Friendly: Stevenage 0 Leeds United 3
Luke Varney hammered Stevenage with a nine-minute hat-trick to draw a line under Leeds United's lame defeat to Walsall and stake his claim for a starting place on the first day of the season.
The forward produced a flurry of goals late in the second half as United ended a run of three successive pre-season defeats with a 3-0 win at the Lamex Stadium last night.
Manager Brian McDermott made eight changes to the side beaten by Walsall on Saturday – a result which drew scathing criticism from United’s boss – and Varney’s rapid treble put the forward in line for anotheropportunity against Nuremberg this weekend, Leeds’ final friendly before they begin the Championship term at home to Brighton.
Varney has faced constant criticism since his £200,000 transfer from Portsmouth last summer but the forward’s finishes last night – coming in the 71st, 75th and 80th minutes, the latter scored from the penalty spot – gave his manager something to ponder with the new campaign closing in.
McDermott said: “In his position confidence comes with scoring goals and if Luke can get goals and get the crowd signing his name, it’ll get his head right up.
“That can make all the difference to someone like him and he took his goals really well.
“I wanted people to make the most of their opportunity and he and a few others did that.
“We’ve got a few lads who can play up front for us and Luke is one of them. He’s done himself no harm.
“But as a squad we needed a reaction to Walsall and we spoke about putting that game to bed,” he said.
"I don’t want to feel like I did after Walsall again and we’ve beaten a tough Stevenage side. The feeling in the dressing room afterwards was so much better.
“You have to earn the right to play in games and we did that tonight. Against Walsall we didn’t earn the right to play. It was a big lesson and we were good value against Stevenage.”
Matt Smith and Jason Pearce missed yesterday’s match with minor niggles and Ross McCormack is a doubt for Saturday’s clash with Nuremberg after suffering a groin strain in the second half.
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