Leeds United kicked off their 2012/13 pre-season campaign with a victory over Farsley on Friday evening at Throstle Nest. However while the 5-2 scoreline looks impressive enough, it was far from the dominating display the fans will have expected against the Evostik League side.
Whilst a win is a win, the match highlighted the threadbare nature of the Leeds United squad, with the second half line-up featuring basically the youth team squad. The first half line up also featured two triallists in Martin Crainie and former United player Andy Gray.
Leeds gave debuts to Paul Green, Paddy Kenny, and Jason Pearce as they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tom Lees started at right back, with Crainie partnering Pearce in central defence. Danny Pugh was in the left back spot. The midfield was anchored by Green and Michael Brown whilst Aidy White, fresh from agreeing a new three year deal, and Robbie Rogers worked down the flanks. Ross McCormack was given a free role in the hole behind the central striker, Andy Gray.
Whilst Leeds were dominant in terms of possession, clear cut chances were at a premium in the opening half hour. The passing was poor and crabbed across the field, with no penetration in the forward areas. McCormack was busy, but lost the ball as often as he moved it on to a team-mate, working on a completely different wavelength to those around him.
When things did click after 30 minutes, Leeds produced a devastating burst of three goals in five minutes to put the game out of reach. Before they opened the scoring, McCormack should have put United in front as he went through on goal following a deft flick by Gray, only to drag his effort wide of the post.
Just moments later Leeds did finally take the lead. 16 years ago, Andy Gray was the one bright spark on a dreadful afternoon at Wembley Stadium in the Coca Cola Cup final defeat to Aston Villa. Now back at the club as a triallist, he finally scored his first ever goal for the club, latching on to a neat through ball before striking goalwards, the ball looping off a defender into the net.
The impressive White forced goalkeeper Tom Guildford into a good save before Leeds doubled their lead on 35 minutes, Gray notching his second with a simple header after Rogers had headed across the goal.
Rogers himself got on the score sheet a minute later, heading home from a Michael Brown cross for his first Leeds United goal, to make it 3-0.
The second half saw Leeds field their "Olympic" team, the line-up composed of members of the youth team with two "overage" players in Ramon Nunez and Billy Paynter. Sporting a new look beard, Paynter would have been desperate to impress Neil Warnock and try to resurrect his flagging career. However the new look did not bring a change in his luck, as he was missed the chance to add to United’s tally three times in quick succession. First he was thwarted by a splendid save, before seeing a header kicked off the line. He then wasted a glorious opportunity, sliding an effort past the post when put clean through.
The game, although predominantly played in the Farsley half, was no longer one way traffic, as United’s youthful back line was tested by the home side. Charlie Taylor at left back was given a particularly torrid time, and it was from that side that Farsley got back into the game. A corner by Adam Muller flicked off the head of Sam Byram and over Alex Cairns into the net.
Attention was diverted away from the pitch as a scuffle broke out behind Alex Cairns goal, an as punches were thrown at one end, Billy Paynter was scoring at the other to restore United’s three goal advantage.
The game was already beginning to peter out as the Farsley side began to run out of steam, and Leeds second string failed to make any real impression. The home side did score an excellent second when Ryan Watson was given far too much time and space and was allowed to drive home from 20 yards.
The game descended into typical pre-season fare, as substitutions and fatigue saw both sides lose their rhythm. Leeds did grab a fifth in the final minute when one of the youngsters, Sanchez Payne, gave himself a moment to treasure with a stunning effort from 20 yards to wrap up the victory.
Warnock will be happy that his side have got their first run-out under their belt, and will be looking for improvement during the week ahead in the South West. What is clear is that reinforcements are needed, and quickly if Leeds are to have any chance of promotion next season. It looks like the next couple of weeks are going to be busy on and off the pitch.