A brace of goals got both David Healy
's and Leeds United's season off to a flying start as they dominated a young Millwall side for most of the match. A sweet strike from old stager Don Hutchison got the Lions level and in with a chance during the second half but Healy's second, from the spot, settled a game that Leeds should have already won by then. Millwall put up greater resistance than had been expected and could have taken a point but Leeds deserved all three points in the end. Ironically, the best Millwall player was ex-Leeds midfielder Jody Morris, who turned in a powerful midfield performance probably as a response to the chants of "Jody Morris
is a rapist" that came from the Elland Road crowd even before the game had kicked off and throughout the first half. Leeds fans should be grateful to Morris, who proved he can take it as well as dish it out, as he was clattered first by Derry and then by Bakke in outrageously bad tackles - but neither got booked as on both occasions the little midfielder got straight up without any histrionics - thank God is wasn't Drogba who they tackled or he'd still be rolling around the pitch now!!
Leeds played the ball around the field impressively for much of the match; Kelly made countless overlapping runs on the right and Lewis impressed on the left. Harding did OK but was at fault for the Millwall goal; Gregan was caught asleep by Hayles twice in the first half but did Ok as did Butler for the rest of the game. Blake tried to keep busy but had little in the way of chances. We saw nice touches from Bakke and Derry was busy too. Wright seemed uncomfortable on the right-hand side and Fraser Richardson showed some nice touches when he came on as sub for him late on in the game. Well done to Ricketts who has come back a massive 20lbs lighter than last season and well done to the crowd for the generous welcome they gave him when he came on, as a confidence player I'm sure Michael appreciated that.
Not an impressive performance but allowing for lack of match fitness, a very hot day and the simple need for time for players to get used to one another it could be said to be promising. Certainly the movement of the ball around all corners of the pitch suggested that the players had much more of an idea and a purpose about their play than last year when, frankly, in some games they played like eleven strangers on the pitch who has never met before kick-off. We still appear to lack a cutting edge in the box but at least we are getting the ball into the box these days, thanks to the width provided by American Eddie Lewis today.
Of course, there is more talent in reserve, as new boy Rui Marques didn't play, and Steve Stone is still injured. Moreover, Rob Hulse is out for a few more weeks although Crainey is fit again and may get a game after Harding's display today. I would also like to see Walton and Pugh back in the first team squad too, and don't forget that Matthew Spring is quite a player but has yet to get a fair chance since his move here a year ago. Our squad certainly has depth this season and when the inevitable injuries bite we won't be found wanting like many of the smaller squads in the Championship.
Today's win completed sixteen years without defeat on the opening day of the season! I'm not going to get carried away after one game but after seeing today's game I'm am now looking forward to this season a lot more than I was at the end of last season's dire campaign. I'm not talking about whether we win anything but simply today it was a pleasure to watch a Leeds side that looked like it knew what it was doing and had some skills and the time to display them - and surely they can only get better. Those who have forked out for the new season tickets at the higher price at least look like they will get some entertainment for their money and fidelity this season. Speaking of the crowd, it was a disappointing 20,440; but with higher seat prices, no away fans at all and live coverage on Sky I guess it could actually have been worse! Let's hope those who witnessed the game on Sky will be encouraged to get down to Elland Road for the next game and cheer the lads on in person?
Here's the game stats: