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Leeds United’s FA Cup Review: Did the fringe players do enough?

A much-changed starting XI started against Cambridge in the FA Cup on Monday night, and out of six fringe players given the chance, did any give Garry Monk a conundrum in terms of his selection ahead of the Derby game?

Cambridge United v Leeds United - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Alex Mowatt, you beauty. That FA Cup match was exactly what the young lad needed.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Leeds United performance was not immaculate against Cambridge United on Monday night, especially in the first half, but a few of the lads showed the quality they possess and staked their claim for a regular place in the Leeds first team. Let’s take a look at the three who earned a spot, and three who missed an opportunity to impress Garry Monk in their FA Cup opportunity.

Alex Mowatt

We must start with the unanimous man of the match, Alex Mowatt. The former Leeds Player of The Year has struggled this season to obtain a starting position in the team. However, against Cambridge we saw glimpses of the player we know he can be.

He was dominating in the number 10 role with both his movement and creative ability. The main criticism of Mowatt is the lack of pace, but in the past, his other attributes masked that lack of pace. This season, the emphasis on pace in the way we play our football has highlighted the lack of it in Mowatt.

However in the Cambridge game, he was able to adapt and found a way to tailor the system to his strengths with wonderful effect. I don’t expect Mowatt to start the game ahead of the current players vying for the number 10 position, but he has definitely shown us and the Leeds management team that he can be a force at the club during this promotion-chasing season.

Lewie Coyle

Another player who showed his potential in the cup was Lewie Coyle.

Coyle made his comeback in the second half on Monday after being out since the EFL Cup fixture against Norwich in October. The young full back showed his ability to step up if required, and he could be needed as soon as Friday if Cooper does not recover from the dead leg he picked up late in the game.

I am always impressed with Coyle’s ability to carry the ball forward; he is constantly driving at the defenders. He also does the simple things well: he dispossesses and distributes the ball like a player with more experience. Friday’s defence has been a hot topic since Monday, but I would be confident if Coyle gets a chance to step up against Derby.

Tyler Denton

The other young full back struggled (like most of the team) in the first half and came under random and unnecessary criticism on social media (from Alan Brazil of all people?), and was rightly put in his place by Leeds fans.

But Denton has not featured since his wonder goal against Luton, and he grew into the game and his position on Monday. Garry Monk and Tyler Denton will take a lot from this performance, especially in the second half, where Denton showed he could adapt and understand Monk’s tactics.

I don’t expect that he will feature regularly for the rest of the season (barring many, many injuries), but he should get another chance in the next round of the Cup. If he can apply the form he produced in the second half on Monday for 90 minutes when given his chance, he will definitely give Monk food for thought.

The rest of the fringe players who didn’t take their chance:

Marco Silvestri - showed why Rob Green should retain the number 1 jersey at Elland Road. He was at fault for the goal, he made a half attempt to dive at his near post but a goal keeper at Championship level should be dealing with that. He was shaky and uncomfortable all game. You can’t deny this. Stop trying.

Matt Grimes - looked so much like a lost player, I still wonder why he is on loan at the club. He is not at the level we require from a squad player, and with Murphy now at Burton and Toumani Diagouraga in the football wilderness, I feel confused why he still getting game time. What does Monk see?

Marcus Antonsson - won the TIAT POTM award in August mainly due to the Swede’s work rate and some pretty EFL Cup footwork. But since then, the quality throughout the team has improved and the Whites have left Antonsson behind. I like Antonsson, I want to see him succeed, but it’s clear he struggles in the 4-2-3-1 formation. He looks like a headless chicken when leading the line on his own. Leeds need to invest in a striker as a priority in the January Window, one that fits the formation at Leeds United in 2017.


Overall, I don’t believe anyone expects Mowatt will be in contention for Friday. Injuries may dictate otherwise, but I believe after Monday, Mowatt does deserve an opportunity to show his quality in the Championship once again. Give Coyle and Denton their chances too. MOT.