27th July 2023, Pre-season friendly.
Pirelli Stadium, Burton.
That was a much more lively and ‘together’ sort of display from Leeds last night at the Pirelli Stadium and I’ve seen some Forest fans online commenting about how well we played. Having said that, we are now nearing the end of our pre-season with just one game at Hearts to come while Forest are only mid-way through theirs. We need to also remember that Forest had several likely first-team players missing and had a few playing out of position. All that said though, we stepped up significantly, I thought, from the first two games we’ve seen and, as everyone keeps reminding me: “It is only pre-season!”
Leeds looked pacey, that quick press that Farke wants was very evident with our lads quickly getting in the faces of any Forest man collecting the ball. Playing Sam Byram at left-back can’t be ideal but once again he looked pretty solid and attacked well too. For the rest, as I’ve said before, we have a whole bunch of players who are playing “ok” without looking like they will significantly impact a game. Not enough players are standing out as looking anything special and, for me, you need a few players like that, players who will make decisions and passes in a game that creates chances and players who you know will score goals. Leeds did have one though; the second-half performance from Ian Poveda was top drawer, he was head and shoulders the best player on the night. OK, it is only one game, less than one game in fact, but if he could keep up that momentum then he could yet outshine his seemingly more illustrious wide competition in Sinisterra, Willy Gnonto, Jack Harrison, Cry Summerville, Helda, and anyone else I’ve missed in our long list of wingers!
Another hopeful sign was that Patrick Bamford picked up a goal. Can we possibly hope, assuming he’s staying, that he is finding his confidence again? I wouldn’t say he exactly sparkled during his time on the pitch last night but the quick thinking to intercept an, admittedly, very lazy Forest back pass, and then to keep cool as he switched feet and slotted it home perfectly was at least a glimpse of what we know he can do on a good day. Quite what the fingers-in-the-ears goal celebration was about I’m not sure but I hope it wasn’t aimed at us, the Leeds fans. He did that once before I remember after a long barren spell and it’s not a great look.
Our second goal was a classy number too, echoes of Bielsaball? Charlie Cresswell pushed it wide right to Shacks over halfway, he pushed it inside to Georginio Rutter and we got a quick glimpse of what he can do as he knew instinctively how to be strong and protect the ball and still shift it to the overlapping Poveda. He even gave Poveda some room by blocking the experienced Forest captain Joe Worrall as he laid the ball off. There was still work for Poveda to do but he’d had a couple of similar sighters already and this time he drilled the ball hard and low inside the right post. Ok, the Forest defending was poor and there was no attempt to close Poveda down but this little man has an eye for a goal and, on this display at least, looks hungry for one of those white shirts against Cardiff.
As I say, everyone looked ok, we just need more from players who we know have more to give – Joe Gelhardt didn’t do enough, and Mat Joseph too has more than he’s showing us at the moment. Is Patrick Bamford good enough, let’s hope he’s starting to fire again. Archie Gray showed us glimpses again and always looks to get involved while Sinisterra and Dan James will probably reflect on that Poveda performance and will maybe realise they need to up their game.
If Daniel Farke does what most Leeds managers have tended to do over the years, then the starting eleven up at Hearts should be somewhere close to the XI we’ll see start at Elland Road against Cardiff. Personally, I’d still be guessing if I tried to say who those XI will be and it does depend on who else is leaving. I doubt anyone coming in will be on show in Edinburgh, but we do need those two or three experienced, quality players who could really push this squad on. We’ll probably not have them against Cardiff but we do still need them.
Forest: Horvath (GK) (Shelvey 60’), Worrall (C), Mangala (Aurier 60’), Williams, Kouyate (Aguilera 60’), Awoniyi (Ui-Jo 45’), Yates (Elanga 60’), Freuler, Danilo (Scarpa 60’), Boly (Panzo 75’), Powell (Wood 60’). Subs not used: Bott (GK), McKenna, Abbott.
Leeds: Messier (GK), Ayling (Gray 45’), Ampadu (Gyabi 56’), Cooper (C) (Struijk 67’), Bamford (Rutter 67’), James (Gnonto 67’), Sinisterra (Poveda 45’), Byram (Hjelde 67’), Gelhardt (Joseph 67’), Cresswell, Shackleton. Subs not used: Klaesson (GK), Van den Heuvel (GK), Bate.
Venue: Pirelli Stadium
Referee: C. Pawson