Zaliukas ‘ready for full Leeds debut this weekend’

Marius Zaliukas insisted he was ready for a full Leeds United debut this weekend after coming through an exhausting outing in the Premier League Under-21 Cup.

Marius Zaliukas.

United’s new signing drew glowing praise from development squad coach Neil Redfearn and said he would cope with a call to arms from manager Brian McDermott on Saturday, despite Leeds slipping to a 4-3 defeat at Barnsley last night.

McDermott, who was present at Oakwell to watch Zaliukas’ first appearance since he signed for Leeds last week, hinted at possible changes to his backline for United’s forthcoming clash with Yeovil Town after criticising their defending in a 3-2 defeat at Huddersfield Town.

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Zaliukas is available after agreeing a contract until the end of the season and he was given the chance to hone his fitness against Barnsley, seeing out 120 minutes and scoring as United’s Under-21s lost in the last minute of extra-time.

The Lithuanian international has gone more than five months without a senior club appearance having left Heart of Midlothian in May but he believes his fitness will stand up the rigours of Championship football if McDermott decides to field him against Yeovil on Saturday.

Speaking after last night’s game, Zaliukas said: “If that’s what the manager wants then I’m ready. You’d have to ask him about that but my fitness is okay and I feel good. I’m looking forward to getting into the first team and staying there.”

Redfearn said: “I thought he was the outstanding player on the pitch. He looked like an international footballer and he looks like a real find. There’s no problem with his fitness, none at all.”

Zaliukas, Luke Varney, Danny Pugh and Dominic Poleon proved the experienced core of United’s line-up at Oakwell, with ex-Aston Villa trainee Richard Bryan fielded as a trialist.

A tie away at Bolton Wanderers in the inaugural competition’s last 32 was at stake last night and Leeds wasted the first real chance to draw blood when Poleon pulled a penalty wide after half an hour.

Dale Jennings broke the deadlock for Barnsley on 68 minutes with a speculative shot from 30 yards, sparking a flurry of goals.

United responded seconds later as Lewis Cook’s volley

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carried into the net with the help of a deflection but Barnsley regained the lead within a minute later when Jason Scotland turned and dinked the ball home.

Leeds responded for a second time through Luke Varney’s header and Zaliukas’ tap-in from a corner 10 minutes from time appeared to have put Barnsley to the sword, only for Danny Rose to force extra-time.

Poleon should have won the tie when he hit the woodwork with an open goal gaping and Lewin Nyatanga punished him and Leeds at the death by heading past Alex Cairns in the very last minute of extra-time.

United: Cairns, Coyle, Bryan, Zaliukas, Coker (Walters 75), Pugh, Purver, Philips, Dawson (Cook 59), Poleon, Varney. Subs (not used): Atkinson, Denton, Parkin, Walters.

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