Rodolph Austin produced a scintillating league debut performance as Leeds got into the new season groove with a 1-0 win over Wolves at Elland Road. After a summer of rumour, remonstration and rebuilding, this was the perfect way to start the league campaign. Leeds were excellent, in every department, from start to finish.

Neil Warnock named an unchanged side from the team that brushed aside Shrewsbury in last week’s League Cup first round tie, handing 8 players their Leeds League debut. There was, however, one surprise in the team news as the captain’s armband was handed to Lee Peltier. With speculation circulating that the honour would be bestowed upon David Norris, Tom Lees or new-contract man Ross McCormack, it was a move nobody was expecting. Warnock is a shrewd and experienced man who has clearly seen something in Peltier that many of us had overlooked, but we can most certainly trust his judgement.

The Wolves line-up looked intimidating, as you would expect of a team who were playing Premier League football as recently as May. Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, England winger Matt Jarvis and Championship goal-machine Sylvan Ebanks-Blake were the standout names on the team sheet. To their credit, Wolves looked good. This was a match between two of the division’s better teams and the fact that Leeds were the better side on the day is an indication of just how far Warnock has brought a team who lost 7-3 to Nottingham Forest just a few months ago.

The match began at a quick tempo, with Leeds creating most of the openings. Half-chances came and went, following some very encouraging build-up play amongst Leeds’ attacking quartet. The attacks were not hoof-ball, but flowing moves full of McCormack creativity, Becchio strength, Varney panache and Green diligence. Luke Varney’s ability to play a striker role allowed for him and McCormack to switch positions at will – a tactic clearly encouraged by the manager.

Despite being second best during the opening quarter of an hour, Wolves did look dangerous when they came forwards, passing the ball with speed and precision. However, a Warnock side is never easy to break down and so it proved. Captain Peltier and defensive partner Jason Pearce put in outstanding performances, keeping the impressive looking Wolves strike-force at bay time and time again. If ever Pearce or Peltier were unable to mop up, Rodolph Austin would appear as if from nowhere to throw his body on the line or acrobatically scissor-kick the ball out of the Leeds penalty area. Austin was sensational, ending countless attacks from the away team with brawny sliding tackles and faultless positioning.

The only goal of the game arrived after 17 minutes. Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny displayed his distribution abilities with a sublime long range pass to McCormack on the left wing. From there McCormack produced a pinpoint cross (on his weaker left foot, no less) for Luciano Becchio to head into the net.

Leeds retained control of the match for much of the first half, restricting Wolves to infrequent forays. When the visitors did venture forwards, they invariably engineered the ball towards Matt Jarvis (a player who may yet sign for a Premier League club before the end of August). For all of his trickery and undoubted skill, Jarvis could not get the better of Sam Byram, an 18-year old right back making his professional league debut. For his tenacity against the quality of Jarvis, Byram deserves immense credit. The manager had taken a gamble in playing the teenager and deciding to leave Tom Lees on the substitutes’ bench – a gamble which Byram proved to be a winner.

The only sour note of the most exciting opening half of a season for many years was an injury to Paul Green. The Irishman seemed to pick up a knee injury and could not continue. He was replaced by the marmite-emotion-inducing El Hadji Diouf, who was welcomed onto the pitch with the same mixture of pantomime lunacy that greeted his previous appearance.

Leeds began the second period still on the front foot. Luke Varney in particular was presented with a good opportunity to double the lead, but mis-controlled when through on goal. With Diouf on the field, Leeds now had three winger-slash-strikers available, with McCormack and Varney now completing a triumvirate of position-shifters to tax the opposing defenders.

Having had the upper hand for an hour, it was perhaps only likely that Wolves would eventually stamp their own authority upon the game. The final half an hour saw the away side apply a lot of pressure to Paddy Kenny’s goal, but the Leeds defensive machine is palpably stronger than the wilting flower of last season. When the ball was cleared up field, Diouf in particular was demonstrating superb hold-up play, endearing himself more and more to the Elland Road faithful as he continually took pressure away from the home goal.

Tom Lees entered the action, coming on for Ross McCormack and adding extra defensive qualities to the rearguard for the final fifteen minutes. Leeds held on, with relative comfort, and greeted the final whistle with scenes of jubilation, determination and solidarity.

Overall, a great win to start the season and a first mouth-watering sight of Austin’s powers.