Middlesbrough and Leeds United fought out a 0-0 draw on Friday in an early top-of-the-table clash, with the dropped points meaning the chasing pack could catch up a bit of ground. Neither team would be too disappointed.
It was the first true test of both side’s credentials as possible promotion candidates, Boro had to supress the free-flowing football which Leeds have adopted, but in turn the hosts had to break down a tough and resilient Tony Pulis side. Many of the Premier League’s top teams struggled when he was at Stoke, so a draw will leave both with something positive.
Pulis will also have been impressed with the performance of 21-year-old defender Dael Fry. In a summer where Boro were linked with big names and ended up selling Ben Gibson, young Fry wasn’t someone who perhaps crossed fan’s minds as a first-team choice. After Friday night, he surely awoke them to his true potential.
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Fry played all 90 minutes of the vital clash and didn’t look out of place at all alongside big-money buy Aden Flint. He was an Under-20 World Cup winner and a Toulon tournament winner this summer with the Under-21 side, so there’s no reason to think he would be out of place.
Rather surprisingly for a Tony Pulis side, he only won two aerial duels, perhaps more of a testament to Leeds’ approach going forward. He did make four clearances though and weighed in with a tackle too. Those numbers don’t do justice to his overall composure on the ball, nor the maturity with which he received it and delivered it.
He made two trademark long passes in the game, something his manager has built a career on, but he showed his own ability with 24 passes along the floor. 71% of those arrived at the feet of a team mate too, a good number for a seasoned professional and an highly impressive one for a 21-year-old with just 14 appearances in the league last season.
Whilst the numbers tell one story, there is another story within the rest of his performance which was an impressive and eye-catching display. The England Under-20 World Cup winners were applauded at the time but, if Friday’s game is anything to go by, one of them is about to break out on the senior stage.
Middlesbrough fans look like they’re in for a real treat.