View: Joe Gelhardt has awareness beyond his years, Leeds United will benefit greatly
Leeds United have had to play a large proportion of this season without talismanic striker Patrick Bamford and their league position makes that obvious.
Jesse Marsch’s side are balanced precariously one place and one point clear of the relegation zone with just one game left to play and they really need someone to lead the line and carry them to safety.
Luckily for the 48-year-old American coach, he has exactly that in the shape of 20-year-old Liverpudlian Joe Gelhardt who has burst onto the scene at Elland Road this season.
Recently, the youngster has earned starts for the Whites rather than just substitute appearances and he has repaid his manager’s faith in him with performances way beyond his years.
He was particularly brilliant in Leeds’ most recent 1-1 draw at home to Brighton where his game awareness was at its very best.
In this instance, Gelhardt receives the ball with his back to goal, in the Seagulls’ half but he already knows that the space is directly behind him and he acts on it.
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As soon as Jack Harrison’s pass reaches his feet, he is quick to turn and sprint into the space that has been left between the two Brighton midfielders.
Moises Caicedo eventually brings him down for a free-kick, just as he looked like being able to attack the defence but this was just the start of his exceptional game at Elland Road.
Not too long after the previous highlight, the striker had the ball played into his feet again but this time he had heavy pressure from the centre-half behind him.
But due to his fantastic knowledge of the game, he played a seemingly simple but actually very technical layoff for Rodrigo to sprint onto the ball without breaking stride and spark a rapid attack that Raphinha almost finished off.
With Leeds needing a goal in stoppage time, the ball fell to Gelhardt again and despite playing the entire game and almost constantly running throughout, his mind was as clear as day.
The 20-year-old very coolly flicked the ball over Brighton captain Lewis Dunk before crossing to the back post where Pascal Struijk got the all-important leveller.
Marsch has to keep Gelhardt in the side for the final game away at Brentford because his game awareness is second to none which is highly impressive for someone who is so young.
In other Leeds United news, Derby County’s Malcolm Ebiowei is piquing the interest of the Whites.