CONSIDERING Accrington Stanley, perennial strugglers since winning promotion to the Football League in 2006, were last night’s visitors, even the most comprehensive of home victories was never going to make it a Glorious Twelfth for Leeds United.
Nevertheless, yesterday did prove to be a long overdue day of positivity at Elland Road as safe passage to the Capital One Cup second round was ultimately secured along with considerable progress in the transfer market.
Giuseppe Bellusci, a 24-year-old central defender, signed on a season-long loan deal from Serie B side Catania ahead of kick-off, while a fee believed to be in the region of £600,000 was also agreed with Chesterfield for Liam Cooper.
The former Hull City apprentice, the subject of two unsuccessful bids from United last month, will travel to West Yorkshire today to discuss personal terms.
Also understood to be on his way for talks is Billy Sharp, the former Doncaster and Sheffield United striker, after agreement in principle was reached over a potential move from Southampton.
If – and there is still much work to be done on both transfers – Cooper and Sharp can be signed on a permanent basis then, suddenly, United’s squad will look much better equipped to deal with the Championship.
For Dave Hockaday, whose tenure as head coach has thus far looked to have the life expectancy of a grouse on the Glorious Twelfth, this would be a major breakthrough in his quest to prove that he is the man to lead the club forward in the long-term.
Yesterday marked the start of the shooting season and there was no doubt Souleymane Doukara had his shooting boots on.
Signed on loan from Catania with a view to a permanent deal being struck next summer, the 22-year-old netted twice in the first half to set the home side on their way to victory.
And although James Gray pulled a late goal back for Stanley, there was to be no denying Hockaday his first competitive win at the helm even after Gaetano Berardi was sent off in the final minute for a reckless challenge.
It meant United’s proud record of never having lost in the first round of the League Cup, a stage they first entered a decade ago following relegation from the Premier League, remains intact.
The victory was deserved but it was still a major concern that what seemed like a routine triumph became a nail-biting affair once Gray had pulled a goal back.
Berardi’s red card – which followed a tangle with Josh Windass, son of Hull City legend Dean – did not help but even before that Will Hatfield missed a gilt-edged chance to send the tie into extra-time.
Plenty, therefore, for Hockaday to ponder as he prepares for Saturday’s home game with Middlesbrough.
As he does so, the Leeds head coach will at least be able to focus on the positives of the night.
Lewis Cook and Michael Tonge, for instance, linked well in the centre of the field, allowing the hosts to dictate the tempo in the opening hour and get the ball wide at every opportunity.
This meant there was plenty of service for a front three of Doukara, Nicky Ajose and Matt Smith, and there was no surprise when the opening goal arrived on 19 minutes.
A cross from the right wing, slightly under-hit by debutant full-back Berardi created the opening as the ball landed at the feet of Doukara just outside the penalty area.
The summer arrival controlled instantly before turning sharply and drilling a low shot that gave Luke Simpson no chance in the Stanley goal.
Doukara’s second goal seven minutes before the interval was similarly impressive, the striker latching on to a fine through ball from Cook before beating his marker and then slotting a shot beyond Simpson.
Two goals behind at the break, the League Two club needed an early reply after the interval.
However, despite an incisive free-kick by Windass finding Rob Atkinson unmarked, the big substitute could only head over.
The miss was a let-off for Leeds, as was the way James Alabi shot straight at Stuart Taylor after weaving his way through a couple of poor challenges.
It meant that even when Gray finally took advantage of some sloppy defending to fire past Taylor six minutes from time, 10-man United were still able to hold out.
Leeds United: Taylor; Berardi, Wootton, Pearce, Taylor; Ajose (Hunt 63), Tonge, Cook (Benedicic 65), Bianchi; Smith, Doukara (Poleon 79). Unused substitutes: Silvestri, Byram, Austin, Killock.
Accrington Stanley: Simpson; Buxton, Aldred, Winnard, Mustoe; Naismith (Atkinson 46), Hunt (Hatfield 75), Windass, Minigoia; Alabi, Gray. Unused substitutes: Tiddle, McCartan, Martin, Lynch, Bowerman.
Referee: R Clark (Northumberland).
All last night’s scores: Page 22.