Football League Round Up: Are Leeds falling apart?
- 3rd February 2018
Gabriel Sutton picks out four of the main talking points from Saturday's Football League action, focusing on Mansfield, Leeds, Barnet and Rotherham.
Mansfield fit for League One
The League Two promotion race is far too open to talk about Mansfield Town’s promotion with any degree of certainty, but it’s hard to deny they look a third-tier side in waiting.
It took them 20 minutes to truly assert their dominance on Barnet and, with a couple of deflections that didn’t quite fall their way, they could easily have opened the scoring earlier than they did. Alex MacDonald, who hit the outside of the far post from the left channel earlier in the match, found the inside of it from a similar position with a wonderful strike to open the scoring on 38 minutes.
The Stags simply took control from there – strikers Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings forced the visiting defence back with the former’s selfless stretching of play and the latter’s imposing physicality. That allowed the likes of MacDonald and Will Atkinson to pick up second balls, with the latter scoring the second goal – a second half header from MacDonald’s corner from the left.
Left-sided duo Mal Benning and CJ Hamilton caused problems all afternoon and the latter’s low breakaway cross found Rose, who applied a simple finish at the back-post midway through the second period. It wasn’t quite the perfect afternoon for Steve Evans, who saw centre-back Rhys Bennett attempt a soft header back to Conrad Logan in a communication mix-up, which resulted in no clean sheet.
Mansfield’s defence – which wasn’t quite as commanding as it could have been during Barnet’s late surge - might be the one area that didn’t have League One written all over it.
The last game Moore played in was on 30th December in a 2-1 win at Walsall, where he made a huge difference as a substitute. In the first half, Jerry Yates had showed plenty of energy but didn’t provide the biggest goal threat, nor had he developed the physical qualities required to hold onto the ball for long enough to bring the midfield and partner David Ball into play. As soon as Moore came on at half-time, he gave his side a focal point, occupied centre-backs and won the knock-down for Ball’s winner.
When Moore’s loan spell was cut short and he went to Barnsley, the question was whether Rotherham could cope: replacement Michael Smith had had a forgettable spell at cellar-dwellers Bury.
In fact, Smith has been brilliant – he played a starring role in Saturday’s 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon. After a bright opening quarter of an hour, the tall front man poked home following a clever chip from Joe Newell. The left-footed midfielder also crossed to set up Burton Albion loanee Matty Palmer, but the debutant skewed a presentable opening wide.
His miss meant Rotherham had to weather the Wombles storm at times, but they limited the visitors to just one shot on target, a sign that Richard Wood’s experience is coming to the fore at centre-back while Semi Ajayi has cut out his early season errors. Full-backs Josh Emmanual and Joe Mattock provided solid protection, allowing Ball to clinch victory in injury-time by following in a rebound after Ryan Williams’ shot was parried.
Had the League One season started after Moore left Rotherham, they would currently be third in the table after three wins and two draws - Kieffer who?