Alex Bruce

Alex Bruce was impressive throughout

Leeds played out an entertaining scoreless draw against Doncaster at the Keepmoat. There were five changes to Simon Grayson’s Leeds side from the one that suffered a 5-2 defeat to Barnsley on Tuesday. Paul Connolly, Richard Naylor and Fede Bessone were all left out and in came Andy Hughes, Alex Bruce and Aidy White in an attempt to improve the defence. Simon Grayson also handed starts to Davide Somma and Ross McCormack while Luciano Becchio dropped to the bench alongside Robert Snodgrass and new signing Amdy Faye.

It was Doncaster who started better in the opening minutes with Billy Sharp gifted an opportunity with the Leeds back four totally out of position. Doncaster had three early corners but the pressure was soaked up by Leeds who then created a counter attacking opportunity but White delayed on making a pass and his final ball to Somma was poor.

Leeds started to get a grip on the game and our most promising play was coming through Max Gradel on the right hand side who had his man beaten on several occasions and stung the hands of ex-Leeds ‘keeper Neil Sullivan to win a corner. Somma was looking good and despite being caught offside on a few occasions, primarily because of Doncaster’s high defensive line which was making it hard for Leeds to link between midfield and attack, his movement and hold up play was excellent. Somma had two of the best chances in the half, one fierce strike which Sullivan got fingertips to turn the ball onto the bar and another when he was through on goal but shot straight at the ‘keeper when he should have done better.

If I was to make a personal observation it would be that a lot of our promising play was coming through Somma but he was being forced to win headers and lay off the ball in a crowded midfield and then receive the ball again with McCormack unable to really get a grasp on the game. Though there are those that would disagree with me I think we would have been more dangerous with the burden of hold up play being put on Becchio and Somma feeding off him.

Doncaster also went close when Dean Shiels hit a curling shot which hit the outside of the post. Play started to be broken up as Doncaster won a lot of free-kicks, some dubious, some fair. Bradley Johnson in particular looked to be walking a tightrope after he was cautioned for a late tackle. The free-kicks were inviting pressure on Leeds as the half neared its close but Leeds were equal to it with Alex Bruce playing a calm and composed influence on the defence.

The most surreal part of the first half may have been noticed by fans watching on Sky Sports when the cameras showed a Juventus scout in the ground. There’s no news yet on who he was looking at but my guess is it must be Andy Hughes.

Leeds made a decent start to the second half and created the first chance but Somma scuffed his shot wide. Gradel also tested Sullivan with a driven shot from the right hand side. Despite a lack of clear cut chances Leeds were on top for large periods of the second half and fans had something to cheer as Robert Snodgrass replaced a largely ineffective Ross McCormack to a great reception. Unfortunately Snodgrass was unable to stamp his mark on the game which was probably more to do with a lack of service than anything else.

With around fifteen minutes left Leeds had the ball in the net. Johnson smashed a shot towards goal which was spilt by Sullivan and Somma pounced to poke the ball into the net. He was correctly ruled offside though but nevertheless it was a promising sign and reflected how we were edging the game.

As the game pushed on Grayson brought off Gradel who had put in an impressive attacking performance as well his share of defensive graft. Watt was brought on with five minutes left but was unable to have a real impact. In the final minutes Leeds had to be alert defensively but they were more than a match for Doncaster, Alex Bruce excelling in particular.

On reflection the 0-0 score was probably fair though it would have been nice to snatch a goal. The performance was a vast improvement on Tuesday’s nightmare and it provides a good base for us to build on going into another Yorkshire derby next week against Sheffield United.

  • Raph

    Hi tss, richard naylor wasn’t left out, he was on bench wasn’t he? I agree somma playing off becchio would be a good start, mcCormack didnt seem to get going except for a long shot that leeds rhinos might have been proud of! As much as naylor gives his all (maybe not good enough for this level anymore?) I hope grayson sticks with bruce against shef u. Also pair becchio and somma

    • Colin

      @Raph
      For whatever reason, i don’t think SG wanted to play Becchio with Somma – McCormack came off on 66 mins and was replaced by Snodgrass and that would have been the ideal opportunity for Becchio to come on.

      However, i don’t thnk that McCormack will be fit for Sheff Utd – that looked like a nasty twist on his ankle, so unless Billy Paynter is ready (don’t think he is) then I guess it’ll be Somma and Becchio next game?

    • TSS

      @Raph

      @TimHodge must have been doing a good job. I’ve been away two weeks and no one noticed! Haha

  • Glen

    Resiliant Leeds batter Rovers, the juve scout was watching Sullivan

  • Colin

    @timhodge
    Great summary as always.

    A couple of further points from me – Somma was rightly MOM – he ran around the pitch constantly and looked the biggest goal threat of anyone (leeds or doncasater) on the pitch. Sure, he didn’t get it in the back of the net but he wasn’t too far away. If he’d have scored the goal that hit the crossbar, that would have been an absolute screamer.

    Alex Bruce stood out for me as well for just being solid – some good tackles, but overall just did what he had to do, defend well.

    Finally Bradley Johnson and his magic boots – he tried really hard, he really did, but some of his passes and shots were unbelievable. He certainly worried the Doncaster defence on occasions, ready to shoot at goal, hits it and it flies off his boot 45 degress at an angle straight into the defenders.

    He knows exactly where he wants to put the ball, hits it and it travels in a completely different direction – at points it was pure comedy.

  • Tim Hodge

    @colin Thanks.
    It was a good save by Sullivan in the end and Alex Bruce showed some pace in situations where certain other defenders may have been caught out.

    I think poor Bradley suffers from a rare illness “Toblerone-foot”!

  • Colin

    And yet again, I’ve said it on here before and I’ll say it again. Leeds look much more composed when Howson has the captain’s armband. When Jonny wears the armband I believe it gives him the confidence that he sometimes lacks. And there are certain things that you see him do as captain that are very very clever.

    As an example – You could probably only see this if you saw the Sky footage – Bradley Johnson made the tackle that got him a yellow. That could have been a red (especially with some of the clown referees and this ref wasn’t great). Johnson took the player clean out, nowhere near the ball. The ref is near the touchline, with all the doncaster fans telling the ref what they think.

    You could see the ref shouting at Johnson to come and see him. Howson comes over (and Johnson knew exactly what he was doing – he kept away from the ref for a good 20 seconds) and speaks to the ref – nice and calmly, no shouting in the refs face, and you see the ref calm down slightly. Jonny beat the rest of the Donny players to the ref, and got close to the ref and spoke to him.

    That said – although the midfield did well, I thought Doncaster had too much space in midfield – if we had someone like Batty in that team, it would transform it. Batty was great at breaking down opposition midfield attacks. I don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of Batty, Ince, Keane, Viera etc. again but maybe Faye could do at least some sort of job in that area?

    • timm

      I have to disagree on Howson Colin. I know you’re his biggest fan on here & i too really like his temperament, but the fact is he isn’t stamping his authority on games & instead of growing in stature as the game goes on, he begins to struggle with the pace of the game & all too often he ends up going missing. If you watch last nights game over again you’ll see exactly what i mean. I really like Johnny Howson but as i’ve said before, he’s part of the weakest midfield we’ve had in years. Johnson was definately guilty of some mis-timed tackles last night but at least he was having a go. Im sick of watching Kilkenny & Howson shadowing opposition players like it’s a practice match & repeatedly failing to make a challenge. This usually leads to our back four being left exposed & then everyone starts having a go at our defence.

      • Colin

        @timm
        I agree with what you’re saying. On too many occasions, he’s ineffective.

        But I’ll tell you why I’m his biggest fan. He’s not a defensive midfielder. He’s not a central midfielder. He’s an attacking midfielder. Like Lampard in an England shirt, he’s restricted by the manager’s tactics. He’s always defensive or central midfield. That’s not his game, but he does a job for Leeds. Kilkenny is seen by SG as the more attacking of the two, which is a joke. Kilkenny doesn’t push up from midfield, he rarely scores and his free kicks and corners are poor. When Snodgrass is back in the first team, see Kilkenny lose the responsibility of taking free kicks and corners. And rightly so.

        Put Faye in midfield and tell Jonny to go attacking. If we had Johnson on the left, Faye in defensive midfield, Snodders on the right, with Howson pushing up behind a front 2, let’s say Becchio and Somma, then you’d see the real Howson in my opinion.

        But we’re not playing that way, and too many times, Howson has to track back and help out the defense – and that’s not his game.

        On not oo many times we have seen SG allow Howson to have a free attacking role, but when he has, he’s done well, whether it’s with a defence splitting pass (a la Beckford vs Man Utd) or having a strike (vs. Carlisle or vs. Bristol Rovers).

        I don’t rate Kilkenny at all. He never delivers anything.
        If you want to play 4 in midfield play:

        Johnson, Faye, Howson, Snodgrass

        If you want to play 5 in midfield play:

        Gradel or Sam, Johnson, Howson, Snodgrass, with Faye behind them protecting the defence.

        With Somma up front with those behind him, we’ll score goals in my opinion.

        On Johnson, I completely agree. He’s not a million miles away from being very very good, it’s just that he’s not quite there yet. I’m liking him a lot.

        For me, SG seems to love Kilkenny and I don’t see why. I can’t think of one single standout thing that Kilkenny has done since he’s been at Leeds.

      • TheReaper08

        @timm I am inclined to agree with your comments timm, the airy fairy challenges by both Howson & Kilkenny last night were driving me mad and if a ball bounced we lost 100% of challenges made, we have got two flair centre midfielders who quite frankly couldn’t tackle my Gran.

        I disagree about Johnson though, he is the footballing equivalent of men’s nipples, I mean really what is the point, he offers very little bordering on nothing.

        • Colin

          @TheReapero8
          Johnson is the best we’ve got for LM Reaper in my opinion. He’s taking the shots, but they’re all off target. If he gets it sorted (on target) he could be dangerous!

        • timm

          @Reaper
          What about the legend that is Hughesy though?! what a great game he had, apart from that one moment when he got caught flat-footed & they hit the post, the way he stopped dead & put his arms in the air, i honestly thought he’d been ‘taken out’ by a sniper! As for mens nipples, i couldn’t agree more! I’m a runner & i have to smear the bloody things in vaseline or they end up all chaffed & bleeding!

          • TheReaper08

            @timm I thought Hughesy was ok, it does show the value of having a player that will play anywhere if asked without throwing his toys about.

            He is very limited but if you can accept that and value the fact he is filling in, always gives 110%, then you can appreciate Hughes for what he is.

        • Tim the White

          I have not been a Johnson fan but I think he played a lot better on Friday night. However we have yet to see Nunez and Faye. I was thrilled for Somma and he really delivered. Not sure yet about McCormack but maybe he was trying too hard to impress. I feel the first eleven will shake out by October and I wouldn’t expect to see Kelkenny in there. If we can win the next two home games and then keep chipping away we will be in the mix by the end of the season I am sure.
          On another point I have been tracking Jermaine Beckford at Everton. He looks out of place and was substituted again yesterday having come in for a start for the missing Cahill. It does not look too promising for him but I don’t think Moyes is using him to best advantage. However,the Leeds team was built around JB and his goals but he can’t expect that at Everton. I hope it goes well for him but sadly taking the money was a step too far in terms of capability and if things don’t improve for him could be out on loan come January.

      • Colin

        @timm
        just interested – if you had a choice of captain, would you choose clown Naylor or Howson?

        • timm

          The captaincy’s a difficult one for me Colin because i honestly don’t think we have a player in the team who deserves to start every week. I don’t think you can link Naylors recent mistakes to his ability as a captain? They’re both supporters of the club but i’d have to say Naylor’s the more vocal of the two. I think it’s a bit unfair to call him a clown to be honest? He’s had a torrid start to the season & it may well be the case that he’s not up to playing in this league, but let’s not forget that he scored the winner at Watford & made both the Sky Sports & Championship team of the week. You have to be there to make the mistakes & if your a defender or a keeper it usually proves to be costly. Do you remember when we signed Paul Hart & he was scoring own goals every week? I stand by my comments that this defence is left totally exposed time after time by a very very weak midfield who are either incapable or unwilling to get stuck in in the middle third. I hope to see Snoddy & Faye start in the middle & to be honest i don’t care who makes way for them from Johnson, Howson & Kilkenny.

        • Tim the White

          You need a captain on the field who gets at the players and leads by example. For me it would be Casper Schmeichel. His distribution dominates the play and he is always at the players.
          It’s a no brainer for me!

  • Colin

    As for the Juventus scout, that’s really interesting. I presume he was looking at one of the Leeds players, so who was it? Firstly, the players knew who was going to be in the first 11 long before the game. Steve Bruce was in the crowd – he didn’t turn up to watch Alex Bruce, just in case he came off the bench. I think the Juve coach knew that the player he was interested in was playing also. It can’t have been Higgs or any of the defence, because they’re not Juve quality so it must have been one of the starting midfielders or strikers, so that leaves us Somma, McCormack, Gradel, Howson, Kilkenny, Johnson.

    Out of that I could only think either Somma or Gradel. Okay okay, this is all conspiracy theory, but Gradel was okay but not amazing, but didn’t Somma seem like he was playing with something to prove? He has italian heritage, played for Perugia, and I presume he speaks italian.

    Were Juventus looking at Davide Somma?

    In addition, Snodgrass in his bit part role as sub, looked excellent, and he looked very fit and in good shape for someone who’s just coming back. For me, he’ll start the next game. If he’s as good as we all think he is, he could be the real difference for Leeds this season.

    • TheReaper08

      @colin Oh the arrogance, the Juve scout simply had to be here to watch a Leeds player didn’t he.

      Your right about Alex Bruce though, he would have known he was in the team early Friday so there is every chance that his dad had turned up specifically to watch him, or did he……..

      • Colin

        @TheReaper08
        Name me one Doncaster player that Juve would send a scout to watch??

        Which Doncaster player was he there to see?
        Which Juve scout would go back to Italy and say “Boss, I’ve just found the next great footballing legend…he plays for Doncaster Rovers”

        • TheReaper08

          @colin Oh I see, there not interested in talent only the fact that he might play for a club that they know and recognise. “Boss, I have found the next Lionel Messi but he plays for a team none of us have heard of, do we want him ?”, ” No, let’s sign Andy Hughes, he play’s for the once mighty Leeds United, he must be brilliant”

          Word is that Martin Woods is generating a fair bit of interest at the moment and is in the final year of his contract, like you said though I am sure it can’t be him ;)

      • Colin

        @TheReaper08
        Glad you’re back on board and I’d like to say that it’s just as well we have a quality keeper in Higgs to fill in for Kasper, apart from letting in 5 against Barnsley and not having a real save to make against Doncaster :)

        • TheReaper08

          @colin You actually believe all of the goals we have shipped are Higgs fault ? Interesting because just the other day I was thinking how lucky we are to have him as a back up cos not many clubs second keeper are as good as him.

          He did all he had to do against Donny, he was involved in a gubbing against Barnsley granted but if the team aren’t going to bother defending then I am not sure it would matter who was in goal.

          Against Swansea the match report for Higgs was very positive, are you worried you might have to finally admit the lad is a decent keeper ?

          • timm

            @Reaper
            I totally agree re Higgs, i wasn’t the least bit concerned when i heard Schmeichel was injured. It amuses me that last year most fans were crying out for Ankergren to make way for Higgs (rightly so) but since the arrival of our new blue eyed boy Higgs seems to have turned into a ‘dodgy keeper’ in the eyes of some! We are lucky in that we have 2 excellent keepers & i wouldn’t be bothered if Higgs started every week.

          • Colin

            @TheReaper08
            Yes, he’s not bad at all and probably just as well, as it’s gone quite quiet on Kasper and I think he could be out for a while.

    • Tim the White

      There was no guarantee that any of the Leeds players mentioned would start. My guess is that after his previous hat trick it would be James Coppinger.

  • Tim Campbell

    Far better display by the team, I feel we were the better team over the ninety minutes. I think Larry has to stick with bruce for the next game, did nothing wrong, and a whole lot right.Same goes for Somma, I think he needs a prolonged run now

  • Christopher Gee

    Great team performance. Without Becchio the route one from Higgs out to Johnstone became a bit predictable and we gave the ball back to Donny too easily, but after the first 20 minutes we looked much more comfortable tahn against Barnsley. McCormack clearly needs more time on the pitch but he’s going to find there’s some competition for a starting spot.

  • timm

    A lot of people on here were complaining that we didn’t get Billy Sharp in the summer. Based on last nights performance he’s nowhere near as effective as Somma. I honestly think the Juventus scout was there to check out Somma as he’s played in Italy before & his start to the season won’t have gone unnoticed over there. I’d like to see Becchio partner Somma, Ross McCormack constantly plays for free kicks & it’s irritating to watch. Most refs will get wise to it too & he’ll end up getting booked for diving.

    • Colin

      @timm
      Billy Sharp, and throw Gary Hooper into the equation as well, were rated by Leeds fans. Rubbish. They’re overrated. Sharp is a £1.15m turd, and I’m glad he’s at Doncaster. As for Hooper, when he’s fit, he’ll get found out at Celtic as just not being very good.

      I’m happy we’ve got Paynter and McCormack instead. I think McCormack actually could be very good, but he’s not fully fit yet and after his ankle injury, could be out for a while.

      Becchio was never prolific in League 1 and I don’t think he will be in the Championship either, Beckford carried him last season. I reckon he’s off in January.

      • TheReaper08

        @colin Hooper will prove to be good enough but I agree about Sharp, I argued all along that he only seems to perform when there is little or no pressure on him to do so.

        Hooper is more consistent but I was disappointed with his ambition (or lack of) going to play pub football. It is a place where goals should come easy playing for one of the old firm.

  • Anthony Lewis

    Much improved performance from tuesday night! The defence was obviously stronger without naylor and connolly! We created some good openings (Somma should have scored) and i thought we were the better team just about! A point and a clean sheet after barnsley is more than welcome even if we deserved to win the game! Credit to Simon for making the changes that worked!

  • love leeds

    Good entertaining game. Loved it.

    But from a mangers point of view the midfield when we have not got the ball is like a sieve (hence the game end to end).

    Hope Faye turns out to be a brilliant defensive midfielder he can replace Johnson,Kilkenny or Howson

  • henry vincent lewis

    Very pleased with the performance.
    Bruce was excellent in every respect and was my MOM.
    Aidy and Hughsie did well too.
    In fact all the defence looked assured for the most part.
    Somma had a good game but he needs Becchio to nod the ball on and hold up play.
    Somma is a Beckford, playing off the last defender.
    He deserves a run in the team and will get fitter and sharper.
    The midfield gave the ball away too easily.
    Lets hope Faye is match fit soon!

  • Hugh Fox

    Happy with performance must needed after tuesday. Higgs did ok, Bruce was brilliant and would have to start on saturday. Thourght white was exposed and is not good enough, Hughes did ok along with collins. Agree with henryv that somma needs becchio to play along side him. thourght mccormack looked very poor

  • les irwin

    somma was man of the match but with bruce had he of had more match time he would of had more composure i feel he was trying too hard and therefore missed at least 1 certain goal chance ,but that will come with games ,didn’t think we missed becchio it will be intresting to see paynter. killa should have been on the bench and i think would have been had faye been fitter whats happened to sam he has been the stand out player on the whole this season .to be fair hughesy did ok .we are missing a batty type .if somma plays more he will get match fit and sharper a draw at donny wasn’t a bad result we should have won

  • Herbman

    Watched the Donny game on Sky, certainly far more impressive than the other games i have watched on TV this season.

    You could see the shape of the team emerging and also clearly the weak areas, as per all the conversation above, if we can see it surely SG can.
    Somma looked to have pace, strength etc, McCormack offered nothing, similar player to Beccio. In Midfield Kilkenny and Howson lost every challenge in there, Kilkenny had some great passes but then couldn’t pass 10 foot, Howson just average, going forward only one of these can play and we need the defensive midfielder, Faye?. Gradel was okay but needs to improve consistency, as for dear old Bradley, perhaps football is not his thing.
    Defensively then Bruce was outstanding, when he made a mistake he recovered, Collins looked more confident, Hughes is not a defender, White looks better in midfield on the left but didnt really have much to do, and Higgs is okay as a number 2 if he doesnt play much.

    So on this performance our best 11 appears to be;

    Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce, Collins, LB?
    Snodgrass, Howson or Kilkenny, Faye?, Gradel
    Somma and Beccio.

    Watt/Sam can offer options for width and upfront, McCormack for Beccio similarly, Paynter for Somma. Then we have all the squad and injured players that should be getting their act together to push ahead of the others.

    Thoughts anyone.

  • Matt BB

    well we had faye sat on the bech and clayton… well where was he? I was surprised that the midfield didnt get more attention from grayson. Juve watching any players on that pitch? really? It does happen I suppose the only really excellent player was on the bench, Snodgrass, and he has attracted attention from Barcelona in the past. With a little more presence in midfield we would have thumped Doncaster.

  • Hugh Fox

    For me snodgrass is not better than watt and sam so he wouldnt play but would be on the bench

  • love leeds

    I think schmichael and snograss will play well this season lets hope bruce can continue like this, Kisnobo gets fit and continues where he left off, Somma starts to bang them in and Faye is a solid defensive midfield.A lot of ifs but possible.

  • henry vincent lewis

    We have had a good start and the makings of a good team when most are fit.
    Faye is not yet match fit, nor is Snods.
    It was nice to see Snods coming on and getting right back into his old groove of tormenting defenders. We have really missed him.
    The scout must have been at the wrong ground!!
    I wonder if he was a scout at all?
    Higgs is an excellent No2.
    My main concern is midfield. Too many bad passes and slack play.
    Too much ball watching.
    Bruce was excellent both in defence and in passing the ball to one our our team members, instead of the hopeful ‘up and under’!
    Aidy White need games to build up stamina and confidence, and I thought he played well.

  • Matt BB

    the most important thing to come out of friday for me was that bruce and collins play well together, heres hoping he keeps his place.

  • Mark R

    A much improved and solid performance vs. Doncaster, and we were unlucky not to snatch the win.

    Defence solid, Kasper will imporve the distribution on his return. Well done Bruce.
    By the way were Donny’s attackers very small or was Collins wearing highheels ?

    Midfield, as several have said on this post, needs sorting with a defensive, holding midfielder.
    The combo of Killkenny, Howson & Johnson is not imposing itself on the game.

    Good to see Snodgrass make a contribution and I’m sure when he’s fully fit he’s in the team.

    Somma could be a revelation if given a run of games.
    McCormack, Sam , Watt all could partner him.
    With Paynter & Becchio we have even more options upfront.

    Looking forward to SheffU & Preston.

    MOT

  • Bill Fox

    Sam for me ahead of Gradel if fit. Kasper back ASAP. Interesting to see if Becchio and Somma could play upfront together. McCormack seems in need of some settling in time. Decent performance Friday though I thought.

  • Mike

    I just do not get Larry.
    This morning he is saying…

    Grayson brought Bruce into his side as one of five changes after Tuesday’s sorry rout at Barnsley and was happy to see his close-season recruit stand out in a lively clash.

    He said: “I thought he and Neill Collins were comfortable.

    “The back four got criticised at Barnsley but I said at the time that
    they didn’t get much protection from the midfield.

    “This time they had protection and it made their job a little easier, but all round, the performance was good.”

    This sounds like excuses for Naylor, I would be prepared to bet he is back in the side and if he is then I suspect some kind of sexual relationship ! Cant think of any other reason.