Rodolph AustinThe long forgotten passing game returned to Elland Road last night as Leeds United cruised to a 1-0 victory over Burnley.

The Whites dominated most of the game, playing short measured passes, retaining possession and patiently trying to create openings. It was easy to see the effect new manager Brian McDermott has had. Known for his forward-thinking training regimes, a strong focus on sports nutrition such as BCAAS and healthy diets, the Leeds United team looked in much better shape physically.

A far cry from the hoofball days of Neil Warnock, Burnley manager Sean Dyche summed up the change;

“That group of players weren’t playing like that two weeks ago. I know because I saw them.”

Despite all the changes, Leeds United extended a run of games without scoring in the first half to 19. The Whites best chance had fallen to Luke Varney who somehow managed to head over the bar from 4 yards when it looked easier to score.

Varney missed another good chance at the start of the second half, but his overall performance can’t be faulted. He looks a player transformed in his new centre-forward role, a tirelessly hard-working individual whose aerial dominance is something Leeds United have missed since the departure of Luciano Becchio.

Meanwhile, Rodolph Austin was playing an absolute blinder. While always strong in the tackle, the Jamaican has taken some criticism in recent weeks for his wayward passing and careless pot-shots, but last night, he looked like the Rudy of old.

The strong tackles and surging runs forward remained, but gone were the forty yard potshots and misplaced passes. Austin’s 63rd minute goal, a well-taken volley which came via an exquisite chip from El-Hadji Diouf, was just reward for his man of the match performance and the perfect finish to an excellent passage of play from the Whites.

Rudy wasn’t alone in upping his game, the entire team did. As a unit they looked cohesive and more comfortable playing the style Brian McDermott has adopted. Every player wanted the ball and was working hard to create space for themselves, giving their team-mates options when in possession. There was no moaning when someone lost the ball either, they simply re-organised and fought to get it back.

Joyfully, the absence of moaning on the pitch seemed to transfer to the stands too where the 16,788 who had bothered to turn up were enjoying the new style of football Brian McDermott was directing. “We’re Leeds United, we’re passing the ball” was sang with so much enthusiasm, the players must surely have taken encouragement from it.

The match wasn’t entirely one-way traffic though, Burnley did enjoy brief spells of sustained pressure towards the end of each half, but this was as comfortable a 1-0 victory as Leeds United have produced in some time.

Changes to personnel and the style of play certainly helped matters, but the biggest contributing factor to this win was Leeds United’s togetherness. In five short days, Brian McDermott has replaced hunched shoulders, frustrated sighs and dropped heads with an enthusiasm and self-belief we’ve lacked in recent months. The players looked to be enjoying themselves, and most importantly, the crowd was too.

There’s work to be done of course. We still lack creativity, width and could use a heavy-hitter upfront. But these are areas to be addressed in the summer, for now, you have to applaud Brian McDermott for getting the best out of the players at his disposal.

On and on…