FRESH from witnessing Monday night’s goalless but entertaining draw at Elland Road, Lee Sobot looks at five issues raised by the Championship stalemate between Leeds United and Middlesbrough.
The pressure is on Jordan Rhodes
There’s no doubting the talents of Middlesbrough’s high-profile purchase from Blackburn Rovers but equally there’s no disguising the weight of expectancy of a £9m price tag.
And while Boro boss Karanka was left fuming at Rhodes’ disallowed effort in the first half, the striker had two golden opportunities to win the game for the visitors in the second half, especially with his wayward header.
Rhodes was eventually substituted to Whites chants of “what a waste of money” - banter that will be water off a duck’s back to the 26-year-old who is already up and running for Boro having scored late to rescue a 1-1 draw at MK Dons.
One goal in less than a game and a half is already not a bad start. But at £9m, every blank that Rhodes draws will be scrutinised and the forward will certainly be mighty keen to get on the scoresheet come next Tuesday evening’s home clash with Cardiff.
Aitor Karanka is on the warpath
Rhodes’ disallowed first half ‘goal’ was a weird one as there were few protests from Boro’s players at the time and play quickly resumed without much fuss. But replays showed the ball had not gone out of play before Emilio Nsue’s right flank cross that led to Rhodes’ converted header and Karanka was furious in his post-match press conference and also critical of the decision to show Ben Gibson a second yellow card. Boro are under enough pressure as it is in the battle to finally win promotion back to the Premier and the last thing Karanka needs is bother from the FA.
Lewis Cook looks revitalised
Cook was disappointing in the false no 10 role in the 1-0 loss at home to Forest and there were those that felt the 19-year-old was suddenly struggling to fulfil his potential at Leeds. But the teenager was back to somewhere near his best against Middlesbrough, full of energy and pace throughout and earning huge praise from head coach Steve Evans afterwards. United’s next move needs to be extending the England under-19s player’s contract beyond the summer of 2016, ditto with Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt.
Fans will go to eye-catching measures to oust Massimo Cellino
United, of all clubs, are used to holding protests but the efforts of The Time To Go Massimo group, in conjunction with MMF Technology, took things to another level and era on Monday. Cellino was still in Italy but make no mistake that the 30ft high images of him projected on to the side of the East stand along with messages for him to leave will have reached him loud and clear. Much more eye-catching and imaginative then the usual chanting and clapping and very much a protest for the 21st century. An effective one that Cellino will have found impossible to miss.
United’s dispute with Sky is showing no signs of stopping
Monday night’s game was United’s 12th appearance live on Sky since the season began in August and both Massimo Cellino’s programme notes and revelations after the game confirmed that the row with the TV broadcaster is continuing to intensify. Cellino faces his own battle with his club’s fans but made it clear in his programme notes that he still found Sky’s continued coverage and re-scheduling of United games unacceptable - hurting both the club’s fan-base and finances. A gate of 20,424 witnessed Monday night’s encounter and Cellino knows it would have been more but for yet another Sky broadcast. It was also revealed after the game that Leeds rejected an offer to stage the clash with Middlesbrough at 12.30pm on Saturday instead, with 3pm on Saturday the only outcome on Cellino’s mind. The row continues and doesn’t look like ending any time soon.