cue delirium amongst the Leeds fans and a mass exodus by the Lion’s supporters!
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was a real statement result from Leeds. For the first time in a long time, we appear to have eleven round pegs in eleven round holes with even the right-footed Sam Byram continuing to look comfortable on the left. The challenges now come thick and fast and we need to continue this run at Hull on Wednesday and, even more so, when we get back to Elland Road next weekend to face Watford. We have useful weapons on the bench too that may well be needed as those games roll around.
Things are ticking over nicely at the moment and the longer that continues the more confident we will get, and I’m sure there is still plenty to come from this squad and a manager who continues to look as if he does indeed have the insight to know how to push for a third promotion.
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds United 3 (Piroe 15’, 77’, Rutter 81’)
Millwall: Bialkowski (GK), Wallace, Cooper (C), Nisbet (Watmore 64’), Mitchell (Saville 83’), Bradshaw, Longman (Emakhu 73’), Campbell (Esse 64’), Norton-Cuffy, Leonard, De Norre (Flemming 64’). Subs not used: Trueman (GK), McNamara, Harding, Adom-Malaki.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Ayling (C), Ampadu, Piroe (Kamara 83’), Summerville (James 69’), Rodon, Struijk, Gray (Gruev 89’), Rutter (Gelhardt 89’), Byram, Gnonto (Anthony 69’). Subs not used: Darlow (GK), Cresswell, Shackleton, Poveda.
Venue: The New Den
Referee: Chris Kavanagh