A massive 1-0 win on the road against Derby County has placed Leeds United in the driver’s seat ahead of midweek’s second leg fixture at the Elland Road. Marcelo Bielsa’s men still have a job to do to ensure a place in the playoff final, but the character and resilience exhibited at Pride Park despite form and fitness concerns deserve appreciation.
Everyone did their part on Saturday evening, but the one who surprised all was 19-year-old Jamie Shackleton. The youngster has mostly been utilised as a sporadic option as a cover to their injury crisis, and he was once again called upon on a similar situation when Adam Forshaw had to leave the pitch early with a fresh blow. Bielsa was forced to bring the homegrown prodigy in, and the move worked out sensationally in Leeds’ favour leaving the hosts in complete catastrophe.
Shackleton not only adjusted to the pace and tempo immediately but also kept on dictating the flow from the centre of the pitch. The Rams misjudged him as the weak link as his spirited display allowed the Whites to have control over the midfield game. He was influential in forming attacking threats, and moving the ball swiftly across the pitch. He also marshalled the backline with timely blocks, tackles and challenges.
Bielsa, the veteran Argentine, did not hide his ecstasy after the game as he hailed the starlet for his fantastic outing.
“He showed his character and personality. He adapted immediately to the game. He defended well and he attacked well. The fact we lost Adam Forshaw, who had a big influence on the game, Shacks was a very efficient substitute.”
Stated the gaffer (as quoted by Leeds Live) who must be planning now for the reverse tie allowing the Englishman to have a starting role alongside Mateusz Klich in the middle of the park. He has relied upon the youth all season over transfers, and the risk proved to be rewarding when it mattered the most.
Noel Whelan, the former Leeds attacker, lauded Shackleton while speaking on BBC Radio Leeds after the intriguing contest.
“I tell you what, he’s been a professional. He’s sat on the bench most of the season. He’s been called upon when needed and he’s never let us down. That’s the sign of a real player.”
The supporters, too, raved about his performance and the versatile youngster must be desperate now to cement his place in this Leeds United team by producing the same for his boyhood side in the midweek tie.
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