After the Crystal Palace post match celebrations died down, you couldn’t help but feel Leeds got away with it. United were woeful in the first half despite an early goal, and only a double substitution of Becchio and new signing Forsell could spark life into a “bare bones” Leeds side. What with Clayton injured, a young left back debutant and the deadline day departure of Max Gradel, it was evident the afternoon would be a struggle.
Leeds’ defensive issues were highlighted yet again, as the pace of the Eagles’ front men caused panic and confusion with Scannell and Zaha testing the young full backs. 17 year old debutant Charlie Taylor showed moments of class and experience though, playing provider for the opener and joining in on numerous attacks. There are signs of encouragement in the defensive department, with Grayson keen to blood youngsters, especially in the lacking full back positions, and a good second half performance from Darren O’Dea proved that centre half is his favoured position.
Although the day’s performance was poor for long periods, nothing should be taken away from Crystal Palace’s efforts. They were quick to close down when Leeds were on the ball, which lead to sloppy passing and silly mistakes, and when Palace were in possession they spread play around well.
Simon Grayson confessed that he introduced Becchio into the match knowing that his return would give the Elland Road crowd a much needed lift. The Kop had been singing Luciano’s name from the moment his name was announced on the substitutes list, and make no mistake, it was Becchio that ensured Leeds took all 3 points. Ross McCormack was certainly Man of The Match, and Andy Lonergan showed an appreciative home crowd why Simon Grayson brought him to the club, making vital saves at 2-1 down keeping United in the game.
If Becchio hadn’t have been brought on however, the crowd and the team would have found it difficult to shake off built up pessimism resulting from dropped points and lost players. His goal and involvement in Leeds’ third are obviously huge contributions towards the victory, but his return brought even more to the game than that. Leeds found it difficult to pass through a sharp Palace midfield, so with the introduction of a striker capable of holding up the ball, they bypassed midfield and managed to carve out chances and gathered momentum. Another winless game might have seen Leeds’ promotion aspirations disappearing before the season had truly begun.
Max Gradel now seems a distant memory with crucial players coming back from injury, although Ramón Núñez as Gradel’s replacement doesn’t fill one with confidence going on his lightweight performance on the left side of midfield.
Leeds can now look forward to another home game next weekend against slow starting Bristol City. The game should see the return of summer departure Neil Kilkenny and the chance to pick up a win as United look to record back to back victories.