Leeds United came away from their eagerly anticipated clash against Nottingham Forest with a valuable point to show for their efforts, albeit amid huge controversy.
Indeed, Kemar Roofe’s equalising goal has been the subject of intense discussion in the aftermath of proceedings and rightly so. There is little question that Roofe handled the ball into the back of the net to salvage a fortunate point for the Whites, but their misfortune with injury problems continued as Luke Ayling was forced off after 26 minutes.
The initial prognosis didn’t look good for Marcelo Bielsa and his fears were realised on Monday as the club’s official website confirmed that he will be ruled out for two months with a medial collateral ligament injury in his right knee.
In a season when Leeds have already been forced to cope without a handful of key players due to injury problems, the latest setback will arrive as bitterly disappointing news to the supporters.
Ayling is an integral component of the back-four and his presence will be sorely missed, and Bielsa now faces another difficult problem to approach in the coming months.
Without a natural right-back at his disposal he will inevitably need to tinker with his options to find the best solution, and he would be wise to cast his memory back to Leeds’ trip to Swansea City in August for inspiration.
A last minute injury sustained by Liam Cooper in the pre-match warm-up forced Bielsa to embrace his pragmatic side and shift Ayling into central defence to deal with the setback, paving the way for Leeds academy product Jamie Shackleton to fill in at right-back.
Although he is a central midfielder by trade, Shackleton was in excellent form and his marauding intentions paid dividends as he provided Roofe with a first-half equaliser with an intelligent cut back from the byline.
Defensively Shackleton was solid and did not look out of place at right-back, so it’s fair to say he deserves another opportunity to prove his worth in Ayling’s absence.
It’s a scenario which will concern Bielsa ahead of a hectic winter schedule, but the time is right for him to trust in the 19-year-old with little by way of alternatives to consider.
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