Leeds United look to bounce back in cup after shock start
Well as starts go it is fair to say that could have gone better for Leeds United.
All the pre-season optimism was blown straight out of the water with a tepid display and a 3-0 defeat at QPR that has left United already staring up from the bottom of the Championship table.
At least things can only get better from here as this new look Whites side suffered the sane old failings, conceding poor goals, failing to create enough chances and being overrun at times in midfield.
On this evidence new head coach Garry Monk has much work to do to stay in his job let alone put together a promotion winning team.
He was left excusing one of the worst starts to a season that Leeds have made in the last two decades.
Okay, the goals were all giveaways that maybe made the final score more one-sided than the game had been, but it did look at times as if United were under prepared.
A poor defeat at Millwall two years ago when that Leeds team definitely was not ready set alarm bells ringing and then head coach David Hockaday was not too long in the job so Monk will be hoping to turn things round quickly.
He has two home games to prepare for now with Birmingham City the opponents at Elland Road this Saturday and Fulham the visitors next Tuesday. Six points from those two games and the opening day setback will be quickly forgotten with the QPR game then looking more like a blip than anything more serious.
Improving the home form is one of the big tasks the new boss has been given following a couple of poor years at Elland Road that has severely hampered chances of top half finishes.
United have failed to get at teams at a home that has been far from a fortress despite the big backing from the stands and if Monk is to win over those fans he needs his team to start on the front foot in the league matches to come.
It goes without saying they will have to improve on the sloppy way they started at QPR when one down inside five minutes to a poorly dealt with corner that ended up with new goalkeeper Robert Green making a real hash of an attempted clearance to result in the ball going in off Sol Bamba.
Only the thickness of the post prevented Leeds from conceding two more before 18-year-old midfielder Ronaldo Vieira clumsily conceded a penalty to give Rangers their second goal midway through the second half. A third in injury time was the result of hesitant defending by another youngster, Lewis Coyle, although the game was already over by then.
Probably more concerning than the way United conceded was the fact they created so little and failed to force home keeper Alex Smithies to make a worthwhile save. They did have one great chance, but new striker Marcus Antonsson pulled his shot wide when one-on-one with the keeper.
The watching Fleetwood Town players will no doubt be licking their lips in anticipation of playing Leeds in a first round League Cup match tonight.
Before his next league match Monk has this banana skin game to endure with the teams meeting for the first time and former Leeds boss Uwe Rosler in charge of the opponents with a point to prove.
With defeats to Doncaster Rovers and Bradford City in the last two years in this competition United will not be taking their opponents lightly and Monk has vowed that fans will see a reaction to the poor opening day performance.
Pablo Hernandez is available tonight after his international clearance came through, but right-back Gaetano Berardi is out with a leg injury.
“Pablo’s clearance came through, which is a big bonus for everyone,” said Monk.
“He’s available. But Berra picked up a different injury on Sunday and he’s having a scan on Tuesday. We probably won’t know until we get these results back what sort of timescale we’re looking at.
“He’s had a few injury problems. He was doing very well in pre-season but picked up a slight thigh injury. Unfortunately, sometimes it can happen like that. It’s not through preparation or anything to do with himself, I think he’s just been a little bit unlucky.
“It was disappointing to lose him earlier in the game and that affected what we could do later in the game as well.”
Monk is likely to make changes, but insisted he is still keen to get the win.
He added: “We want to win every single game and you can’t judge everyone off just one game.
“It’s a long, long season with plenty of games. I’ve said all along that there’ll be ups and downs.
“We have a group where everyone in it will contribute. Every team I pick is in done in mind with winning the game. That’s always the intention – it will be the same for Wednesday, Saturday and all the coming games.”