Will Neil Redfearn persevere with Mirco Antenucci?

Elland Road East Stand

The Leeds boss has been put under pressure not to select his top scorer, but in defiance Antenucci has started the last two games and has under-performed.

When the 30-year-old Italian striker moved on to 10 goals for the season with an equaliser at Blackpool on March 21st, it seemed clear that he was working his way back to a starting spot in the Leeds first team.

Many fans had been mystified as to Antenucci's absence, given his eight goals before Christmas and the continued goal-shy performances of his replacement Steve Morison.

It is true that Leeds' move to a lone front man did not suit Antenucci, nor another of his replacements Billy Sharp, but two strikes against Fulham and Blackpool saw last summer's signing from Catania back in the spotlight.

However, stunning claims in sources such as the Daily Star then came to light that Redfearn had been instructed not to select Antenucci astwo further goals would trigger a contract clause that would award the striker another year at Leeds, something the club did not now wish to proceed with.

In an astonishing chain of events - in the wake of Redfearn also losing his assistant manager Steve Thompson to an unexplained suspension - the Leeds boss brought Antenucci off the bench in the 3-0 home defeat to Blackburn and then started him in the Easter Monday 4-3 thriller against Wolves.

On Saturday against Cardiff, Antenucci started again, but in all his recent appearances - indeed since the controversy over his contract erupted - the Italian striker has been unconvincing and bearing all the hallmarks of a player who no longer wishes to be at the club.

Leeds now face a tough fixture against in-form promotion hopefuls Norwich City on Tuesday night, and Redfearn - who was critical of 'senior' players after Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Cardiff - will be considering his striker selection carefully. 

Both Morison and Sharp came off the bench in the closing stages on Saturday, with Sharp coming closest to scoring with a glancing header that struck the bar. It may be that Sharp gets the nod on Tuesday, but Redfearn must be tempted to dig his heels in and persevere with Antenucci to make a point.

Redfearn was probably mainly referring to his central defensive pairing Giuseppe Bellusci and Sol Bamba when he said he felt let down by senior players on Saturday. Both centre backs had a poor game, but Redfearn also referred to players having "their own agenda" which could have been a reference to Antenucci.

Certainly the Italian was ineffective in the lone striker role and his body language does not suggest he is in a great frame of mind. With so much up in the air at Elland Road - not least his own position as head coach - Redfearn must now decide whether the team's need is greater than a matter of principle.

Does Redfearn persevere with Antenucci up front on Tuesday night or does he make a change?

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