By Mike Courtney
It's been a good few weeks down Elland Road way. A three match unbeaten run under Redders which included an away win midweek, our 1st since 2011, has seen us rise from just above the relegatation zone to mid-table and within striking distance of the playoffs. Not that I'm reading too much into League Tables at this time of year as a couple of victories can see you soar up the table while a few defeats can see you plummet towards the drop zone. At this time of the year its all about keeping within touching distance and not getting detached. But most importantly for Leeds it's about a new squad of players finding their feet, beginning to gel and gaining confidence from positive results.
As we saw in the 2nd half at Bournmouth there is plenty of talent in the squad and when they got up a head of steam they played with confidence and no little skill to easily dispatch one of the best footballing teams in the Division and thoroughly deserved the 3 points. It was great to see the strikers hitting the target and this can only add to the confidence of Doukara and Antenucci. The highlight was Bellusci's free kick, not many of us saw that coming and neither did the Bournemouth keeper, but to have that weapon in his locker will strike fear into the opposition. Not since the days of Ian Harte have we had a free kick specialist and maybe the Italian centre back can fill that void. Wasn't it ironic that Harte was on the receiving end Tuesday night.
Getting the goals was great, our first time scoring more then one goal in the League this season, but keeping the opposition at bay was more important. In the first half we were under the cosh and would have been further behind if it wasn't for Silvestri. He really is a find and based on his performances so far could be a huge star in the future. He has kept us in games and without his shot stopping and commanding presence we wouldn't have gained 7 points from our last 3 games. He has been the star man for me this season so far.
There is a slight worrying trend occurring though. We seem to be starting games on the back foot. For the first half against Birmingham we were poor and the same was the case at Bournmouth. It was the same under Hockaday and if that trend continues we won't keep getting away with it and it won't be long before we are turning round at half time 2 or 3 down, like we could have been Tuesday night. I'm sure Redders has addressed this and hopefully we can get off to better starts in games as the season continues and starting with the visit our neighbours on Saturday.
Saturdays game gives us a good chance to continue our good form of late. Huddersfield are in transition with a new manager in situ. A bit like ourselves really but I think we are a bit further along and coming off the back of a good run under Redders we should be able to gain another 3 points. Derby matches are never easy and it will be a good test for our foreign legion. The pace will be frantic early on and this is why we need to start quick and get on the front foot. If we can do that I feel we could run out easy winners. Based on the 1st half performances of late though that's not a certainty but with the backing of 30,000 or so home fans and the confidence running through the squad from our good run of late the players should be up for the challenge.
There is an old adage that says never change a winning team. But there is also a case for freshening things up. We have a strong squad with plenty of options in most positions now. Byram is back from suspension and came on late on against Bournmouth as we reverted to 4-4-2. His replacement at right back, Berardi, hasn't done much wrong but I feel Sam is a better option especially in an attacking sense. Cooper also came on for Warnock and did well at left back and could be given a run there. The midfield did well and if Redders decides to keep the same formation, which was a kind of Diamond with Doukara at the tip, but also resembled 4-3-3 at times, then I don't envisage any changes there. Sloth was unlucky to lose out as I felt he did well enough against Birmingham, but when Doukara and Austin came on that day we did get going in attack. Mowatt might be fit to return after injury and he was another who performed well against Birmingham so there are plenty of option around the middle. With Montengro and Adryan also chomping at the bit to get game time we are in a good place squad wise. Redders will most likely stick with the 11 that started against Bournmouth and with options on the bench I do think we will be too strong for Huddersfield and should gain another 3 points to continue our rise up the table. Take Leeds to win 3-1.
Away from the onfield matters the managers spot is still up for grabs. Milanic and Sabella the latest to be mentioned. If we win tomorrow then I think Cellino should give the job to Redfearn. I hear a lot of fans saying that his role at the Academy is too important to risk losing him but at any club the 1st team is the most important entity. He has served his time and promotion from within is something that happens in most organisations and I think the time is right to give Neil the job. He is obviously capable of doing it, he has proven that this time and the previous times he has taken the reins. He knows the youngsters coming through, he has got the team playing well and winning matches and seems to have a good relationship with Cellino. Surely they can come to some arrangement about returning to the Academy if things don't work out. In the meantime Naylor could be brought back to the Academy to keep things going there. Neil is a great coach and lets face it that is what Cellino is looking for.
A lot of the names being bandied about are high profile managers who will want full control and I'm not sure if Massimo is willing to relinquish the reins just yet. Redders is a good fit for what Cellino is trying to do so why not let him get on with it and keep the stability that he has brought to the 1st team going for as long as this arrangement needs. Wins against Huddersfield and at Brentford could potentially see us end September near the summit and with two home games in early October against Reading and Wednesday to follow we could be in for a good run. Of course this is Leeds and it could just as easily go all "Pete Tonge" but that is the beauty of supporting Leeds United, you never know what is around the corner.
Onwards and upwards MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds