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Leeds United top Luton Town 1-0 in EFL Cup Round Two, put a Dent in the Hatters

Leeds safely navigated a tricky tie away at Luton Town on Tuesday night to reach the third round of the EFL Cup.

Cardiff City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Marco Silvestri made his first appearance of the season for Leeds, earning a clean sheet in place of Rob Green.
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

As senior debuts go, Tyler Denton won't be forgetting his anytime soon. The 20-year-old's sweet strike with the outside of his boot found its way into the Luton Town net and was enough to see the Whites safely into the hat for the third round draw with a 0-1 scoreline at the final whistle.

In a relatively open game of chances at both ends, Leeds were yet again not entirely convincing and were fortunate not to concede at certain stages of the game. Defensive frailties were once more exposed as Monk made a whole raft of changes to the side that beat Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday.

Leeds still Hooting from Owls Victory

Leeds came into this game off a fine win over their local rivals, and there was widespread belief that the season had turned for the better. Performances were improving as a whole; goals were being scored, chances were being created, and the team looked tight-knit.

Since the dire, lifeless home defeat to Birmingham City, Leeds have been improving match-by-match. Manager Garry Monk made it very public that he was not happy after that game, and then promised change. Thus far, he's delivered.

And while being drawn against a lower-league side can often lull teams into a false sense of security, Leeds know all too well not to take these ties for granted. A long, ground-out shoot-out win over Fleetwood Town in the previous round was enough to give them the warning they needed.

Recent results and performances have generated a little bit of that 'M' word we all love - momentum. Monk made it clear in his press conference before this game that the upcoming trip to Nottingham Forest at the weekend wasn't being prioritised, and stressed that wins in both games were key to taking the side into the international break upbeat.

All Change, Please

Perhaps the most surprising element in the run-up to the game was Monk's team selection. This match was supposed to be just as important as the game at the weekend - or so he told us.

The sheer volume of change in personnel could almost be likened to a London Underground tube reaching its final stop, forcing everyone to get off so new passengers could get on.

We expected a few changes, but not the entire starting XI. Monk drafted in a brand new team for Tuesday night's clash, raising many an eyebrow among the Leeds faithful, no doubt.

The fact that Monk felt comfortable and confident enough in the players brought in though, is a good sign. And ultimately, they did get the job done. Marco Silvestri deputised for Rob Green in goal, while youngsters Lewie Coyle and Tyler Denton were given the nod as the full-backs.

Sweden international Pontus Jansson came in for Kyle Bartley on the day he received a call-up to represent his country, and Sol Bamba returned to partner him. In the middle of the park, recent outcast Luke Murphy was given a start, as were Matt Grimes and Stuart Dallas with Pablo Hernandez returning to the other flank. Toumani Diagouraga did not make the 18, yet again, all but confirming his days at Leeds are likely done.

The forward line was an untested partnership of Doukara and Roofe, with the former, like Murphy, seemingly back on the fringes of the squad.

One thing that was rather 'service as normal' though, was the lazy, worrying attempt at defending from Sol Bamba. It's a surprise that he was included in the 18, and one can only wonder if it was to give him one last chance, or purely to give Bartley the day off. It's a shame, as the game could have provided the opportunity to trial Bartley and Jansson together.

Sol 'Bambi' at it Again

Bamba, in most fans eyes, has been lucky to feature when he has so far this season, and should have been made to pay for sloppy play not long before the break. A ball over the top found Jack Marriott in space with Bamba not up with the rest of the defence, trying to catch the Luton forward offside. Appealing like a kid in class begging for their teacher to pick them, Bamba raced back only to have his blushes spared by very poor finishing from Marriott.

A player of Championship quality would have quite easily buried the chance that Bamba presented, and he's lucky to only be talking about what might have happened, instead of what did. Would it be too much to wonder if Monk is regretting his captaincy choice?

Bamba's season has not got off to a great start. All too often do you feel alarmed whenever an attacker is running at him, or even when a simple ball is played into the box. He cannot seem to do the basics and the simple things right. It must now surely be something Monk considers long-term, as although Leeds have now only conceded one goal in three games, you can't help but feel Leeds still look incredibly vulnerable with him in the back four.

A replacement for Charlie?

On the flip-side of Bamba’s performance, we had the debut of Tyler Denton. Another Leeds Academy product, Denton is 20 years old and was signed to a one-year deal this summer. He plays left-back primarily, but he can also play in midfield, hence his sweet-strike on the game’s only goal. Let’s watch that again, shall we?

Not only did he score the goal, but he also played well on the back line, looking like a potential starter for the future. How near that future is might depend on Charlie Taylor’s status with the club, but it’s always good to see youth develop well, and we’ll surely be hearing Tyler Denton’s name again soon enough.

Closing Time

So with that positive and a one-goal lead, we still had to suffer through the emotion of defending a tight game against a team we should beat handily. This happens to everybody, teams all over the place. It just always seems to happen to us all the time... but then that's what they all say.

Leeds have always done a good job of making us sweat until the final whistle, and Tuesday's game was no different. Yes the team picked was a complete change, but you would hope in games ahead that Monk can get the lads into the mindset of comfortably seeing games through to the end... and looking to kill them off.

There were too many chances for the home side for Leeds' liking towards the end of the game, and had Marriott taken his second clear-cut chance of the evening, Leeds may well have been staring down the barrel of another extra 30 minutes and a potential shoot-out - definitely something we could have done without. Both of his chances are included in this clip of highlights... and both should’ve been buried. We could’ve easily lost this match, the way they played towards the end.

Games and finishing positions quite often come down to being able to grind out those sorts of results. It's not possible to win a league by winning each game 3-0; sometimes you have to win ugly. Leeds are capable of doing that, but again, the defence need to be more resolute as the clock ticks down, and the game needs to be kept under control.

Having to cope with pressure and opposition chasing the game is to be expected, it's just imperative that we become better equipped to deal with it and eek these 1-0 results out comfortably.

The Verdict

Overall, Leeds United did what they had to do last night, and the fringe players didn't really do themselves any harm. A perhaps undetected positive of Monk's team selection did though show that it he is now quite comfortable in knowing his strongest XI, give or take one or two positions.

The fact that we played a second-string team and came away with a win, despite it being against a League Two side, is a great boost for those players and for the squad in general going into the game at Nottingham Forest at the weekend.

There is no reason Leeds' recent turn in form can't produce another three points at the County Ground against a side that have been relatively slow out of the blocks and prone to conceding goals.