Leo Hjelde among Leeds United youngsters praised by stand-in captain Luke Ayling

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Luke Ayling has praised the application of the young Leeds United players when they have been included in the first team.

Due to the ongoing injury problems that continue to rip through Marcelo Bielsa’s squad, a number of the club’s most promising U23 players have been called into senior action.

Leo Hjelde, Lewis Bate and Sam Greenwood all started in the Whites’ FA Cup third round defeat to West Ham while Crysencio Summerville and Cody Drameh were introduced from the bench.

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They all played their part in a very respectable Leeds performance against a strong Hammers XI that David Moyes is likely to select for the Premier League meeting on Sunday.

Hjelde, in particular, looked really assured in the way he faced off against the ever-dangerous Michail Antonio and Ayling, who was captain for the day, was really impressed.

“We had some young lads playing who did really well and we got stuck in, in the first half,” he told the club website.

“Sam Greenwood and Lewis Bate came off at half-time but I thought they played really well.

“Then there is Leo Hjelde at the back. You don’t get many bigger tests than facing the big man up top, Michail Antonio, but I felt he handled himself really well.

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“We then had Cody coming on from the bench as well, so we’ve got a good bunch of young lads coming through.”

While the results are not exactly what Bielsa and the Leeds supporters will have wanted this season, the performances of the club’s younger players have been real shining light.

Along with the players that Ayling mentioned, Joe Gelhardt has also been a revelation in the first team this season and has done more than enough to cement himself as Patrick Bamford’s back up in the squad.

However, like the man he will hope to support in the squad, the young forward is unavailable through injury.

Bielsa explained his absence after the defeat to West Ham, saying: “In the case of Gelhardt, one of his teammates fell on his ankle, and this generated an injury that will keep him out for 3-4 weeks.”

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