The first game of 2012 brought about Leeds United’s first win in five and with it a small step towards the end of speculation regarding the future of manager Simon Grayson. However, Grayson can count himself extremely lucky; three slices of fortune contributed massively towards a much needed three points.
After slating some members of the team after an embarassing performance against Barnsley, Grayson made changes, opting to start Zac Thompson, Luciano Becchio, Adam Clayton and Alex Bruce. It was the latter’s first start of the season and he began the game at right back with Darren O’Dea and Patrick Kisnorbo retaining their places at the heart of the Leeds defence.
Within minutes, Leeds were in need of a re-shuffle after an injury to Kisnorbo. Despite this they started the brighter of the two teams, dominating the early exchanges with a vast amount of possession. Burnley reacted well though, Charlie Austin squandering an excellent opportunity after being played in behind the Leeds defence. Austin also came close later on in the half; his long distance drive forcing Andy Lonergan into a fine save.
Leeds’ first slice of luck came after 29 minutes. New loan signing Andros Townsend was felled twice by Burnley right back Kieran Trippier; referee Brown handing the young defender two harsh yellow cards before dismissing him. Townsend himself was causing the Burnley defence all sorts of problems but Leeds lacked cutting edge and it remained goal-less at half time.
The signs had been promising and Leeds continued their dominance into the second half, defender Darren O’Dea clipping the crossbar with a looping header. Young midfielder Zac Thompson also came close with an excellently struck half-volley from outside the area. However, after dominating and lacking a finishing product, Leeds were made to pay. Defensive problems have blighted performances for years and it was to happen again, Charlie Austin finishing superbly after the Leeds defence failed to clear. Elland Road was stunned.
Correctly, albeit slightly too late, Simon Grayson made changes, throwing on Ross McCormack and Mikael Forssell in place of Ramon Nunez and out of form Luciano Becchio. For ten minutes the substitutes remained inefficient and it looked as if Leeds were on their way to yet another home defeat. Cue the second slice of luck.
Leeds’ sixteen corners in the game all led to very little. Another poor corner was delivered from the right towards the near post but this time turned into the goal by the unfortunate Burnley defender Brian Easton. Leeds had a way back into the match and Elland Road was rocking.
Football is seemingly a game which comes round to hurt you eventually. As the game headed into its 97th minute, Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant spilled a tame shot from Townsend and was punished; Leeds top-scorer Ross McCormack rounding him before smashing the ball into an unguarded goal. Grant had been time-wasting for a number of minutes previously with the resulting booking and vital error rubbing salt into the wounds of defeat. Leeds’ third slice of luck had handed them a seemingly unlikely defeat.
For the first time in a while, I left the game thinking we’d played well. We deserved the win, but we did get lucky. At the end of the day, we’d beaten ten men thanks to an own goal and a goalkeeping howler. But for once, I didn’t care. All that was important was the result and the valuable three points.
The victory may have secured Simon Grayson’s job for a few more weeks. What did remain visible though was the cracks in the squad which need to be solved. Townsend looked excellent and Leeds need a few more signings of this quality to bolster their league position.