Leeds United left Bolton yesterday with an impressive 3-2 away win to kick the season off in style. Despite the impressive season Leeds had last year, placing just outside the playoffs, there have been plenty of new faces arriving at Elland Road during the summer transfer window.
While most of the focus has been on the attacking players, such as Gianni Alioski, Samuel Saiz, and Caleb Ekuban, the return of Kyle Bartley to parent club Swansea City left a huge gaping hole at centre back for Leeds. Adding in the suspension of club talisman Pontus Jansson, Leeds fans were a bit nervous about how the team would lineup to face Bolton Wanderers and beyond, with the club rumored to be interested in a number of central defence targets.
Matthew Pennington in 63 mins vs. Bolton:— Chris Taylor (@LUFCDATA) August 6, 2017
96% pass acc.
4 aerial duels won
However, the fans of Leeds will have had their fears laid to rest by the performance of Everton loanee Matthew Pennington. The 22 year old centre back played a whale of a game against Bolton Wanderers before being subbed off with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the second half. Playing alongside Liam Cooper, the central defence partnership was solid all game long, nullifying the Bolton attack for large stretches of the match. One fan on twitter went so far as to describe Pennington’s play as “reminiscent of Woodgate”. High praise indeed.
The worrying part, of course, is that Pennington left the game with an undisclosed injury after a little more than an hour. His replacement in the match was young Irishman Conor Shaughnessy who promptly gave up a penalty after pulling Gary Madine’s shirt over Madine’s head in the box. And while the rest of the match was a bit nervy, Leeds was able to hold on for a 3-2 victory against Bolton.
When Pennington is fit enough to play again, his display in preseason against Oxford United and yesterday against Bolton has shown that he is skilled enough to play at the Championship level and has shown grace under pressure that is far beyond his 22 years. He deserves to get a chance to claim a starting spot next to Jansson for the rest of the season, even if the club goes out and gets another central defender before the end of the transfer window.
Matthew Pennington is a bit special. Christiansen should give him the chance to shine.