Captain fantastic.

The biggest crowd of the season arrived at Turf Moor to watch 8th placed Burnley take on 6th placed Leeds United, in what was being billed as a real test of progress for both sides.

There were two changes to Simon Grayson’s side, as Paul Connolly returned from suspension to replace Andy Hughes and Neill Collins came in at centre-back for the injured Andy O’Brien.

The game got off to a lively start, with Max Gradel firing Leeds’ first chance wide, before Burnley responded with a long-range effort and a free-kick which forced the first save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Max Gradel continued to impress with another couple of chances before Chris Iwelumo’s shot forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel at the opposite end. From the resulting corner kick, Burnley broke the deadlock. The first strike was cleared off the line, but fell for Brian Easton who gave the hosts a 1-0 lead just before the half hour mark.

A corner kick saw Neill Collins go close to restoring parity, but Burnley doubled their advantage soon after when Alex Bruce slipped, allowing the chasing Rodriquez to fire beyond a helpless Schmeichel. Dreadful defending from Bruce, who should have taken the easy option and rolled it back to Schmeichel, but he got caught in two minds and was punished for his carelessness.

Half-time, and the disappointing first half had left me cursing everyone and everything from Alex Bruce to the stadium we were playing in. My teddy had well and truly left the cot. Moans about the weather (despite it’s improvement) left the lads I was with suggesting I invented the snood.

It was fair to say that I was not a happy Leeds United fan. My frustrations were largely aimed at the defence who have shown all the consistency of the Liberal Democrats so far this season. Burnley had been the better team, but 2-0 was beyond flattering. I’ve seen much worse defeats over the years, but from the evidence so far, this was a game we could win with ease if the team played to their┬ácapabilities and that’s why 2-0 was particularly hard to swallow.

The second half brought a rejuvenated Leeds United side who quickly responded to Grayson’s half-time words of wisdom and set about getting back into the game.

A cross from Robert Snodgrass was headed on by Luciano Becchio, into the path of Max Gradel who netted a thoroughly well-deserved goal to get Leeds back into the game with just 7 minutes of the second half played. 2-1 “We’re gonna beat you 3-2″ warned the Leeds fans.

The turning point however, was perhaps not Gradel’s goal, but a dreadful miss from Iwelumo minutes later. It was at that moment that you just started to sense Leeds may be able to turn things around with Burnley starting to crack.

Around a hour gone and Grayson made his first change of the afternoon, bringing Ross McCormack on for the quiet Neil Kilkenny.

Great work from Paul Connolly down the wing, who cut a ball through the defence and into the path of Luciano Becchio who slid in and levelled it for Leeds on 66, much to the delight of the 5,000 travelling Whites.

Unbelievably, after trailing 2-0 at half-time to a team largely made up of Premier League players, Leeds United were now in the hunt for a winner.

McCormack was lively and had a couple of chances to make himself a hero and Robert Snodgrass hit the woodwork for Leeds. Burnley also had their chances at the opposite end, and Kasper Schmeichel was kept on his toes right up to the final whistle.

But the Hollywood finish came courtesy of captain fantastic, Jonny Howson. Picking the ball up in the centre of the park, Howson moved forward with options available to both sides of him. Howson had other ideas though, and as the Burnley defence stood off and allowed him space, Jonny struck a low curling shot into the bottom corner to complete a brilliant turnaround for the Whites.

It was during the adrenaline fuelled celebrations that followed, that this poor Leeds United fan managed to injure his ankle from what I assume was another fan stamping on it. Shrugging it off to continue in the fun, it wasn’t until the final whistle had blown that I realised my ankle had swollen up and realised this could probably net me a week off work – adding extra brilliance to Howson’s goal.

Taunts of ‘you should have gone Christmas shopping’ came from the away end, but there was a couple of hairy moments yet to come as Kasper Schmeichel kept his head to see out a memorable comeback and send Leeds United up to fourth in the Championship.

TSS man of the match

Paul Connolly deserves a mention for an excellent shift today, as does Kasper Schmeichel and even Bradley Johnson (shocking, I know)! I was leaning towards Max Gradel who posed a constant threat to Burnley throughout, but I ended up swaying towards the quite frankly outstanding Jonny Howson. Not only did he seal the victory with a memorable goal, but he led the team well throughout.

  • mr zanzi

    merry christmas burnley scum ha ha ha ha ha

  • Thomas Hill

    Fantastic result, would not have predicted to be 4th near Christmas at the start of the season. Burnley are a strong side at home and this result shows you what this squad can produce at this level.
    Lets hope we can pick up on QPR’s loss last night and show the championship what where all about.
    MOT

  • Mikelufc

    Thanks once again for a great report that confirms my thoughts on the game bases entirely on the BBC text. I am over the moon at the result so much so that I am ready for bed at 9 O clock due to my excessive celebration. I am prepared to give Larry more time :-)

  • Paul South Wales

    Let’s hope we give QPR a good going over and put out a marker as to what we’re about in this league. I wish we could play Cardiff now!

  • Andy Flynn

    Ditto. Would love to play Cardiff now, but equally wouldn’t mind if we can just keep this form up. Great result!!!

  • RoystonLUFC

    blinkin flip! bloody marvellous!
    Are you watching, Beckford? Try scoring a lucky one against Chelsea when you’re in the second division next season and we’re kicking it in the first. Ha ha, say hello to those windscreens again you sulky, money-grabbing s**t

  • TheReaper08

    Could this really be happening, are we all going to be put through another exciting end of season again ? I for one certainly hope so.

    Well played lads, 4th and 5 points clear of 7th at this stage is an amazing achievment, leading the way of the newly promoted teams.

  • Ramblinjohn

    I was there TSS and your analysis is spot on. Bruce and Collins have shown themselves not up to the task time and again and new players have to come in in those positions. Otherwise I thought we looked good and you’re right to mention Connolly – I thought he was very good yesterday. I think 9 out of 11 players did well yesterday but the two that didn’t were key problems in the first half. Incidentally, Burnely fans chanting ‘sheepsha**ers’ at Leeds fans? I nearly died of an irony overdose.

  • Graham Hugill

    @TSS – just looking at the image you have used of Jonny Howson. Poor old Bromby – he is so far away from the starting 11 it is ridiculous. Imagine how bad he must feel being that far behind even Collins & Naylor.

    Great result yesterday. Was listening on the radio and almost switched off at half time. Glad I didn’t, second half was fantastic to listen to (role reversal of Preston). Tough few games coming up tho – the test goes on……

  • Hugh Fox

    Great result bring on QPR!! MOT

  • kev

    Yeah fab result! i think Connolly is getting better and better,but i also think this league is not that good this year and we won’t have a better chance to get back to the promised land or am i getting carried away !!!

  • Colin

    There’s an elephant in the room and no-one’s mentioning it…

    No one wants to change a winning formula and that includes breaking up a successful team with a real team spirit.

    January transfer window not far away and Becchio, Johnson and Kilkenny are not signed up. Is it more important to spend money on keeping this team together than spending on new players? Does the Leeds board need to reconsider the wage stance they are taking with those 3 players?

    If Leeds beat QPR next week, then Leeds will be 3 points off 1st place. Can Leeds allow 3 of the starting 11 to just walk away?

    • TheReaper08

      @colin I agree the spirit is great but surely it depends on what value you can get from what you have in comparison to who you can bring in.

      Granted I wouldn’t want to see any of them leave if suitable replacements are not sought.

  • Mark R

    A great result and a pivotal one I reckon for the season. Taking into account O’Brien’s absence, to comeback from 2 goals down away from home at a team recently relegated form the Premier League – brilliant.

    Hopefully O’Brien’s back this weekend and we continue the good form vs.QPR.

    Super Leeds United !

    MOT

  • Chareose

    a very good point colin but consider this ; lets just say magic happened and we got promoted…. which of those 3 players is good enough for the premiership ????
    Only one by estination ; Bechio…. so no point rushing to sign the other two, but Bechio should be a keeper. Sort it out Ken.

  • Mike

    BLINKING FLIP Royston???

    Blooming humma I say :-)

  • Tim Campbell

    This certainly eases the pain of those humiliating defeats against barnsley, preston and cardiff. So hope we can keep this run going, and next weeks game against qpr already feels like a six-pointer. PS one area we still need addressing is centre of defence

  • TheReaper08

    @Tim Campbell It looks simple now looking back but the Cardiff game was a real catalyst. It highlighted what was needed if we were going to compete at the highest level of this league.

    One of my senior managers is a QPR fan and they are the first team I ever watched play live. I would give anythign for a win.

    • Tim Campbell

      I like most others felt this league would be one of the most open for many years. Many of the resuls thus far have quite frankly been bizzare!! On the face of it we seemed to have ‘bedded’ in reasonably well for a newly promoted side with a plethora of new faces in the ranks. Like my golf game, confidence breeds confidence and keeping this run going is setting out a marker to the rest of the division. The qpr game is winnable and one we should be approaching with confidence. I feel the game at home to palace last week was a game we would have given away far too often in the past but this new never say die attitude (as in yesterdays game) is going to count for a lot in this division. Finally lets put the whole Johnson debate to bed, like your self Reaper I am not his biggest fan (purely based on ability alone), and hope that unlike the beckford scenario we get something for him in January.

  • Mikelufc

    Your wish is my command reaps! Merry Christmas!

  • TheReaper08

    @Mikelufc Good man and a very Merry Christmas to you.

    I will look forward to the game now and to giving out some banter a week tomorrow. I was even considering my annual pilgrimage to ER this weekend !

  • TSS

    Does anyone really believe Becchio is good enough for the Prem? I was surprised he took the step up to the Champ, but the Prem is definitely a step too far… surely?

    • Tim Campbell

      I am ome of the becchio doubters who has been won over. The guy has adapted to this division better than any of us could have expected, and now that there is no beckford to feed up front, he seems to have grabbed the chance to be the main man in front of goal. Can he succeed in the premiership? Having seen how andy carroll has done in the step up a division, why not our boy?

      • TSS

        @Tim Campbell

        Good point, and point taken. But there’s also been more limited players than Killa and Johnson in the PL, so maybe it’s worth keeping everyone – even if it is only for resale value.

        • Tim Campbell

          This is true, hmmmm I wonder does the players value automatically rise just as it does in Football Manager when a club gets promoted lol As colin postulated getting real quality in the january transfer window might be tricky, however there might be a few Andy O’Briens out there who are either not going to sign a new contract, or even be offered one.

    • TheReaper08

      @TSS Would you say Becchio has improved for the transition to the Chapionship ?

      If so then on that basis if he keeps it up surely he would at least deserve the chance to try and play in the PL.

      • Tim Campbell

        Indeed it would be a win – win situation for becchio, keep knocking them in and the likelihood of playing for leeds in the premiership could be a reality; whilst on the other hand another premiership club might come sniffing around for him – so all I can say is keep up the good work luciano

      • TSS

        @TheReaper08

        He’s improved immeasurably. I really can’t describe how shocked I’ve been with him so far this season – I really thought he’d be a bit part player at most.

        I guess with that in mind, he’s worth signing even if it’s only to sell after promotion. He’d certainly command a decent fee I reckon.

  • Colin

    When I was talking about breaking up the team, I wasn’t saying that this team is good enough for the PL, I was trying to say that if we can get up with this team, then let’s do it and worry about improving the team once you get to the PL.

    I’m not sure there’s much we can do in the Jan transfer window, unless we have some serious cash. I don’t see anyone letting us have their players even if they’re on expiring contracts.

    @TSS I think we’ll see just how good this team is when we go to the Emirates – i think that’s probably the best barometer to test our players against. That said, i think QPR will also be a good test for our players as well!!

    • TheReaper08

      @colin Will Arsenal play a full strength side though ? I reckon they may play the kids/fringe players. What would you read from the game if the result went for or against us then ?

      I reckon as long as we don’t get properly turned over it’s a positive.

  • Colin

    @TheReaper08 will be interesting to see what team Arsenal put out. They’ve got a Semi final leg against Ipswich in the Carling cup 4 days after and then 3 days to the next PL game.

    I think he might actually play the full strength team against Leeds, then the lesser team for Carling Cup, then full strength team back for PL, otherwise he has to play the weakened team in FA and Carling cup back to back or if he uses the weakened team against us then he might have to use his full strength team for the carling cup, giving them only 3 days to recover for the PL game.

    Maybe Leeds will put out a changed team? Might happen by default if Becchio, Johnson and Kilkenny find new homes at clubs that want to do business at the beginning of the transfer window??

    • TSS

      I disagree.

      Arsenal are so desperate for silverware that the League Cup will be prioritised.

  • Joey

    Cum on guys Becchio second top scorer< leeds unbeaten in 8 – they are doin superb, get behind the lads, team spirit from good ol Grayson who some wer calling for his head, is winning these games. We have the best young manager in the country and a team that can just grow and grow, beat scum last year, smashing the chapionship. Stop moaning

  • Craig

    I’ve not read anything about O’B’s injury. Does anyone know how long he may be out?

  • leeds through and through

    well i hope ob isnt out for long because i certainly dont want naylor getting a sniff back in that first team and certainly dont want him anywere near that captains armband, we havent had a captain that leads us by example both in defence and attack like howson does for some time now!

  • Mikelufc

    I think Larry should tell the lads just to enjoy the match against Arsenal, they could surprise us and win however I would much prefer us to beat QPR.

    • Craig

      @Mikelufc

      Agreed Mike. QPR is by far the most important game and with their recent form it is distinctly winnable. There are also 5 games to play before Arsenal so let’s keep our heads down and grind out league points.