Mirco Antenucci came off the bench to score for Leeds United.
Leeds secured a brilliant 3-0 win at Fulham on Wednesday evening to increase their chances of a top 10 finish, whilst intensifying the relation threat on the Cottagers.
Fulham started ex-Leeds boys Ross McCormack and Matt Smith up front, but it was the Whites who claimed the victory, with two transfers netting two of the goals.
After academy graduate Sam Byram scored the opener, January loanee Sol Bamba netted a second, and Mirco Antenucci came off the bench to kill the game off. It was an important strike for Antenucci, who has become something of a forgotten man at Elland Road in recent weeks.
After scoring eight goals before Christmas, Antenucci has dropped out of head coach Neil Redfearn’s plans, and has not started a game since the middle of January. Redfearn admitted to the Yorkshire Evening Post that he may be looking to bring a striker in to score goals, but has Antenucci now proven that he can compete such a role?
Coming off the bench in the 82nd minute, the Italian forward scored, and had a bigger all-round impact than starting striker Billy Sharp did in 67 minutes of action.
Sharp was taken off for Steve Morison, who touched the ball just four times in 24 minutes, but it was when Antenucci came on that the Whites looked an attacking threat.
He scored with his only shot on target to move into first place on Leeds’ goalscoring chart for the season, and also touched the ball at a rate of 1.3 times per minute, whereas Sharp could only muster a 0.4 average.
It could be suggested that, as Antenucci came on with the result beyond doubt, he was given an easier task in the attacking third. The Fulham defence would be less worried about conceding a third goal than a first while they looked for a way back into the game, and that allowed the 30-year-old a chance to impose himself on the game.
However, it is clear that Antenucci is the best natural goalscorer in the Leeds ranks, and, for all the good that Redfearn has brought to Elland Road, removing the bearded striker from his starting XI may be a massive mistake.