By the time Daniel Farke’s men purposefully strode onto The Den pitch for Sunday’s lunchtime clash with Millwall, rivals had already stolen a march in the promotion race.

Because they were inactive on Saturday, Leeds United found themselves nine points adrift of top spot heading into their clash against the Lions.

Defeat at Millwall would by no means have been fatal in the context of the promotion race, especially this early in the season with still plenty of football to play. However, while a nine-point deficit after six games is recoverable over the remainder of the 46-game season, the gap can also be extended, making it difficult to rein in the pacesetters.

It was therefore important that Leeds United responded. And boy, did they respond!

What a start Joel Piroe is having to his Leeds career. The striker, who scored on his debut to give Leeds United their first win of the season at Ipswich Town, grabbed a brace in an emphatic 3-0 victory to take his tally to three goals in as many games.

The very impressive Georginio Rutter assisted one before getting on the score sheet himself to seal the points and get the Whites’ campaign up and running.

It was a triumphant return to Championship action after the international break as the Whites look to go on a run before the next international hiatus in October.

Squad depth

It was notable that the win was achieved with considerable playing resources in reserve. Quite clearly  Farke now has a strong squad.

By the time new boys Glen Kamara and Ilia Gruev were introduced as second-half substitutes the match had already been won and lost. The situation is a far cry from when Farke was presiding over a threadbare squad amid tentative transfer activity, player exodus, injuries and uncertainty over the futures of several players.

Leeds United made the five maximum allowable substitutions at The Den. Four players were unused substitutes, among them the lively forward Ian Poveda and highly rated defender Charlie Cresswell, underlining the squad depth.

With Junior Firpo, Stuart Dallas, Liam Cooper and Patrick Bamford to return from their respective injuries, suddenly the Leeds United squad looks quite solid.

I can’t help but feel that the international break did Leeds United a world of good. While several stars were on international duty the core of the squad remained at Thorp Arch. Indeed, only three returning internationals – Wales teammates Joe Rodon and Ethan Ampadu and Italy forward Wilfried Gnonto – started the Millwall win.

With the transfer window now firmly shut, Farke can plan with the resources at his disposal, secure in the knowledge that, barring injuries, he has a settled squad.

Victims of own ambitions

Leeds United’s League record going into Sunday’s tie read; one win, one defeat and three draws for a modest tally of six points from a possible 15. The indifferent form invited all manner of criticisms, including ridiculously premature and alarmist narratives suggesting that Farke’s job was already under threat.

Of course the start could have been better, but there are mitigating circumstances; a squad in transition and a change in club ownership which impacted time-frames for appointment of new manager and transfer strategy.

Leeds United’s early-season crisis of form has been grossly exaggerated. The Whites are victims of their ambitions and pre-season expectations which saw them installed as one of the promotion favourites. It for this reason that they invite intense scrutiny and it is within this context that they are judged, subjected to higher standards than most clubs in the division.

Otherwise Leeds United’s record is not too shabby. Table-toppers Preston North End are the only club yet to lose a match in the Championship, suggesting there could be some surprise contenders in the gallop to the finish line in April/May next year.

Slaying Tigers

Having watched their team eviscerate the Lions at The Den, Leeds United fans will be confident that their team can follow that up by slaying the Tigers on Wednesday.

The Whites travel to Hull City in midweek with their tails up, determined to build on Sunday’s victory and inch closer to the coattails of the pacesetters.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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