Leeds United: ‘Shocked’ Austin is quick to settle into new role

“THE past is the past – let’s be United,” is the marketing slogan weith which the new hierarchy at Leeds United have bombarded the club’s home city during recent weeks as they look to draw a line under the Ken Bates era.

Rodolph Austin beats David Nugent to the ball.

In terms of attracting back absent supporters, the new approach has proved an initial success with the opening-day visit of Brighton selling out and the midweek Capital One Cup win over Chesterfield being watched by comfortably the biggest crowd of the round.

Results will, though, surely be the deciding factor in whether the club can move forward truly united and in that respect Brian McDermott’s side have made a promising start to the season.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Four points from meetings with last season’s two beaten play-off semi-finalists is an impressive return and one that gives Leeds a solid foundation on which to build.

The Yorkshire club could have even claimed a second victory of the season yesterday with Matt Smith coming within a whisker of netting the winner in stoppage time only for Kasper Schmeichel to touch his header round a post.

That, admittedly, would have been tough on a Leicester side who had finished strongly and had been unfortunate to see Chris Wood’s drilled effort bounce to safety after striking a post.

All in all, therefore, a fair result for two sides who gave their all in a goalless draw that while not quite deserving to be dumped in the category marked ‘drab’ was far from a classic.

Entertainment was undoubtedly at a premium until the final quarter. But there were still plenty of positives to glean for McDermott, not least the impressive return to the side of Rudy Austin.

Suspended for the opening two games following his red card against Brighton last April, the

Jamaican international was named as captain by McDermott and produced the type of stirring display expected of someone sporting the armband.

Austin said: “It was such an honour to be named captain, though I was very shocked. The gaffer sent someone to bring me to his office on Friday and that is when he told me.

“I told him that I needed to think about it because it was a big challenge. I didn’t want to just jump in and make a decision.

“But he insisted I should take it. I feel very honoured, especially as we got a wonderful point away from home.”

When thinking of Leeds’s visits to what is now known as the King Power Stadium, it is difficult not to bring to mind the Yorkshire club’s first trip in 2003 when Roque Junior made his debut.

Billed as a Brazilian World Cup winner, the hapless defender was so poor in a 4-0 defeat that the travelling fans were left wondering in which sport he had conquered the world as it sure did not look to have been football.

Every subsequent visit by Leeds has seen footage of that night played on the stadium’s giant screen, no doubt in an attempt by the Foxes’ hierarchy to create the impression that Leicester have dominated the fixture since making the short move from Filbert Street.

The reality, however, is rather different with the eight meetings that have followed Roque Junior’s less than impressive entry into the Premier League bringing just two further home wins, one of which came courtesy of a last-minute winner in 2009 that ultimately clinched Leicester’s promotion from League One.

Only in the closing stages yesterday did that proud record come under threat with United producing such a controlled display that the visitors created the only chance of a dour first half.

That came inside four minutes when Noel Hunt picked out Jason Pearce with a searching right wing cross with which the defender should have done much better than head over from six yards out.

That apart, it was not until the final quarter that either goalkeeper had anything to worry about as two committed sides cancelled each other out.

Thankfully for the watching millions at home, proceedings livened up during those closing stages as Dominic Poleon’s introduction from the bench brought an added dimension to the visitors’ attacking armoury.

In the 72nd minute, the substitute found himself in a promising position on the right of the Leicester box but instead of drilling over a first-time cross he opted to try to muscle his way past the towering Wes Morgan – with predictable results, as the ball ran dead.

As play then raced to the other end, David Nugent was the first to go close for the home side with a curled effort that flew wide before Jamie Vardy twice asked serious questions of Paddy Kenny.

First, the United goalkeeper proved equal to a drilled 20-yard shot that had taken a wicked deflection before being pushed to safety.

Then, after Vardy had been played through by neat play, Kenny darted from his line to force the one-time FC Halifax Town striker into a rushed shot that looped over the crossbar.

With eight minutes remaining, Leicester went close to making the breakthrough when Wood cut inside Jason Pearce to unleash a fierce drive that beat Kenny only to then smash against a post and away to safety.

It was a let-off for United, who came close to fully capitalising in the first minute of stoppage time. Stephen Warnock created the opening with a searching left-wing cross that Matt Smith met cleanly at the far post.

On first glance, the 6ft 6ins striker’s header seemed to sneak inside the post – something that prompted the 2,851 visiting fans to initially celebrate what they believed to be the winner. Instead, former Leeds goalkeeper Schmeichel got a hand to the ball and it flew into the side-netting to ensure that honours ended even as Leeds claimed their fifth draw in nine visits to KP/Walkers Stadium.