Alex Mowatt’s second half equaliser against Birmingham City continued Neil Redfearn’s successful spell as Leeds United caretaker while Massimo Cellino continues the search for David Hockaday’s successor.

The Whites tried to keep the ball down and pass it around from start to finish, but in the first half it proved to be a frustrating endeavour as Leeds struggled to get the ball into the danger zones and Birmingham enjoyed the better chances.

Brek Shea, an American international who looks to be wearing a dead ferret on his head, fired the first warning sign but found Marco Silvestri, whose own hair makes him look like someone you’d find in a women’s prison, equal to his powerful strike.

Leeds continued unfazed however, trying to play the ball out from the back but finding options in wide and advanced positions non-existent. Birmingham meanwhile were more willing to go direct and a long hoof down field from their own goalkeeper went close to opening the scoring when Bellusci almost headed into his own net.

Failure to capitalise on all the possession Leeds had enjoyed was punished by Birmingham City on 37 minutes when Bret Shea exploited a narrow Leeds United, effortlessly strolling down the wing before feeding Wes Thomas who smashed in a great goal to give the hosts the lead at half time.

“We’re Leeds United, we don’t need a net” sang the travelling Whites fans as a 9 minute stoppage followed the goal so the net could be repaired.

That chant pretty much summed up Leeds’ first half. We’d seen plenty of possession and strung loads of passes together, but never did anything noteworthy with them. Billy Sharp barely had a touch of ball, such was the poor level of service Leeds were creating for the front two.

Birmingham weren’t playing anything particularly impressive either, but they played a high line to allow for more direct balls to be played from the back and Leeds’ narrow formation meant they could find plenty of space on the wing. Overall, it was a poor 45 minutes of football.

Mercifully, the second half was an improvement, especially when Doukara, and in particular, Rodolph Austin were brought on to freshen things up. Leeds were still playing the ball around, but pushing up in numbers creating more options that allowed us to get forward and Austin was central to everything, always trying to move forward with his passing, running at players to create space when he couldn’t and even going it alone when he spotted the chance.

The bodies we were now committing forward every chance we got did leave us vulnerable if Birmingham managed to break, but it made for a much more entertaining spectacle and ultimately led to the equaliser.

A cross from Tomasso Bianchi was cleared by Birmingham’s defence but fell to Alex Mowatt who reacted like a coiled spring, using the outside of his foot to nudge the ball clear of an advancing Birmingham City player, before edging by two more to create room for a strike that any centre-forward would be proud of, hit right across the keeper and into the far corner.

1-1, and that’s how it remained, but not before late drama left Birmingham feeling they should have had a penalty as Gray appeared to be felled by Bellusci in the box. At the time (and from the stands), it looked like the clearest penalty decision you’ll ever see, but having now had the benefit of replays, the referee makes an excellent call by booking the Birmingham City player for a dive.

What’s clear from the replays is he’s already going down before there’s any question of Bellusci making contact – and contact itself is questionable, the Italian pulled his leg out of the challenge quickly to avoid fouling Gray.

Undeterred, Gray – who looks to be some player – once again went weaving through Leeds United’s defence in search of a winner, this time staying on his feet and forcing Marco Silvestri to make the save of the day one-on-one with the talented youngster.

Wes Thomas sent a header wide for the hosts before Rudy Austin surged out of our own half, ran half the length of the pitch before sensing glory and electing to shoot when he really should have squared it, but once again this season, he shone brightly for Leeds and looks to be back to the player we saw when he first arrived at the club.

And that makes the competition for places something to behold. Lewis Cook was once again excellent and must already be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet (second only to Silvestri so far I’d argue), Alex Mowatt is back to his best and looks far more comfortable with Cook alongside him, Austin has been excellent so far this season, Sloth and Bianchi are finding their feet quickly and with Adryan still to come, something has to give – though Adryan could potentially replace Antenucci who looked OK when he was dropping deeper, but was caught offside numerous times trying to break Birmingham’s line suggesting he’s either not match sharp yet or shouldn’t be playing off the shoulder of defenders. I suspect the latter. There’s Doukara too – who also looked good when he came on – and Sam Byram could well end up joining the battle for a midfield spot. The mind boggles. Training must be like a showboating battleground at the minute.

Overall, it was a game of two halves as they say – the first, incredibly frustrating for Leeds, but the second provided much better entertainment for both sets of fans. On balance, a draw was probably a fair result.

On and on…

  • Steve Albaya

    Antenucci -not a striker and not good enough

    • Ev

      He is a striker, he played as a striker in Italy, he has good touch and just needs a goal to settle down……………..I disagree with you
      Perhaps you would it if we got Reg Varney back off Blackburn
      Fans consistently slagging players off is what didn’t help us last year, the likes of Lees, Wooton etc had their confidence crushed and this season it appears to be bellusci and antenucci………let them settle in ffsakes !!

      • Bluesman

        Agree Antenucci will be ace when he settles in. We should see some class goals. We have a kot of options and he is a good en!

        • Ev

          Yeah…shame his over head kick was deflected v Birmingham….that would of shut a few moaners up

          • spellz

            I do not think he is fully match fit, he has definite class just looked a bit like he was huffing and puffing at times against Birmingham.

  • Mike

    Austin is a decent player when he’s actually gotten rest, which for the last two years he’s played almost every minute and then during Int’l breaks flown back to Jamaica and played full games there.

    With the personnel we have now there are many configurations the new coach could pick from and genuinely play, which if they’re fans of the tactical part of the game could be huge. Depending on what team they play they could set up differently and in my opinion be equally effective albeit in different ways. Or even mid game make the right change and change the shape to completely.

  • Bluesman

    Has anyone heard anything from that basterd Harvey. On holiday, no wifi. I know he was shooting his gob off again at the weekend! Costing me an arm and a leg to get connected!

  • spellz

    Poor first half was an understatement passing was good but our penetration was awful, also I do not see any mention of Beradi I personally thought he was the best player in the first half for us, he was everywhere when we needed him, thier high line was definitely causing us issues.

    Out we come for the second and looked a different animal we pushed up and finally matched them in midfield, Antenucci was lacklustre and never kept his line, Sharpe by name unfortunately not by nature needed subbing and I thought Dakoura looked comfortable when introduced, he should start against Bournemouth if he has fully recovered, Austin was bullish and gave us the fight we needed to push up the field, closing stages we could have ran out winners but Grey for Birmingham had other ideas and we was lucky really the ref did not blow for the penalty he was mercurial when introduced and in terms of width exactly what we are missing, lets hope we have that in Adryan. Bellusci needs to keep his head he is a great defender and done fantastic apart from getting rolled by Thomas for the netbreaker but the pace of English football could well earn him alot of bookings unless he curbs his enthusiasm and good old Cook put in another solid along with Mowatt who I think is definitely enjoying playing with him, bring on Bournemouth.

    M.O.T AA.

  • Rebel White

    The style of football we seem to be aiming for involves a high level of confidence in every player as well as a high level of understanding between the players. With so many new players of varying abilities this is a big ask. It is possible but it will take time for it to work fluently for a full game. This may be a reason why we are still only getting a decent half per game. The active intervention of the coach has been really needed in all our games so far, either to change personnel or point them in the right direction! So, it’s still pre-season for us, unfortunately.
    When it comes together we will run teams ragged and chances will come regularly for the front players. Consistency from the coach/manager, patience from the fans and commitment from the players will see it happen.

  • PMH

    A burst of good results and some decent form, at least in spurts. It looks good, but do remember that a few wins are usually followed by a few losses in the Championship. Lets not get too excited just yet. But at least we have a little fun for once.