Match winner on Saturday as Leeds prevailed over Barnsley at Elland Road, Ezgjan Alioski’s close-range finish gave Paul Heckingbottom only his third win as manager of the club.
Despite this moment of joy, Alioski’s season has mirrored the team’s frustrations as a whole. After an explosive start, in which the bleach-haired winger collected the Championship Goal of the Month for August, his form dropped off considerably.
Confidence seemed an issue, especially without the presence of Samu Saiz to link-up with during the Spaniard’s six game ban. Alioski has often frustrated fans this season, whether it’s his final delivery or an inability to impose himself on a game in which he appears to almost shrink into his shell.
There may even be a bit of Adryan in the Macedonian, clearly talented with the ball, but can also be shrugged off too easily and can flatter to deceive.
During the Barnsley game, the fluctuating form of the winger was illustrated as Alioski missed a very presentable chance early on when through on goal, but then proceeded to score the winner. Wingers can often be hit and miss, sometimes struggling to dictate games from the periphery of proceedings.
Hadi Sacko is another example of a winger whose inconsistency has appeared to have cost him as he has ultimately become the forgotten man at the club. On his day (the 1-1 draw at Villa Park last season) he was unplayable, but this was not sustained over a long period of games. So far, this problem is affecting Alioski’s game.
Nevertheless, Alioski should not prove as disastrous as Adryan was, nor as neglected as Sacko is, because the former Lugano man’s work rate is excellent. A willingness to track back is often evident, and compared to the likes of Saiz, his attitude has been exemplary. The winger has not given up even when he has been struggling in a losing side.
According to Heckingbottom, the Macedonian would benefit from not ‘‘judging himself too harshly’’ which suggests confidence can affect his game all too easily. At the same time, it does show he cares and wants to do well for Leeds United.
After ending a three month goal drought against Derby in February, Heckingbottom also said of him: ‘‘Another player who is just so genuine. He wants to play every minute of every game. He wants to give you everything and probably beats himself up a bit.’’
Perhaps a new manager may come in and dispose of him, but under Christiansen and now Heckingbottom, Alioski has been given regular game-time, a sign of faith in the winger.
With seven goals and five assists this season, Alioski has hardly set the league alight, however he has at least set himself a platform to build on for next season. Many Leeds fans may criticise the Macedonian, but his heart is clearly intent on doing well for the club.
Patience may be necessary for Leeds fans with the number 10. Individually and collectively, this season has been disappointing but lessons need to be learnt for next season.