Mark Jackson’s Leeds United under-23 side took a huge leap towards promotion from Premier League 2 Division 2 by exacting revenge on Newcastle’s reserves, on Monday afternoon at Thorp Arch with a 2-1 win. Joe Gelhardt was the star man, while first-teamers Robin Koch, Ian Poveda, Jamie Shackleton and Gaetano Berardi all 45 minutes in their return from injuries.
Leeds needed just three wins to confirm promotion into the top tier of Under-23 football and they have secured a crucial win in the race to do just that. Gelhardt won a penalty and scored it, before his curling corner was headed home by Cresswell. Here are three talking points from the 2-1 win over Newcastle, including the return of Koch:
Koch return shows something new
Yes, it is obviously a huge boost to see Germany international Koch back fit. He looked sharp, but it was his ability and quality in the holding-midfield role that was somewhat surprising. Koch was signed from Freiburg last season as a centre-back, yet he lined-up in front of Gaetano Berardi and Charlie Cresswell in defensive midfield.
With all the centre-backs now fit – in Berardi, Koch, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente – it is interesting to see who will start. But the fact Koch can also play calmly in defensive midfield is a plus.
Gelhardt display perfect timing
His performance was spectacular. The teenager, signed from Wigan last summer, was on fire – looking tenacious, dangerous, but also offering the kind of hold-up play that makes Patrick Bamford so important in the first team. But it is Bamford limping off on Saturday against Chelsea, that makes Gelhardt’s sparkling performance the perfect antidote for Bielsa.
Indeed, if Bamford is injured for a couple of weeks, then Leeds will need cover and with Tyler Roberts playing in attacking midfield – Rodrigo is likely to start up top. But the Whites need another option and Gelhardt has thrown his hat into the ring to be that extra option. A first-team debut is on the cards – especially after his goal and assist.
Caprile shows why Casilla can go
It shocked many when Elia Caprile was named on the substitutes bench during the 2-0 defeat to West Ham – which saw Kiko Casilla axed from the matchday squad as Illan Meslier remains first choice. Casilla did come back in for Caprile on Saturday against Chelsea, but clearly, Caprile’s efforts are not going unnoticed.
The Italian continued to catch the eye, though, on Monday afternoon – with a brilliant display that saw him deny Newcastle’s star-studded reserves which included 65-time Ghana international Christian Atsu, who scored, and the impressive Elliott Anderson. It gives Leeds the confidence that if Leeds are to sell Kiko Casilla in the summer, signing a replacement is not an absolute neccessity.