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Youngster can aid playoff final push for Leeds

TV: Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 7.45pm Wednesday

Leeds lead 1-0 after first leg


Leeds overcame a spate of injuries and Patrick Bamford's suspension to register an impressive 1-0 victory over Derby in Saturday's Sky Bet Championship playoff semi-final first leg and are likely to finish the job at Elland Road.

Marcelo Bielsa operates with a small squad and it was stretched to the limit at the weekend.

Five first-team regulars were unavailable, including three of the regular back four – centre-back Pontus Jansson, right-back Barry Douglas and left-back Ezgjan Alioski.

But Leeds delivered a controlled performance and deserved their victory despite the added inconvenience of injuries to midfielder Adam Forshaw and goalscorer Kemar Roofe, who failed to finish the game. Both players are ruled out of this encounter but Jansson may return to stiffen the back-line.

Derby were lively in the opening 15 minutes of the first leg but were on the back foot for long periods and failed to register a shot on target.

They thought they had a route back into the game in the 76th minute when Rams' right-back Jayden Bogle tussled with Leeds winger Jack Harrison in the penalty area, prompting referee Craig Pawson to point to the penalty spot.

However, Pawson's call was reversed after a consultation with assistant referee Eddie Smart and replays indicated the correct decision had been made.

There was plenty of anger directed towards the officials but many home fans must have been equally disappointed with their team's performance.

Six days previously Derby sealed a place in the playoffs with a dominant 3-1 victory at home to West Brom.

However, they lost centre-forward Martyn Waghorn to injury during that game and Waghorn's absence for the first leg against Leeds left them without a cutting edge.

Waghorn has returned to training and could feature but Derby have left themselves a mountain to climb.

None of the previous 17 teams to lose the first leg of a second-tier playoff semi-final have gone on to reach the final and Frank Lampard's side have registered just one away league victory in 2019.

It is hard to have confidence in Derby and the markets are heavily in favour of Leeds, who are odds-on to win a game they don't need to win.

Perhaps the main worry for Leeds backers is where the goals will come from with Roofe, their top scorer, out of contention.

Bamford – nine goals in 22 games this season and available after suspension – is an able replacement but looks a short-priced 4-1 favourite in the top-scorer betting

Supporting Bamford will be key and one of the key men could be versatile 19-year-old midfielder Jamie Shackleton, who excelled off the bench at Derby.

Shackleton has been regularly deployed as a back-up right-back but midfield is his favourite position and he caught the eye against Derby with several energetic bursts.

The teenager is still waiting for his first Leeds goal but he looked a threat in the first leg and is worth an each-way first scorer wager at a big price.

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Match in Focus

19:45 TODAY

Dundalk v FK Qarabag

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Qarabag have score nine goals in their last four matches
Expert verdict
Qarabag are seasoned European campaigners and are likely to find little resistance from Dundalk. The Azerbaijan side eased past Partizani despite a shaky opening away leg, while Dundalk have failed to score in their last four qualifiers and beat Latvian side Riga on penalties to qualify for this encounter.