Jesse Marsch believes Patrick Bamford took “a huge step” towards being back to his best in Leeds’ 3-1 FA Cup win at Accrington.
The 29-year-old striker made his first start since October after an injury-ravaged 18 months and refused to be outshone by club record signing Georginio Rutter, who also impressed on his debut.
Bamford teed up Jack Harrison to crash home Leeds’ opener and brilliantly slipped in Junior Firpo for their second before Luis Sinisterra’s emphatic finish put the tie to bed in the 68th minute.
Marsch said of Bamford’s contribution: “I think it’s a huge step forward. Even last week, he didn’t quite feel ready to start and so we trained hard this week in preparation for this and you could see that he looks like himself.
“So, you know, then the discussion was ‘OK, how long can we go?’ And we said ‘let’s check in half-time’ and half-time he felt great.”
Bamford missed most of last season due to successive injuries, culminating in an operation to repair a ruptured foot ligament and then had groin surgery during the World Cup break.
Marsch said: “It didn’t have the pace of what a Premier League match has, but still 75 minutes for him at this point from – what he’s been through in the last year – I think is gigantic.
“So it gives us a chance I think to really start to push Patrick to be the player we know he can be.
“It certainly gives us more weapons. We have weapons now and that’s fun for a manager to work with.”
Firpo scored his first goal for Leeds and Marsch said the left-back was pushing for a Premier League start.
He added Crysencio Summerville, Tyler Adams, Liam Cooper and Pascal Struijk were all hoping to return to contention for next Sunday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.
Accrington deservedly pulled a goal back through teenage substitute Leslie Adekoya and had spells when they made life uncomfortable for their Premier League opponents.
Midfielder and lifelong Leeds fan Harvey Rodgers spurned a golden chance for Accrington early in the second half, while boss John Coleman admitted his Sky Bet League One side “ran out of steam after an hour”.
“But we’ve made a couple of bob out of the cup,” Coleman added. “I don’t think we can grumble too much about losing to a Premier League side, but the day I’m happy getting beat, I’ll have to pack in.
“We’ve made about £300,000 to £400,000, which makes a big difference to us. That’s probably three week’s wages for one of their players, so that’s the difference.”