Redfearn’s Return To Be Overshadowed As Evans Defies Expectations At Leeds

Evans 'elp us.
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Patrick Gunn
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Evans 'elp us.

Though it may not promise much in the way of excitement on paper, and sits on a day that will see high profile fixtures in both Spain, Italy and England, Saturday's game against Rotherham represents, in its own way, one of the most intriguing fixtures of the weekend.

The visit of Neil Redfearn's Rotherham to Elland Road tomorrow not only represents a fresh, interesting take on the Yorkshire Derby format, but also pits the two opposing managers against their respective former clubs.

While Redfearn's exit from Leeds is common-knowledge to anyone with access to the internet, Evans was the subject of his own acrimonious departure from the New York Stadium earlier this season, leaving the club he had taken from League 2 to the Championship, to be replaced by the man sitting in the away dugout tomorrow.

There is no denying that Evans' appointment was greeted with a fair amount of trepidation when announced, mere hours after the dismissal of Uwe Rosler was made public. Despite his positive track record at Rotherham, Evans was seen by many as a step backwards from his predecessor, an "old-fashioned" football manager with objectively less social-restraint than the stoic, often grim-faced Rosler.

Despite a rocky start, Evans has done a good job in winning over the majority of the Leeds fan base. One loss in five games is a good stat at pretty much any club, and the two recent wins against Huddersfield and Cardiff have given the Scot a lot of breathing room with the supporters.

Redfearn's time at Rotherham has not been nearly as positive - ironic considering the good-nature that surrounded his appointment at the South Yorkshire club. Where Evans was castigated by the Leeds support, Redfearn was welcomed by his new fans, coming off the back of his impressive record with a madcap Leeds side the season before.

Rotherham's squad, while not in disarray off the field, is most certainly out of touch on it. The Millers have won just two games this season, and haven't picked up a point since drawing 1-1 with Reading in Redfearn's second game in charge.

In an attempt to boost the team's performances, Leon Best and Stephen Kelly have been brought in and could well feature tomorrow, while midfielder Lee Frecklington is back from an injury. Leeds will have to watch Man City loanee Brandon Barker closely after their failed summer transfer target showed his prowess with a lovely goal in Rotherham's 5-2 defeat at the hands of Ipswich.

In comparison to Rotherham's transfer activity, Leeds have been working in vain to bring in a couple of loan players in order to flesh out a thinning squad. Evans has been clear about his intentions to bring Liam Bridcutt and Kyle Lafferty in on emergency deals, but while Bridcutt's messages are apparently being sent by carrier pigeon, Norwich have completely ruled out the idea of Lafferty leaving Carrow Road before the window closes next week.

As well as the lack of attacking options to back up Chris Wood and Mirco Antenucci, Evans has yet to address the lack of a backup goalkeeper to challenge Marco Silvestri, with young Charlie Horton still sitting on the bench in place of the injured Ross Turnbull.

Anders Lindegaard was an apparent target for the Leeds head coach, but nothing else has been mentioned following West Brom's rejection of the offer. Coincidentally, former Leeds loanee Alex McCarthy is currently third choice keeper at Crystal Palace, and remains a criminally underrated English talent. Why no approach has been made (seemingly) is completely beyond me.

In terms of injuries, Evans has claimed that Leeds are carrying a few knocks at the minute, but doesn't want to give away who the individual players are. Liam Cooper is apparently back in contention following his knockout blow from Scott Wootton, but Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci managed to keep Huddersfield at bay in his absence (with the help of a few Silvestri saves of course).

Whether Evans will continue with "Rocky" Wootton at right-back is unknown as of yet, but his recent comments regarding the future of Sam Byram seem to suggest that Byram will not be a first-team fixture unless he commits his future to the club by signing a new contract.

While the issues surrounding Byram's contract talks have been made (embarrassingly) public by Massimo Cellino, it seems strange that the idea of commitment would be brought up when discussing the club's longest serving current player.

Byram has never shown any indication of wanting to leave Leeds to my knowledge, and was firmly within his rights when he turned down the offer of a wage-cut in the contract he was offered in the summer. Where Evans talks about Sam showing commitment to the club, I would argue that the club should show a bit more respect to one of its brightest talents.

Injuries, old managers, and contract disputes aside, tomorrow offers Leeds a solid opportunity to win three games on the bounce for the first time since February, when Redfearn's side topped the Championship form table. While Redders will no doubt be deservedly welcomed back to Elland Road with open arms, I fully expect him to leave it with 0 points.

A third (fourth if you count Wycombe) clean sheet in a row seems a little too optimistic for this Leeds side, especially if Leon Best features for Rotherham. Leeds are exactly the kind of team that would concede a goal to Best in his first game in forever, just look at what happened with Shola Ameobi.

Overall, however, Leeds should have too much going forward for the Rotherham defence to deal with, particularly with Mirco Antenucci in the kind of form he displayed against Huddersfield. If Alex Mowatt can continue his run of scoring absolute blooters, we could be in for a high-scoring game at Elland Road.

Read more from Patrick at his site Harte and Soul

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