Leeds United manager Paul Heckingbottom has singled out the performance of Matthew Pennington with a rave review after he made a shock return to the side in the defeat to Aston Villa.

The 23-year-old, who is on a season-long loan from Everton, was not expected to feature in the clash at Villa Park after an injury layoff but stepped straight back into the starting XI alongside youngster Paudie O’Connor, although he was unable to stop the Villans scoring on the way to a 1-0 defeat.

The Leeds boss insisted that he was not too disheartened by the performance of his back line, which also included academy product Tom Pearce and natural winger Stuart Dallas as a makeshift full back, and was full of praise for Pennington’s early return.

He told Leeds Live: “Bailey, Paudie did as well. Tom Pearce did better than last time, did well, stood up to the task.

“Penner needs a mention because he’s been thrown straight in after his calf injury because needs must and I though Penner and Paudie did well, the two centre-halves.

“Penners has just really been thrown in. Put himself forward which he needs applauding for and he’s done very well.”

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Pennington has made 21 appearances for the Whites since arriving from Goodison Park, although is yet to score his first goal for the club.

Football Insider verdict

While many Leeds fans will be disheartened by another defeat, and deservedly so after just two wins in 2018, Heckingbottom is right to credit the performance of his defenders as they marshalled a potent Aston Villa attack for the majority of the game. Pennington’s return was a real surprise and it was clear to se ehis experience was important alongside youngster O’Connor. The club’s real problems lie at the other end of the pitch it seems, for goal scoring chances were at a real premium – something which will have to be addressed come the summer window.

In other Leeds United news, a £1.5million deal has been agreed for this defender wanted by the Whites.

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