With just an outside chance of making the play-offs, Simon Grayson shuffled his pack as Ross McCormack fired the only goal in a 1-0 win against Burnley.

Grayson dropped Robert Snodgrass to the bench and started with a 4-4-2 formation with McCormack partnering Billy Paynter up front and Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson in wide positions. George McCartney came back in at left back with Eric Lichaj on the right. The central defensive partnership remained the same while Jake Livermore was dropped as Neil Kilkenny came back in to partner Jonny Howson in midfield.

After Billy Paynter had fired narrowly wide and had a header denied magnificently by Brian Jensen and Kasper Schmeichel took one for the team, blocking Michael Duff’s shot with his face, Leeds took the lead. Bradley Johnson played a through ball to Ross McCormack who timed his run to perfection, ran through on goal and slotted past Jensen for his first goal for Leeds. He celebrated with a Leeds salute in front of the Kop.

The Whites had spent the half looking remarkably assured, passing it well in midfield and coping well defensively. We held out to half time with the lead intact.

The second half started reasonably and there was a fair amount of positivity amongst the 31000 inside Elland Road who were urging Leeds on to extend their lead. Billy Paynter could have gone someway to improving his image with the fans but, after heading straight at Jensen with one chance, he then rounded the ‘keeper only to hit the side netting.

With Leeds dominating and Burnley struggling to get into the game it started to get feisty. Three high challenges in a matter of seconds ended with Gradel being kung-fu kicked at head height. A brawl broke out which somehow ended in two Leeds players, Kilkenny and Lichaj, being booked while only the original offender, McCann, was booked for Burnley when there may have been a case for a red card. Looking back at it, the only thing that Kilkenny and Lichaj did that the other fifteen or so players involved didn’t was get there first. Either way, it set Leeds up with a free-kick in a wide position.

Following the free-kick Leeds had an extended spell of pressure with a number of chances. Andy O’Brien connected well with a header from the initial free-kick but it was straight at Jensen, while not long after the ‘keeper was called on again, getting down to his bottom corner brilliantly to tip a deflected Ross McCormack shot round the post.

As the half wore on, Burnley were pressing us further back and for a while our passing game deserted us as we reverted to long balls to relieve some of the pressure. We were defending well and restricting the visitors to long efforts but they did come close on a couple of occasions. Youngster Jack Cork fired a 30 yard effort just wide of the top corner and then Schmeichel was forced to save acrobatically from a free-kick.

Simon Grayson made two late substitutions bringing Sanchez Watt on for Max Gradel and then, in the dying minutes, Leigh Bromby on for Ross McCormack to see the game out. Both departing players received deserved standing ovations. Watt could have wrapped up the win but, after good footwork around the area, fired over with one chance and then wide with another.

Overall it was a well-deserved win but it should have been by a greater margin. It was a really good performance, both defensively and going forward and it shows that there may be hope for the future of 4-4-2 at Leeds United.

It’s hard to pick out outstanding individuals from such a great team performance but Ross McCormack was impressive throughout, taking his goal well and working hard for the team while we saw yet more of the same high standard from Max Gradel. Kilkenny was a welcome addition to the midfield and performed very well while Aston Villa loan man, Eric Lichaj, continues to look solid and tireless in defence.

Despite the win there remains only the slimmest mathematical chance of clinching sixth place and it would require Leeds beating QPR and Nottingham Forest losing with a six goal swing. It’s looking extremely unlikely, leaving a bittersweet taste at the end of a good match. There’s also some sadness at the fact that this may have been the last time we see many of today’s side playing at Elland Road with loan players, Kilkenny and Johnson looking likely to depart and rumours of a cash-in on Schmeichel. Let’s just hope we can build a team that can push us just that little bit further next season.

  • Jonathan Peel

    I thought Johnson was pretty top yesterday as well. He won the ball a LOT, his pass for the goal was amazing and showed really good vision, and he won his fair share of headers. Whatever some people think of him I think we’ll miss him next season, will we find someone who can replace him?
    Also, McCormack and Becchio partnership next season, you heard it here first :)
    McCormack’s play yesterday was a lot like Beckford’s used to be, and the goal looked like it gave him a massive boost.

  • Threadoflength

    I was really impressed by McCormack in that game, and Billy Paynter seemed much less hopeless with a striking parter up front… signs of what could have been prehaps?

  • number1inyorkshire

    many will leave ,and now its over the playoffs, its time now to start and build.
    Ross mcormack will be our front line striker next season with becchio or paynter its time now to start as we mean to go on .we will miss Johnson and killkenny , should they leave ,i feel the latter might stay .
    O’Brien will probably be our captain next season ????.
    Kasper ,snodders ,howson ,Johnson ,higgs naylor ? ,will be gone ,bessone ? maybe Parker maybe ,of all the loans lichaj should be kept .
    we would have taken 7th i guess but any thing less than that now next season will be tough, so we should be defo looking to the play offs no excuse about consolidation .To get that we need to bring in someone to help grayson aidy boothroyd for me to come back as assistant .
    QUALITY ,QUALITY ,QUALITY

    • Loki

      I sense a touch of catastrophic thinking here, I certainly don’t see as many players leaving as you do.

      Howson isn’t going to leave, and there’s two good reasons for this. Firstly, it’s still debatable if he’s capable of playing in the Premiership – let’s not forget he does have a lot of games where he goes missing and also he seems incapable of working in a four man midfield which is fairly damning. Secondly he’s a Leeds lad and loves the club so if he was going to move on it would have to something extremely tempting, and I don’t see the bottom half of the Premiership tempting him enough.

      Snodgrass is the most likely for me, that said as good as he is to us I don’t think he’s ever going to be quick enough to make it as a Premier League Winger.

      Kasper – If you’re going to bring in Kieran Westwood and you can get good money for Kasper I’d take it. Might sound daft but as good as he is he’s a highly saleable asset, it might be the case that someone will offer us more money than we can sensibly turn down.

      Johnson, he’s going. I don’t think we should be too down about this, at the end of the day he’s our defensive midfielder and we still let in a bucketload when he plays well. I will miss him though, but I think we can buy better (naive?).

      One you didn’t mention is Gradel, I think it’s either Snoddy or Gradel who will leave. Both are brilliant at this level but Gradel scores more goals, let’s also not forget that Snoddy didn’t score at home this season. If I was a PL Manager I’d take a punt on him, but I don’t think we need the money that much to get rid of both.

      The other thing to consider about these potential sales is that Ken Bates or whoever owns the club have just spent a lot of money redeveloping the East Stand upper, the only part of the stadium that isn’t used. Of course the reason it isn’t used is because we don’t get the crowds in the Championship to justify opening it and potentially losing money on stewarding etc. What I’m getting at here is fairly obvious – They haven’t spent money redeveloping it if they don’t think they’re going to use it, they’re clearly planning on getting promoted. You only have to listen to what Ken’s said in the past for weeks to know that. Basically I don’t see a fire sale of the first team squad for this reason, unless we’re going to bring in better.

  • Ed Tierney

    I don’t see why you’re all so worried that everyone is going to leave.
    The only players that I can see giving in to the lure of a premier league club are becchio and snodgrass.
    All this talk of schmiechel, gradel and howson leaving is rubbish. Kasper wants to finish his job here first (its who he is – he went to Notts County for christ’s sake!) by getting us into the premiership, gradel is far too inconsistent and I don’t think any premier league clubs would take a gamble on him yet and howson is leeds through and through – he battles well and works hard but is he technically good enough for a premiership team looking to move forward?
    The bottom line is that Bates has convinced me that we’re not a selling club and we don’t NEED the money. The East stand development isn’t about getting into the premier league, its about investing in bars, hotels etc so that we have a much bigger income off the pitch.
    So much as though I believe that there is a chance of becchio and snoddy leaving, I think only one of them will be sold and becchio will cost far too much considering hes on such a long contract so my prediction is that only snodgrass and some of the fringe players will go (plus obviously johnson who we can’t agree a contarct with).

  • captaincrash

    Fair play to Johnson yesterday, he had a great game. As did McCormack and I agree he (and not Somma) is the one to partner Becchio (hopefully still)next term.

  • Dan H

    McCormack is proven at championship levels, scored over 20 goals for Cardif couple of seasons ago, if he stays fit he will be a key player next term, technically he’s the best we have.
    Cashing in on Kasper may not be a bad idea but only if we can replace him with Westwood as he is easily premiership class.
    Two new center backs and an experienced defensive midfielder who never goes further than the half way line is what we need next season, get them then i’m cnfident 4-4-2 will work, Becchio will love McCormack, how many crosses did McCormack land on useless Billys head? Becchio would have buried the chances Bill had.
    Would like to see us try keep Lichaj, he will only get better

  • Mark R

    Yep.

    A real shame McCormack – the only experienced striker on our books at Championship level – had to wait until the penultimate game of the season, for a place in the starting 11.

    He looked sharp and hungry. He really should have started many more matches, especially after the investment.

    It’s all past now. Hopefully SG & the coaching team will learn the lessons of this season.

    MOT

  • henryv

    Thank you TSS.
    I really enjoyed the game. Beautiful weather and a noisy crowd.
    Johnson was fantastic.
    He got stuck in and led by example.
    I rate McCormack very highly, having watched him many times in the reserves.
    He has great control of the ball and he is strong and a battler. Two good feet for a change.
    Strong enough to stop Max from taking the free kicks and penalties!!
    That ball he drilled in for Billy to head was pure Peter Lorimer!
    Jonny was fired up too and played very well.
    The closing down in midfield, which has been missing for most of the season was pleasing to the eye.
    The defence were sound, although McCartney still got caught out too many times.
    We need a big centre-half who can dominate the high ball (and the low one).
    A great team performance and the fans were top notch once again!!
    I think we will keep our best contracted players, but silly money would make a difference.
    I would be very surprised if Simon has not got 6 players lined up for next season already.

  • Tim Wilsom

    Ross looked hungry and genuinely enthusiastic,something lacking lately, shame he was given his chance so late on. Good game, we were picking pockets all over the park . In typical Leeds fashion we’ll prolly thump QPR 5-0 an miss out on playoffs by 1 goal. My money’s on Kasper to scum

  • Erwin Watters

    As a Leeds Supporter for over 40 years I would like to point out one topic that has been missed. Looking back Leeds scraped promotion to the Championship leaving it to the last game of the season after being comfortably ahead entering the second half of the season. The same thing happened this season. Why? I think the coaching staff may be to blame. Motivating players could be the issue. Two seasons same result in the second half. We were lucky last season in my opinion.

  • kev

    I thought the front two yesterday looked very good,maybe we’ve been trying to accomodate snodders in the side when we should of gone 4,4,2,in a few more games,abit of leadership in naylor has been good to see,i also don’t share this view that alot of players will go,think snodders might,like to sign lichaj but send McCartney back he’s been crap all season !!

  • Bradders my MOM I am also very worried that Bates will be happy to cash in and there are many rumours that Max, Snods & Kasper already have deals done. While cashing in may not be a bad thing my biggest worry is that the cash will go the way of the Delph money with pennies spent on replacements.

  • Will23

    Well done to McCormack and Paynter but also Johnson & Kilkenny – not a sentence that has been written too often this season.

    Difficult to credit Grayson given the injuries up front, and he still looks like a manager not in control of things.

    That said, a good team performance spoiled only by the wayward lack of composure in the penalty box.

    It was a good way to sign off the home season.

    I still think the vocal support for Grayson was misplaced. It remains to be seen how well he handles the purse strings this summer. It is still difficult to be optimistic.

  • Bubionwhite

    Erwin … I’ve been saying the same thing about the coaching team on some other websites for a while now. Glynn Snoddin was an average player and it appears that he has not improved much in his coaching role … and some of his colleagues fall into the same category. However, SG must have appointed them, and if so, he has to have the guts to replace them and should ask KB to book a flight on the next plane to South Africa and appoint Lucas Radebe as defensive coach, and who was, in my opinion, the most gifted central defender in my 50 years of following the club.

    Number1inyorkshire has probably picked the perfect assistant for SG … Aidy Boothroyd. Could be a dream partnership, Clough and Taylor?

    Next season the club will need a good strike force and whilst the argument continues about the best combination … McCormack, Becchio and Somma would be my choice and I think Billy should stick to being a Paynter. However, whatever the combination is, it will continue to depend on the service they get from midfield and the present incumbents just aren’t good enough … time to try the young guns such as Clayton, Nunez, White and perhaps Bruce.

    Agree with DanH about Lichaj but the rest of the defence has got to be subject to change … we need a couple of players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet, ala Woodgate and Ferdinand.

    Sorry for the rant … Im gutted!

    • A lot of people have tipped Radebe for a defensive coaching role but I think there was a worry that if he was to join then, as soon as results start going poorly, there’ll be a temptation to change and give him the manager’s job. Similar thing with Boothroyd. Do we want managers in waiting behind the scenes?

      I’d love to see Lucas join the club in some capacity but there are certain players whose reputations are better remaining spotless. Also, there’s no guarantee Lucas would solve our defensive problems – great player yes, but is he a great coach?

      As far as ball playing defenders go, well they’re rare and don’t come cheap. Not even that many Premier League clubs have defenders who look totally comfortable on the ball.

  • Richard

    Just wondering if anyone knows if Patrick Kisnorbo is going to get a new deal? I’d like to see him get a chance in the championship if he can get fit. As for the rest I still think we need at least two new full backs and one centre half. We’re okay up front but as everyone said last season a holding, ball winning midfielder is essential.

  • henryv

    Simon said recently on LUTV that Paddy was back training and would be training in the close season.
    If he proved his fitness he would be offered a new contract.

  • Ron

    Farewell Snoddy, Gradel and Kasper.

    The bottom line is this: If Bates does not allow the construction of an Auto-promotion squad in the summer, I will fly to Monaco and pull out his silver pubes with tweezers.

    We blew it this year by being miserly when we needed to buy defenders in the January transfer window.

    Once again the support of the fans was the highlight. MOT

  • Ron

    Farewell Snoddy, Gradel and Kasper.

    The bottom line is this: If Bates does not allow the construction of an Auto-promotion squad in the summer, I will fly to Monaco and pull out his silver pubes with tweezers.

    We blew it this year by being miserly when we needed to buy defenders in the January transfer window.

    Once again the support of the fans was the highlight this year. MOT

  • CJ

    History suggests even if Kisnorbo is “fit” then it won’t be long before he breaks down again.
    When we signed him, he’d just returned from a long-term injury so we knew what we were getting.
    Personally, I wouldn’t touch him with a barge-pole. It’s not worth the risk.
    His performances for Leeds are totally over-rated. Does anybody remember Swindon away last season? He had an absolute stinker of a game!!!

  • Herbman

    We’ve blown it. Play-offs should have been a cert. No investment at Xmas, same story as last year, poor defence and no central defensive midfielder.SG must have known this was the priority and not loads of attacking midfielders/strikers.

    As for yesterday, at least they put in a good show, but if Paynter was any good we could have won by 4 or 5 and still be in with a chance on the final game. He is slow, gives up easily, weak at shooting. As well as the defence, Paynter and McCormack 40 appearances and 2 goals, Somma minimal appearances lately and 12 or so goals.

    Everyone raves about Howson, but again he disappeared for a lot of the game, not convinced, sorry.

    Just got a bad feeling about next season, i cannot see KB investing that much in the squad, 3 big teams coming down, plus 3 from the play-offs, Hull, Leicester, Burnley, Middlesborough, Brigthon (well organised), Southampton. If SG could not find any decent defenders in 2 seasons why is going to this summer!!

    Hopefully i will be wrong.

  • Irving08

    7th is a bad position in which to have finished because it might cause the management to think that all we need is a bit of ‘fine tuning’ to get into them next season. On the other hand, Grayson is plainly in state of some shock at not making the play-offs, whatever nonsense he talks about remits etc(in itself depressingly reminiscent of O’Blimey). I am afraid to say that I foresee only more confusion in the coming months, aggravated by uncertainty over contracts and exits. My fear is that if we lose Snoddy, Gradel and Johnson, who overall were our best players this season, we will struggle next to challenge for honours unless compensating big funds are made available to buy Premier-level players. This is the biggest challenge of Simon Grayson’s career. I hope for all our sakes he can now raise his game to the level required of managing the only football team in England’s third largest and second most prosperous city with a marvellous support and an illustrious (if chequered) history. It’s a big ask, put like that…..

  • Ron

    Spot on Irving08. This was a fuck up and I hope SG and Ken acknowledge it as such. Losing games to the Blades and Palace were clear signs something was not right. We dropped our bundle, despite having one of the biggest squads in the division. I think SG has his heart in the right place, but there are a few big name managers out there who would love a shot with a team like Leeds. Is Bates and his tight-ass the reason they might not come? Probably.

  • number1inyorkshire

    firstly when we talk about getting LUCAS into be a defensive coach ,WHY!!!!!!!!!! grayson was a defender all his career surely as overall manager he should be good enough to take defensive training .

    i bet norwich this morning are not talking about we were only supposed to be consolidating this season ,they have smaller crowds ,less money and probably a smaller squad in a city at the end of the world (if you have ever tried to get there LOL)and now with foresight ,forward thinking ,ambition and a fantastic manager they are in the prem .
    well done to them ,send the manual to bates and grayson

  • Irving08

    Spot on No 1. And does anyone seriously think a small town, Yorkie trio of Grayson/Snodin/Redfearn have what it takes to lift a European-level, big city football club to the Premier league and beyond ?. The question only needs posing, to find the obvious answer. (No offence should be taken by any supporters from small, Yorkie towns – but I am sure you know what I mean.) We are Leeds, for God’s sake. Allardyce, Poyet, even O’Neil – where are you ?

    • A lot of people have mentioned those managers’ names.

      But do you really think we could afford to pay the wages of Allardyce and O’Neill? Everyone will have their opinions on entertainment vs success but would you really want to put up with the awful football someone like Allardyce would bring?

      As far as Poyet is concerned, he’s a promising young manager and I could see him at Leeds in the future but at the moment, has he really achieved that much more than Grayson? He may well go on to great things but right now he’s just a bigger name because of his playing career.

      • Irving08

        Harold Wilkinson wasn’t my style, but it brought us promotion, which for me is the only thing that matters. We can discuss ‘style’ when we are in the Premiership. Poyet has achieved more than Grayson – he won the League and did it in a style you (and I) would approve. He also brings much more football capital to the table – Uruguay and Chelsea, for example; and he is articulate. I would have him over Simon (and Allardyce) tomorrow.

  • Matt BB

    I cant believe people are tlaking about getting rid of grayson. Yes we have had our problems this season defensively, but on paper all of our defensive signings were good ones, and the positivie news is that Kisnorbo looks like he is back for next season.

    All that aside we had a tough run-in against sides who had something to play for, be it survival or otherwise.

    I found our performance at Swansea and that at Millwall to be the most disappointing, but please stop pointing the finger at Grayson, he can only work with what he’s given, hes shown a ruthless streak in getting shut of Collins and Bessone, and even sending Naylor to the bench for most of the season, so he knows very well where his problems lie, but effective defences are hard to build, especially when the board wont back you with significant amounts of money.

    As said I thought Bessone, Collins, O’Brien all looked decent players, but they all seem to have come with baggage of some sort, and seem prone to make mistakes.

    The pressure on Norwich is far less than on us, that has to have a bearing on matters. They also dont have our dreadful credit rating so they can borrow to invest in the squad.

  • henryv

    Norwich hurts!
    Simon will be our manager next season so speculation about others is a waste of time.
    If we go well he will be fine.
    If not…………
    Simon said they had made mistakes, so we will see how he puts it right.
    He will be very busy in the close season, and I am looking forward to seeing how serious we are this time around!

  • Tyler 75

    Interesting that Nayls comes back in for three games and we only concede 1 goal after shipping shedloads all season – just a shame that we stopped scoring ! I’m less convinced its his defensive ability that made the difference than his leadership. Whoever SG gets in to replace Bradley and Killa in midfield, we have to bring in some proven experience/leadership.
    Delighted with McCormack, I wish SG would have had more bottle and played him against Palace.