DAVID HOCKADAY admits tonight’s friendly clash at Mansfield Town will represent a step up for Leeds United – who face Football League opposition for the first time under his watch.
United, hoping to complete a move for Roma midfielder Federico Viviani in the next 24 hours, could hand a debut to Gaetano Berardi at One Call Stadium (7.45pm).
Hockaday will assess the fitness of the former Sampdoria player today, although he is unlikely to risk him if his levels aren’t at the requisite mark.
The United head coach was largely satisfied with Saturday’s work-out at Guiseley, but is after some added punch to compliment the glut of possession his side enjoyed at Nethermoor.
Hockaday is likely to start with the vast majority of the side who finished the 2-0 win at Conference North outfit Lions, with the XI who started out expected to come on for the final half-hour. Dominic Poleon is among those added to the squad to face the Stags, but Alex Mowatt will not be involved with the teenage midfielder still around a week away from returning to the first-team fray following injury.
Hockaday said: “I am happy with the pre-season schedule I put together at such short notice. There’s been a nice progression and Mansfield will be a step-up again.
“They are a big, strong and physical side with some good players.
“We are building and trying to change the philosophy of the club in the way we play. I said to everyone after the (Guiseley) game that we dominated possession and kept a clean sheet and they were two positives. That’s not a bad way to start, although there’s loads of things we have to improve on.
“In each game, we are looking to get that little bit more quality from the players. Guiseley was only our second game and I know people get totally into the result. But for us, the results are nice, but it’s about performances and habits.
“I was really happy that we were looking to keep the ball. And now it’s about what we do with the ball. Can we now be a little bit more threatening with it.
“We limited Guiseley to very little and the keeper made just one save and that gives us a good basis to work from.”
Swiss right-back Berardi took part in a full day’s training with his new United team-mates for the first time at Thorp Arch yesterday, having been involved in the half-time warm-up at Guiseley on Saturday - after only signing the previous evening.
Hockaday has been impressed by the quality of the 25-year-old, but is also mindful of the potential dangers of throwing him for a debut too quickly and will consult with the club’s medical staff before deciding whether to involve him in north Nottinghamshire.
On Berardi, Hockaday said: “We’ll see how he reacts to training and I will talk to the fitness guys before deciding whether he will play.
“I don’t want to rush him and he pulls a muscle or something. He only had a few days training at Sampdoria before he came here, so he’s behind the boys regarding fitness.
“But he has got a good pedigree and he’s very quick and he can play on the right and left and in a number of positions.
“We need to see more of him and get him in the group and look at his fitness as well. He’s got a bit of work to do.”
He added: “Touch wood, everyone has come through Saturday with a clean bill of health. Mowatt is back fit, but will need at least a week’s training before he starts pushing.
“But everyone else seems ok.
“We will play similar to how we played on Saturday, but will rotate the two teams. Those that came on will start and those that started will come on and we play a ‘60-30.’
“Mansfield are happy with that and everybody knows what they are doing and it’s all about getting people fit so we know where we are.”