Rodolph Austin produced yet another commanding display as Leeds eased into the third round of the Capital One cup with a straightforward 3-0 victory over League Two leaders Oxford United. Neil Warnock’s men were rarely troubled for the duration and can now look forward to Thursday’s third round draw, where a potential tie against one of the Premier League elite (or possibly even Norwich) awaits.
In true League Cup tradition, the starting eleven could have been described as a ‘weakened line-up’, with six changes from the team who scraped past Peterborough on Saturday. In came the likes of Ashdown, Kisnorbo, Brown and Gray, whilst Becchio, McCormack et al adorned a strong looking bench. This was an opportunity for the manager to assess his back-up players ahead of Friday’s looming transfer deadline.
As has become Elland Road commonplace, the away team took the early initiative. The newly formed defensive partnership of Kisnorbo and Pearce looked decidedly unstable during the opening 10 minutes – fortunately, the back four would solidify as the match progressed. For all of their initial fervour, Oxford wilted fast.
The opening goal came after 25 minutes, with the already-legendary Austin firing in a powerful low shot from 20 yards. Despite it being his first ever Leeds goal it was undoubtedly a typical Austin strike, full of supremacy, gusto and uncompromising vigour. From that moment on, the Jamaican’s confidence and influence skyrocketed as he dominated the match.
As the first goal settled any lingering nerves, the second goal settled the match as a contest. If Austin’s first Leeds goal was indicative of his playing style, then Sam Byram’s first Leeds goal whetted the appetite for what the youngster’s career has in store. Byram dodged his way into the Oxford penalty area before producing a finish worthy of Andrea Pirlo, dinking the ball over the hapless visiting goalkeeper.
The second half brought further domination, and Leeds could quite feasibly have won by 6. El Hadji Diouf showed a touch of quality up front, Aidy White began to terrorise on the flanks and Austin continued his mission to prove that he could beat Oxford all on his own. Shots rained in on the away team’s goal, with Byram volleying over from a pinpoint Diouf cross and Austin striking the crossbar from range. At the other end, a defence missing captain Peltier and keeper Kenny was proving itself adept in their absence, comfortably securing a third consecutive home clean-sheet.
A fully deserved third goal was scored by Tom Lees with 15 minutes to go, as he nodded in a telling right-wing Diouf cross.
If the manager has learnt anything from this match, it is that he has adequate replacements in some areas but not in others. Ashdown looked safe in goal and Kisnorbo appeared to have rediscovered some of the form that once made him a crowd favourite. In attack, however, Andy Gray was completely anonymous from start to finish and it is this which must worry Warnock the most. This team requires more attacking options, especially if Diouf’s contract is left unsigned.