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Monday, 13 December 2010

Carlsberg don’t do perfect away days…


…But if they did, Leeds United’s trip to Turf Moor on Saturday would be a pretty good blueprint.

Despite what the many Burnley websites and Brian Laws have claimed, Leeds more than matched their host in the opening half hour and had arguably the better chances.  The main difference being that Burnley took their opportunities and United didn’t. Max Gradel blasting wide for our most clear cut opening. Burnley’s first 2 shots on target resulted in a 2-0 lead and they threatened to extend that advantage as The Whites struggled to remain in the game going against a side now full of confidence.

I can honestly say though, even at two down I felt that if we got the next goal then we had every chance of getting something from the game, had Max Gradel been a little more composed on several occasions we would probably have been enjoying the advantage at the break but as they say, what will be, will be.

Half time brought about the usual activities that best pass the turgid 15 minutes of boredom. For me, Angry Birds and a conversation with my brother explaining the importance of the next goal, max v burnleyas quite frankly Burnley looked weak at the back and if I’m honest, a little shocked by their two goal advantage.

Quite what the respective managers said at half time will never fully be known but it certainly worked in our favour. With little to lose, the change in tempo from United’s midfield was obvious. In-form Jonny Howson dragged Leeds back into the game and probably for the first time displayed the necessary qualities of a club captain. Seven minutes into the 2nd period and Max Gradel had given Leeds something to fight for; the all-important 3rd goal in a very tight contest. Snodgrass and Connelly combined down the left and Becchio’s intelligent knock down fell kindly for Max, who smashed The Whites back into contention via his shin. Although I was so far back in the dreadful away stand at Turf Moor I thought he had missed it.

Suddenly there was only one team in the game, with United pouring forward and forcing the home side into mistake, after mistake. Becchio had an effort scrambled off the line and Chris Iwelumo should have restored the host’s two goal cushion but his wayward header was in keeping with an all-round dreadful display from the frontman. Wave after wave on United attack eventually produced an equaliser, Jonny Howson combined with Paul Connolly down the right, with a delightful through pass for the full-back to pick Luciano Becchio out at the back post, One of the Argentinean's easier opportunities of the afternoon had Leeds level.

0,,10273~9265636,00 Bradley Johnson could have given Leeds the lead just moments later but sliced an effort wide as United ravaged a shell-shocked Burnley and another swift counter attack via a magnificent cross-field pass by Howson saw Snodgrass curl a near-perfect effort against the crossbar. At this point only one team were in the game but you sensed that the goal needed to come before the home team composed themselves again. Step forward United’s star man – Jonny Howson, finally showing the consistent form he has promised for so long… A Leeds clearance was worked to Jonny by the excellent Snodgrass as he was crossing the half way line , unopposed he strode up to the edge of the ‘D’ and curled a perfect effort into the bottom corner. cue delirium in the away stand!

Credit to the Leeds fans who had stood by their team even at 2-0 down, although as stated before, the reports of Leeds being ‘hammered’ in the first half are greatly exaggerated. Had it been Leeds who were 2 goals up at the break, few inside Turf Moor could have complained and Brian Laws post match comment of “It wasn’t a case of how well they (Leeds) played, it was a case of how bad we played” is frankly laughable.

The White Army were responsible for the next highlights of the afternoon with their own rendition of Burnley’s cringe worthy post-goal music after Howson’s winner (a small clip of it is on our YouTube channel courtesy of STFCVids). Quite why clubs feel fans need help in celebrating goals is beyond me, the most ‘tin-pot’ practice in modern football. As good as that was, and had it been the other way around, would have cut me to the bone. It was bettered by chants of “You should have gone Christmas shopping!” directed at the stunned home support – a true classic!

From that point on, the game opened up and although Leeds had several chances to wrap up the 3 points, they had Kasper Schmeichel to thank for preserving the lead as Burnley fought hard to rescue the situation. As the referee blew for full-time (possibly the only decision in Leeds’ favour that he managed in the entire game) The 5,000 travelling fans reflected on an epic comeback and probably Leeds’ best performance of the season. Simon Grayson again reiterated the need for a level head after the game and I won’t be mentioning the ‘P-Word’, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t crossed my mind…

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Monday, 6 December 2010

PROGRESS should be the only ‘P-word’ we’re concerned about


The final whistle on Saturday not only confirmed another 3 points for The Whites but marked the latest 90 minutes in an impressive seven match unbeaten run, the most productive set of results the club have achieved at this level since 2006. It isn’t just the final scores that have been positive either, the individual performances of Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Luciano Becchio have arguably been of the highest standard each has achieved in a Leeds shirt.

With everything looking so well, and the club’s current Play-off berth surely above all pre-season expectations it’s easy to get over-excited. Especially when Eddie Gray confidently predicts promotion to The Premiership on Yorkshire Radio after the match on Saturday. If last season taught us anything, it’s that the position you occupy after 46 matches is the only one that matters!

Whilst I appreciate the ‘feel good’ atmosphere around Elland Road at the moment, and the talk of Promotion is a lot better than the dreaded fight for survival that many predicted (myself included, just 6 weeks ago), lets not lose sight of where we’ve come from and get ahead of ourselves.

As we approach the 2nd anniversary of Simon Grayson’s appointment as United boss the difference in Leeds United Football Club, as a whole,  is stark to say the least. When Grayson took charge of the squad for the first time on Boxing Day 2008, Leeds languished 9th in League One just below Tranmere Rovers and Stockport County… Our F.A. Cup dream was over before it had even begun having suffered humiliation at non-league Histon, a 3-1 reverse at MK Dons was the final nail in Gary McAllister’s coffin.

Fast forward almost 2 years and the club occupy a Play-off spot in The Championship and have an F.A. Cup tie at Arsenal to look forward to. Not only that but we have a squad of players who appear hungry to bring success to Elland Road. We have individuals whom, whether we like to hear it or not, would command a decent return upon the purchase price should we choose to sell them on. The likes of Becchio, Snodgrass and Howson are likely to command 7 figure sums in the current market and whilst that may be seen as counter-productive, it’s a positive compared to the paltry fees we have received for our better players in recent years.

So whilst promotion would be fantastic and more than welcomed by the thousands of Whites around the globe, let’s just be glad that we’re a club on the up once more…

Note: If anyone found 4 season tickets at Saturday’s game, please get in touch.

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