By Mike Courtney
Back in July when I was looking ahead to the new season I wrote an article for this site and made the following predictions for our first five league matches;
Leeds 2 Brighton 0, Leicester 1 Leeds 1,Leeds 3 Wednesday 1, Ipswich 1 Leeds 2, Leeds 2 QPR 2.
Apart from the home draw with Wednesday I haven't done too bad so far, with just the home game tomorrow versus QPR pending. In fact the first four league games and the two cup victories have probably exceeded even the most optimistic fans expectations, and lying in 6th place just 2 points behind the leaders is the kind of start that was needed to get BMac's first full season in charge up and running. The faithful are getting excited about the season ahead and a bit more backing from the board with a signing or two before midnight on Monday will only enhance that expectation.
We have added to our squad lately with the acquisition of Scott Wootton and his debut couldn't have gone better in the midweek win at Donny, with his debut goal and all round assured performance at the back which will have pleased the manager no end and got those supporters, that doubted the signing of a Manc, on his side. He is wearing the white (or gold) of Leeds now and getting behind the young lad is imperative for his continued confidence. From Tuesday's evidence he could be a gem in the making.
So what of tomorrows live encounter on Sky? Again a large crowd is expected as we face Harry's promotion favourites. A team assembled with a lot bigger budget then BMac's boys. There is no doubting the quality that QPR have in their ranks and some of them are well capable of competing at the highest level. With an attack that can call on Junior Hoillett, Andy Johnson, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora it could be a testing day for Paddy Kenny and his back four. Concentration levels need to be at 100% and the habit of conceding the first goal is something that needs to be addressed. We will need a big performance from our skipper in the middle of the park. His ability to break up play and tough tackling will be tested to the full by Barton, Jenas and company and he will need the industry of Green and Murphy to help Leeds get a foothold in that area.
If we do manage to hold our own in midfield I believe we have the firepower to trouble QPR at the back. Ross Mac has been playing his best football in years and with four goals already this campaign, he has been our star performer. It's not just his goals but his all round play that have made him stand out and it's no wonder other teams are looking at him in the transfer market. I think BMac should start with Poleon up front as his pace could trouble the likes of Dunne and Clint Hill, who are both well on the wrong side of thirty. You could have either Varney or Hunt supporting him and Big Matt Smith, who did well during the week at Donny, to come in late on if needed.
There is no doubting that this will be our biggest test so far and come 2pm tomorrow we might have a better understanding of where we are in terms of the promotion race. I know one game doesn't define a season but having got off to a great start to the campaign, a win tomorrow against one of the big boys in this division will send out the message that Leeds are on the way back. Even if things don't go our way and we end up losing, the manner of that defeat will say a lot. A battling performance and a narrow loss won't be the end of the world, no team will go unbeaten in this League, but a heavy defeat like Watford last term could have a long term impact on the squad and supporters that could set us up for another season of frustration.
My optimism is high though after the start we have made and with the backing of full house we can get a result tomorrow. I think I'll stick with my original prediction of a score draw, but we could edge it if everything goes our way. Either way it will have been a good August for BMac and his squad and following the International break, I hope to see Byram back in the side and a new winger added for our away trip to the Reebok.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds