A 95th minute Ross McCormack tap in gave Leeds United the winning start to 2012 they so desperately needed as an injury-fuelled Christmas disaster was put behind us.

Pre-match huddles for both teams added to the sense of drama at Elland Road as fans speculated whether or not this would be Simon Grayson’s final game in charge. Had Charlie Austin buried an early one-on-one attempt with Andy Lonergan, it may have been just that.

Instead, the scores remained level and the first signs that Andros Townsend would be a huge asset to us started to show as Burnley struggled to cope with his blistering pace down the wing.

Already stretched for numbers throughout the team, Simon Grayson was dealt another huge blow after quarter of an hour when Patrick Kisnorbo left the field injured. With so many injuries to the current side, Simon Grayson hadn’t been able to name a defender on the bench so Lloyd Sam came on with Leeds switching young Zac Thompson to full back and Alex Bruce central.

Paddy’s fall from grace has been painful to watch. He seems to have a compulsory blunder in him every game nowadays – which we’d already seen this afternoon. He never seemed to fully recover from the last injury and if this one is as serious as it looked, it could be the end of his Leeds United career.

Apologies if this sounds a little crass but the forced changed actually worked out pretty well for us. Zac Thompson put in a strong performance which should have moved him up the pecking order a little and Alex Bruce had a relatively good game too.

If the performance of our makeshift team wasn’t enough to restore some hope, the sending off of Keiran Trippier certainly was. Booked for an earlier foul on Andros Townsend, the Tottenham Hotspur youngster once again managed to draw a foul from Trippier and in less than 30 minutes of his Leeds United debut, Townsend had managed to get one of Burnley’s key players sent off.

A man down, Burnley responded as expected – by pulling everyone back and defending for their lives. Half time came and went and whilst dominant, Leeds were struggling to break through Burnley’s defence.

Ramon Nunez had a couple of shots from range, Andros Townsend was a revelation on the wing, Zac Thompson looked beyond his years and the usual suspects Adam Clayton and Aidy White looked to be back in form.

But despite some strong individual performances, Leeds couldn’t find a way through and were duly punished on 68 minutes when the defence switched off and Charlie Austin smashed home an opening goal from absolutely nothing.

What should have been a routine defensive move against ten men (make the numbers count, get the ball, fire it back up field) somehow resulted in the opening goal. It was so unexpected I was barely paying attention when it happened, sort of daydreaming, ready to refocus when the ball headed back up the other end.

This is Leeds and we seldom do things the easy way, but I couldn’t help think back to all the other poor showings we’ve had against ten men. We rely heavily on teams coming at us for goals – it opens space up for when we counter and catch them out, and is precisely why we’re often better away from home.

At Elland Road, with or without ten men, teams are often very defensive in their approach and Leeds struggle to break them down and create openings. This is where players like Max Gradel are so important because they drag players about and create gaps for others to exploit – make no mistake, failing to replace him has really cost us this season.

Regardless, Leeds soldiered on. Burnley had a little flurry after the goal sensing Leeds’ weakness and looked to capitalise, but we rode it out and headed back in the opposite direction.

As we approached full time, I genuinely started to wonder whether this would be Simon Grayson’s final bow – speculation has been rife before, but it’s generally just knee-jerk reactions to the bad patches of form every team suffers. Things seemed different this time though. The injury crisis somehow seemed irrelevant, the knives were being sharpened and Simon Grayson had only minutes to save his job – cue the dramatic finish.

If Hollywood had written this ending the goals would have probably been 30 yard screamers, expertly executed by the protagonist whose crisis of confidence led to a dramatic conclusion. But this is England and we do things differently here – a bundled home 88th minute equaliser from Brian Easton is much more fitting.

Leeds were back level and the fourth official indicated for five minutes of added time. The performance had been better than in recent weeks and a draw was certainly better than defeat. Nevertheless, against ten men, we knew Simon Grayson needed another.

As one, The Whites surged forward to throw everything they had left at Burnley’s resilient defence. Zac Thompson struck first, unlucky to see his effort deflected wide. The seconds ticked away and Lloyd Sam struck what was sure to be Leeds’ last chance agonisingly wide of the post.

Tensions heightened with every attempt Burnley made to time waste, but Leeds still managed to carve out one more chance with Andros Townsend’s long range effort spilled by the Burnley keeper and Ross McCormack on hand to turn it home.

Cue the biggest cheer heard inside Elland Road in months and a Jose Mourinho-esque release of tension from Simon Grayson. The relief was palatable, Grayson lived to fight another day, Leeds remained in the play-off running, Ross McCormack was back amongst the goals and Andros Townsend’s début gave us all reason to believe again – unquestionably the man of the match.

Such highs are always short-lived however. A win at home to Burnley merely papers over the cracks but – thanks to the Arsenal distraction – we now have 12 days before our next important game and there is definitely cause for optimism.

By the time we visit Crystal Palace on Saturday the 14th, Tom Lees will be back in the squad, meaning the defence should be stronger. More importantly, Robert Snodgrass will be nearing a return and with the addition of the lighting fast Andros Townsend on the opposite wing, we’ve effectively doubled our creative options.

Lady Luck shone brightly on us today, but that shouldn’t overshadow the definite improvement we saw. It feels like a corner has been turned and that better times lie ahead. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I really feel we can push on from here – that our recent run was merely a bad patch of form, a giant hurdle we had to overcome to reach the promised land.

Happy New Year all. On and on…

  • Matthew

    An improvement but not something that would fill me with confidence that our fortunes are changing, good that Grayson is looking at other options and isn’t so stupid after all, after all if people aren’t performing drop them and put someone else in.

  • dhoward1

    I thought it was a decent enough performance but the important thing was getting the 3 points today, imagine the dressing room if we lost to 10 men!? We still need to make some signings but Townsend was fantastic, all Burnley could do was foul him. He will be perfect for Snoddy as teams will have to double up on both flanks not just on Snoddy. Well played Zak too, disappointed we didn’t get to see him play in his prefered center mid position but he was great. Clayton and Bruce also had good game, hopefully Ross can kick on and get scoring again now too, he needs to start as he is much more of a goal threat than Becchio is at the minute. Do we go into the market for another striker now Keough has gone?

    • TSS

      @dhoward1 Not sure what we’ll do up front. More injuries to defence means that will be the priority and the Howson situation has to be revisited too because he’s a huge loss.

      Agree on Zac Thompson, he was second only to the sensational Townsend. And you’re right, teams will have to double up on both him and Snodgrass which should create space in the middle leaving Clayton and Nunez free to capitalise. Funny how much of a difference one player can make, but I sense it’ll be a huge life to several players as it’ll give them more room to operate.

    • Matthew

      @dhoward1

      Speaking of 3 points, interesting glitch on the Doncaster website, in the live scores table, shows us in 6th place with 41 points, Southampton down to 3rd, West Ham 1st etc. Odd. Matchlive or whatever the serivice is called with some wishful thinking :P

  • dhoward1

    I thought it was a decent enough performance but the important thing was getting the 3 points today, imagine the dressing room if we lost to 10 men!? We still need to make some signings but Townsend was fantastic, all Burnley could do was foul him. He will be perfect for Snoddy as teams will have to double up on both flanks not just on Snoddy. Well played Zak too, disappointed we didn’t get to see him play in his prefered center mid position but he was great. Clayton and Bruce also had good game, hopefully Ross can kick on and get scoring again now too, he needs to start as he is much more of a goal threat than Becchio is at the minute. Do we go into the market for another striker now Keough has gone?

  • Dewsbury White

    We got lucky today, very lucky. The lack of quality in the team was blatant.

  • mojoluafc

    It was pretty painful today, burnley were down to 10 and we had a little go then they scored. Sam was infective on the right,Paddy`s injury was a blessing and why he brought Forsell on i dont know. We had nothing in the middle and why oh why at 1-0 down did we keep passing it along the back 4. This win unfortunately only paints over the cracks in our team. 3pts more away from relegation i suppose.

  • Col

    A very lucky three points today will keep Grayson in his job but all the win will do is paper over the cracks. Everything went in our favour today. Had it not been for Burnley’s failure to punish yet another Kisnorbo calamity and a very harsh sending off, then surely Grayson would be history. He must be thanking his lucky stars! It’ll take more than one lucky win for me to regain my confidence in grayson. I personally would still sack him. It’s not a witch-hunt. I just have no confidence in him.

    • Matthew

      @Col

      Personally I think we can win our next 4 league games if only because the 4 upcoming games are against average teams, and on paper should be able to take 12 points from this. Obviously in my opinion we need another 9 wins to cement a place in the playoffs, and should we get 12 points from our next 4 games we’l be ontrack to do just that, and I’ll be absolutely pleased with this. This league is very close at the moment and all we need is the 6th place spot to book our chance at promotion.

      Obviously we’l need to strengthen the team but my faith in this manager will be restored somewhat if we can beat 4 average teams back to back.

    • graysonisclueless

      @Col

      Nice to see that there are other who can see things as they really are and not as we wish.

  • Gryff

    To me what this shows us is that we have a better team than we think we do when we’re losing, and a worse team than we think when we’re winning. We play the same XI every match (with the occasional change in defenders or up front) and seem to think even if those players are our best, they’ll always perform like it. Clayton wasn’t able to get a sniff when BJ/Kilkenny were here but I’m sure plenty of fans would take him over the latter at least. This is why squad rotation is important, to keep players on their toes and to see if someone out of teh XI for a while can perform well enough.

    And that’s not an anti-Grayson rant. But we have good squad players and I’m glad we’ve all found that youngsters can play. There’s an old saying I know from cricket: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.” The youngsters might make mistakes but so do most of our older backup players: that’s why they’re backup.

    We’ve far from stopped the rot though. Grayson can say what he likes and it’s hard not to be happy for someone whose job was obviously on the line, but our problems haven’t been solved. Even with Townsend it took two defensive mistakes for us to score. In Football Manager the answer was always the 6ft3 Tomas Necid – and while that was not serious, I reckon we do need a big lad who can throw his weight around when teams set their stalls out to defend.

    Speaking of defence: it’s so bloody unfair O’Neill has gone to Sunderland. Now Kilgallon’s getting games again. There goes our chance of a Premiership quality centre-back this Jan…

  • BarneyWhite

    quality (townsend) won us the game today – without him they would have had 11 on the pitch given recent performances probably won. It is sad that we have to rely on short term loan deals for players we can never hope to sign permanently but we just have to live with it. If Bates can do right by the club and bring in two or three quality players we still have a chance this season. Thompson looked good and nice to see Bruce back.

  • Tyler75

    87 mins we’re adrift in mid-table and looking at the bottom rather than the top of the table and possibly for a new Manager – at 95mins we’re back in the play-off mix. Season’s turn on a lot less. A few more quality additions like Townsend will allow us to push on in what is a very average league this season. Connolly looks like he’s played his last game for us so a quality right-back is top of the list; Lichaj would be perfect. Thompson looks like another diamond waiting to be polished by a run in the first team but an experienced creative, central midfielder who can provide momentum would be a big plus: Bullard or Andrews would be very decent options. Also Adam Hammill doesn’t seem to be getting much game time with Wolves. If anybody comes in with a decent bid for Becchio, on current form, I’d take the money.

  • Dale S

    The only person to my mind that could fill howson’s place (in CDM), and take the captains armband and drive Leeds forward through passion is Alan Smith. I also get a feeling its building to that. Bates and grayson always chelp on about having a wage cap, but graysons latetest statement.. …

    “If we want to bring in the quality players, and that is from the higher divisions, then they are on big wages. So whether you are getting them on free transfers and paying their wages or on loan deals, where your still paying good wages, we will try and spend the money wisely what we have available”

    To me that screams smithy, and or breaking the wage cap and to be honsest could be one of graysons few good moves ever, along with Townsend!

    • Tyler75

      @Dale S It could also be Keith Andrews – who has been linked with us in the past and is on ‘premiership’ wages

      • Dale S

        @Tyler75 true

    • number1inyorkshire

      @Dale S please do not say we need smith we do not keith andrews maybe but not smith

  • number1inyorkshire

    some quality today made the difference .it was interesting to see mccormack run and show his name to grayson ,which is what he did ,he has to play .

    looks like we are loosing forsell and keogh was alright but no end product so leave him were he is ..

    so we need someone to play in a strikers role with mccormack sadly he and becchio can not play together .

    well done Zac Thompson another diamond smoothed out to sell ,i would let Monty Gimple have a go too in defence .

    we do though need to buy rather than loan as we will be back in the same situation when they go back .

    Bruce did ok but paddy is shot as a 1st choice .

    grayson said he is in no rush to strengthen but last week he said he was and in fact has missed out on 2or 3 this week ,its that indecision that is and will be his down fall .no league match for 2 weeks nearly alright there is the cup but its a good match to get beat and move on with the league ..

    it was a must win and by the skin of his teeth he managed it ,loosing would have cost grayson his job in all probability it is only a stay of execution ,and the singing of graysons name from the stands was more a fingers up to bates than a thumbs up to grayson .

    one swallow will not make the summer and this win much needed as it was will need to kick start a run of epic proportions with others failing in recent weeks we seem as far off as we we ever was from automatic promotion .

    well done today to the few Zac Thompson ,Andros Townsend and mccormack lets hope we can go on that run with a few quality additions its possible ,momentum often gets teams promoted .we could have been guilty of peaking too early the last 3 seasons lets hope we will peak in May starting now

  • Irving08

    Frankly I thought for most of the match I was watching two pretty ordinary teams, the Spurs boy and Austin (oh Austin !) excepted …and I still think so. But we won, and for a boozy hour or so afterwards, the world looked great. Nunez merits a proper run in the side. He can play with the Spurs lad and has the footwork to make most defenders in this division look foolish. Pity about Brucey – I thought he did try to pass the ball on the ground for most of the game. What to do about Macca ?

  • graysonisclueless

    An own goal and an extra time goal whist welcome for the 3 points we gained don’t alter the fact that larry is way out of his depth and remains clueless, he should have bought a lottery ticket today and rode his luck.

  • graysonisclueless

    Oh! and forgot to say that I am now convinced tss is on drugs.

  • DubaiWhite

    Lucky, very lucky! We scored two in the last minutes of the game and won at home to… 10-men Burnley! We should remember it was Burnley and we are still 8 in the table plus that we can hardly score goals any more. Since scoring two good goals against Millwall one month ago we have only scored in a 95 minute penalty against Watford, a 92 minute consolidition against Barnsley. We lost three games in a row against teams that were below us in the table during Xmas period; before that SG was “speculating” in a happy Xmas period against “weaker” opponents and we came up without a single point.

    It seems to me that we are in a position where we will remain, mid-table. Of course I hope I am wrong, and every single game I hope for a change and winning games straight out but that almost never happen. We are to easy to defend against, and we continue the three year saga of giving aways soft goals. We have not improved from last season.

    Now I hope for a miracle, this being that KB open up the wallet and recruit some quaity players, since that is our only way out of this. Townsend is one step in the right direction but 2-3 more must follow or else we can prepare ourselves for many years in the Championship (at best). Somebody must convince KB (and SG?) that the only way up is by investing in new player by paying market prices and, more important, pay market salaries to keep good players and attract new!

  • number1inyorkshire

    @graysonisclueless i actually go to games all of em at home and have done for 30 years missed only 2/3 home games in that time and went to many ,many ,many away so what you ask ,then i will tell you .

    I blame simon grayson for this mess ,he blames himself for this mess he admits it ,i hear plenty of ramblings at E R so to say it doesn’t happen is completely wrong ,alright its not shouted from the stands but had we lost yesterday there would have been booing like there has been many times this season ,and on the way back to cars there would have been discussions .

    As he says he bought that team, A team that cost far less outclassed us on boxing day he should man up and take the blame .the playing side is his responsibility .

    ohh i forgot he is a fan ,F off he is the manager and gets paid shed loads to do that

  • fuckoffagain

    @graysonisclueless

    Must be something in the water down there that prevents you from seeing the blindingly obvious….

  • Captaincrash

    To be positive for a moment the White/Townsend link up play down the left was really impressive and when Snoddy comes back on the right we will have a threat from both flanks. That’s all!

  • number1inyorkshire

    was that kasper ankergren with a wig ,she has to have been on the take, that said expect her in a leeds shirt soon

    • Matthew

      @number1inyorkshire

      Scary thing is, 20 secs into the video she made the same mistake Rachubka has done multiple times in the league that cost us games.

      • number1inyorkshire

        over the years and i have been probably to a couple of thousand matches actually more like 3000 if you include world cups ,euros and other matches England matches and other league matches ,i have seen worse ,its a lonely life when you are a keeper ,2 of my sons play in goal and my pal played there for leeds he once let loads in ,.

        we have had some bad ones though you have to laugh cheers matt

  • Tyler75

    Panic over – Barndoor Billy is back !

    I got a text from my Brighton supporting mate after they had beaten Southampton that said he didn’t think the day could have got any better, then he heard that Billy had been sent back to Leeds. One shot on goal in his entire time on loan was his entire contribution.

    • Matthew

      @Tyler75

      To be fair, most of the games he started in, 1 shot was the most Brighton had ALL game. At least on target anyway. That’s with Craig M Smith playing.

  • Mark45

    We won, 3 points and Townsend looks a class apart at this level – thats the positive bit and hopefully there are a few more 3 points to come in January.

    Lets not get carried away though, I am still a long way from being convinced this squad is good enough or that Grayson has the skill and gravitas to fix it. I am really concerned (again) at Graysons likely transfer strategy in January i.e. loan players. I appreciate he has a budget to work with however so does every other manager, this continual reliance on loanees is short term, papers over the cracks of an inadequate squad and simply defers the problem to the summer, then the following January and so on and so on.

    I would much rather see the younger players already at the club given a chance supported by a couple of permanent quality signings. Why send the young lad Taylor out on loan when our defence simply couldn’t get any worse. The two reasons i have little faith in Grayson is his lack of any sort of long term team strategy and his really really poor record in the transfer market. Yes, Townsend looks like a real class act at this level however when we start to eulogize how this one player (after only one game) could be the saviour of our season it illustrates just how fragile Graysons strategy and his “players and team” really are.

    In the summer Leeds will loose a big chunk of the current squad, then will rely on who is a free agent or available for loan to put a team together for next season. It may cleanse the team of some deadwood each summer, unfortunately Graysons track record on transfers suggests thats what he will fill it up with again. I understand the Bates wont spend serious money argument, where i take issue with Grayson is how he chooses to spend the budget he does have.

    If Leeds don’t get promoted this season (we wont) the current first team squad contracted to Leeds for 2012/13 would be:

    Lonergan, Connolly, O’Brien, Paynter, Becchio, Rachubka, Clayton, Pugh, Núñez, Lees, Snodgrass, Bromby, Somma, Thompson, Taylor and McCormack. Its debatable how many of these players will be moved on too, the reality is we are then back to square 1 in trying to put a competitive “squad” together, that is not just down to Bates, it is Graysons failing too.

    Bates needs to go, he is a fraud and a liar and doesn’t give two hoots for our club. Unfortunately he isn’t going anywhere soon. Where many of you may disagree is that Grayson needs to go too. He clearly has a love and passion for Leeds, the problem is he constantly relies on short term fixes, doesn’t invest the budget he has in the long term progress of the team and simply isn’t good enough to get the job done.

  • jimmyoneeye

    Yes they had 10 men but we battered em 2nd half and deserved the win, nothing lucky about it, it was 2 bookings. We have had a bad run and looked low on confidence but i dont think anyone can fault the effort put in yesterday by the players. We do need a decent experienced centre back yes but there arent that many around, but when Lees, Somma, Howson and Snoddy r back im convinced the squad is good enough for a strong finish.

  • Irving08

    @graysonisclueless

    Come on Oxford, raise your game.

  • Irving08

    I share some of your reservations about Nunez but, in the absence of Howson, I see no alternative to showing a little faith in him, and see if a run takes some of the nervousness out of his game. He is capable of the unexpected and that is a quality not to be underestimated in what seems this year to be a sub-standard Division. I agree with your comment on booting the ball up field; regrettable the one striker we had (Keogh) who is totally comfortable with the ball at his feet has now departed. I wonder how hard Sg thought about seling Becchio to, say, the ‘Boro, in order to finance Keogh ? Oddly – to my mind – Keogh was not played as a lone front man: a case of stereotypical thinking on the collective managments’ part, perhaps ? Being a good bloke (though Mrs G may not agree !) and a Leeds fan are not necessary, let alone sufficient conditions for manging our club.

    • Irving08

      New Year’s resolution: to ditch the vari-focals !

  • Home rule for Yorkshire

    Still buzzing after SG’s dramatic late escape, I eventually fell asleep in a happy frame of mind last night. I dreamed of a bright and sunny day in late May and Simon Grayson leading the team out at Wembley in front of 40,000 cheering Yorkshiremen. Maybe, just maybe.

    Happy new year Leeds fans everywhere. You’re the salt of the earth and I’m proud to be numbered amongst you.

  • Captaincrash

    @NottsWhite Agree re Becchio being starved of support and service (sevice until yesterday when crosses were coming in for once). I accept he’s not at his best but he deserves closer support for sure.

  • Richard Luafc Gray

    Grayson lives on………..JUST!!!.

  • The Scratching Shed

    Wouldn’t be Leeds if we did it the easy way.

  • Richard Luafc Gray

    Lets be honest,we were poor today,Townsend made a big difference. Im mojoluafc by the way. :)

  • Bob Ghosh

    Great piece of writing. I didn’t make it to ER today, but this seems to capture the drama and importance of today’s game. Like others I’m looking forward to Townsend and Snoddy terrorising defences

  • Gary Noble

    Got to agree with above, townsend brought new life and clayton dare i say was improved to recent weeks. Look forward to townsend and snoddy running riot. I admit i was a howson doubter but it cant be a coincidence that since his injury we have been shite! Hope grayson makes some decent signings this time. MOT

  • Gary Noble

    Not that today was a good performance, grayson has his work cut out but i dont think sacking him is gonna help things it will just unsettle things even more, lets just see where we are at the end of the season. (Always the optimist) MOT

  • Kevin Frain

    Townsend did what I,ve been wanting White to do for ages…White had a great game too…..run at defences like them two did, and the cards will be out in spades ( see what I did )…..free kicks or men sent off, we’ll take both.

  • The Scratching Shed

    Gary Noble – Howson is the engine of the team, it’s just easy to overlook him when he’s not filling the more glamorous AM role Leeds fans love to see him in. The problem is, we have no one else to tie things together in central midfield so Howson can’t enjoy the freedom he once did. I suspect we brought Michael Brown in to do what Howson has done so far this season, but when he failed to perform Larry was forced into the current situation.

  • Gary Noble

    Totally agree tss, imagine our midfield with howson, snoddy, clayton (in form), townsend and white/pugh! Gives me the chills lol, but who would be the lone ranger up front? Mcormack is no good by himself and becchio is a shadow of his former self, even if we play howson more defensively in a 4-4-2 im not sure a becchio/mcormack partnership will work. And the defence ……. keep up the good work tss, MOT

  • Loiner

    A dose of realism, i don’t think we’ve turned a corner. The team is still easily beatable and will be all season. Whether or not we have the quality to put a decent run together over 10 games will determine if we go into the pay offs, and i’d say that play-offs are distant dream. Do you honestly think Leeds will come ahead of Reading, Blackpool and Hull?