Was Saturday the end of Leeds' Morison experiment?

Elland Road Revie Stand

Neil Redfearn has been trying to accommodate two strikers in his line-up but an ineffective performance from Steve Morison may signal the end of that idea.

Leeds United's 2015 renaissance has brought seven wins from 11 games and has included the scalps of promotion-chasing Bournemouth, Middlesbrough (away) and Ipswich Town, and most recently a 0-0 draw in Saturday's Sky Bet Championship fixture with Nottingham Forest. Central to that run has been the switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation and its reliance on a lone striker. 

That often thankless role was taken by Steve Morison for a run of nine games in which he held the line respectably while the club's burgeoning youngsters, Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and the rejuvenated Luke Murphy applied the main goal threat.

An injury suffered by Morison in the 2-0 defeat at Brighton, however, offered Billy Sharp a chance up front, an opportunity he grasped with two goals in two games, and the much-travelled striker has been the preferred man ever since. An injury to Sam Byram before the recent game at Wigan provided Redfearn with the chance to reward the fit-again Morison for his previous hard work, and the Welshman was handed Byram's influential role on the right hand side of the three attacking midfielders.

Leeds' 1-0 win at Wigan perhaps masked the fact that the role is not Morison's ideal position by any stretch of the imagination, and his shortcomings in that particular part of the pitch were highlighted again in Saturday's goalless draw with Nottingham Forest at Elland Road. Morison is strong and robust, but lacks the pace, mobility and quick feet to be an asset in wide positions. Many fans have bemoaned Morison's lack of goal threat during his recent run in the side, but at least his chief assets - holding the ball up, harassing defenders, providing an aerial threat - are undoubtedly useful in the central role.

Leeds' top-scoring striker this season is Mirco Antenucci with eight goals, and the Italian recently let his frustrations get the better of him with a bizarre Instagram rant, perceived to be triggered by his absence from the starting 11.

It is true that Antenucci is desperately unlucky to be out of the side, as a victim of the successful formation switch, and he will have watched from the bench on Saturday and justifiably wondered why Morison was the preferred choice in the wide-right position.

Certainly, Antenucci responded in the right way, coming on as a 68th-minute replacement for Morison and immediately showing more purpose, movement, link-up play and attacking threat, indeed Antenucci had Leeds' only shot on target of the second 45 minutes, when his low drive stung the palms of Forest keeper Karl Darlow in the closing stages.

Now Neil Redfearn perhaps needs to look at the bigger picture, and whilst it is admirable that he has been loyal to Morison for his performances as a lone front man, this shouldn't mean that the greater good of the team be affected by playing him in a wide right position better suited to Antenucci.

With Byram expected to be absent through injury again for Wednesday night's game at Fulham and with speculation mounting that Norwich are interested in a move for Antenucci, it would be a timely and logical move for the Italian to be restored to the starting line-up at Craven Cottage.  

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