Football League Round-Up: Vital win for Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 20 November 2017, 10:00

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) takes us through all the action from the Championship, League One, and League Two:

Vital win for Christiansen’s Leeds

Having lost six in seven league games before the international break, this was a must-win game for Leeds United. And win they did.

Supportive chants from the home faithful were directed to Thomas Christiansen, whose side looked rejuvenated. In previous games, they were guilty of trying so hard to be more physically competitive that they lost sight of what they are good at. Here, we saw more of the Leeds side that took the Championship by storm earlier in the campaign, weathering a late Boro storm to win 2-1.

Kemar Roofe as a false nine never gave the opposing centre-backs a moment of peace, Samuel Saiz was lively while Ezgjan Alioski enjoyed his best game for weeks. The star of the show though was Pablo Hernandez, who finished well for the first goal and put in an excellent cross for the second.

Garry Monk, who had managed Hernandez both at Swansea and at the Spaniard’s current club, received few niceties upon his return to Elland Road, where he left under a cloud five months ago.

Although Monk led Leeds to their highest finish since 10/11, his tactical stubbornness in the closing weeks, his questionable treatment of Charlie Taylor and the self-interested nature of his departure left a sour taste in the mouth.

In some ways, fans who might have been divided on Christiansen were united in their dislike for Monk, helping to create a siege mentality. If they can replicate that atmosphere and performance consistently between now and May, this game might just prove the one that re-booted Leeds' campaign.

Can Coleman light up Sunderland?

Having agreed to turn on the Christmas lights in Newport on the 18th November, prior to taking the Sunderland manager’s job, Chris Coleman kept his word, missing his new side’s encounter with Millwall.

The 2-2 draw was not enough to lift them off the bottom, but the performance might have encouraged newly-appointed assistant Kit Symons, who had a watching brief. After Lewis Grabban’s scrambled first-minute opener, their defence was breached only by two George Saville free-kicks - or two howlers from goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter.

John O’Shea and Marc Wilson looked roundly solid at centre-back, even if the latter was replaced due to injury late on by Tyias Browning. Adam Matthews used the ball well at right-back and scored the second half equalizer while on the other side, Bryan Oviedo made some good forward runs.

To improve his new side’s final third play, Coleman may look for a striker who will work hard, battle with centre-backs and control long balls, similar to the job Sam Vokes does for Wales. Although Grabban has an impressive goalscoring record, he is perhaps too individualistic to operate as a lone striker and the absence of a reference point might impart explain Sunderland's struggles.

Coleman has turned on Christmas lights, but he has a tough job on his hands to brighten up the Stadium of Light.

Holmes’ new assistant

Duane Holmes netted a brace in Scunthorpe United’s impressive 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Northampton Town. Winger Hakeeb Adelakun created all three goals, becoming the best man to assist Holmes since Dr Watson.

When Adelakun first came into the team as a youngster three years ago, he had plenty of raw pace but needed to work on his end product. On Saturday, he showed the individual progress he has made by drilling in a cross for Cameron Burgess’ second half opener, then playing two delightful balls from inside his own half to set up Holmes for two simple finishes.

The quality of those passes represents great improvement from not just Adelakun, but the team in general. Too often in 2017 we have seen a Scunny team play with limited attacking ambition and they scored just 13 goals in their first 14 this term.

In fact, they were 1-0 down to Peterborough last month with 12 minutes to play and would have gone level on points with 13th placed Southend had they lost. Instead, then under pressure Graham Alexander brought on Simon Church, who made a huge difference from the bench as Lee Novak and Josh Morris scored two late goals to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

That turnaround was swiftly followed by another late winner from Holmes at Oldham, before Neal Bishop grabbed a stoppage-time goal in a 1-0 victory at home to Bristol Rovers.

The East Yorkshire outfit have not only shown more composure in possession in recent weeks, but they have also shown the desire to grab important late goals. Scunthorpe had been in a serious pickle a month ago, but on this evidence, Adelakun and Holmes have solved the mystery.

Phew! There is Agard…

Goals are like buses if you’re Kieran Agard: you wait 22 appearances for one, then two come along at once.

For a striker that has won promotions at this level with Rotherham and Bristol City - and enjoyed a roundly positive 16/17 campaign - this has been an underwhelming period individually.

However, at The Valley on Saturday he came off the bench to secure a point for his side with two equalisers: the first a placed back-post header, the second a decisive penalty.

The spot-kick was generously awarded, so MK Dons were somewhat fortunate to draw 2-2, having been on the back foot for long spells and seen the post rattled in the first half.

Manager Robbie Neilson though should be credited for his substitutions, each of which made an impact. Four minutes after the striker came on, Conor McGrandles and Aiden Nesbitt entered the fray to add much-needed energy in midfield.

Agard's injury-time leveller meant that the post-match discussion was not about Scott Golbourne’s comedic own goal, but the spirit the team showed to recover so quickly. Neilson and a lot of the players went to the fans after the match to applaud them, highlighting the sense of togetherness at the club despite less than impressive results.

MK Dons are only 13th, but they have two winnable fixtures in Southend at home and Doncaster away in quick succession. Scunthorpe showed how quickly fortunes can change in this league and now Agard has broken his duck, there is potential for upward mobility.

Cambridge taught a lesson at Kenilworth Road

A 7-0 encounter is normally by nature eventful, but there were plenty of extra storylines to come out of Luton Town’s thrashing of Cambridge United.

For starters, The Hatters became the first team to score seven or more goals in three league games before Christmas in Football League history. After Ollie Lee netted from inside his own half - a different postcode to the opposing goal - his brother Elliott grabbed a brace with a sumptuous close-range volley and a sweet strike from distance. Meanwhile, father and Newcastle United legend Rob Lee missed a rare game they played in to go to Twickenham - bad call!

The wonderfully Roy of the Rovers-like afternoon for Luton has been well-documented, but the game raises serious concerns for Derry and Cambridge. They conceded the opener with eight men in their own box, they were bullied off the ball for the second and third, then left Elliott Lee unmarked in thearea for the fourth.

In the second half, the U’s let Jack Stacey square the ball from inside the box for the fifth, failed to close down Lee for the sixth before inviting Hylton to have a free header to complete a hat-trick in injury time.

We could go into greater detail on their defensive deficiencies, but we don’t do unnecessarily cruelty here at The Sack Race. It seems crazy to think that prior this woeful defensive display, the Yellow and Black had conceded just 25 goals in 29 league games.

As well as Luton played, Cambridge let themselves down greatly in the one area that had always been their strong suit in Derry’s regime.

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Leonid Slutsky
(Hull City)
3rd December
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