Only 17000 were in attendance at Elland Road for the visit of the league leaders last night, but those who did turn up bore witness to one of the most nerve-shredding fixtures I’ve seen there in years as Leeds rode their luck to topple Bournemouth.

Leeds started brightly enough with first half chances for Rudy Austin fired wide from an acute angle while a long-range warning shot from Luke Murphy was palmed away by the Bournemouth keeper.

The suddenly in-form Luke Murphy followed up with an outstanding left-footed strike from outside the box, right into the top corner of the goal leaving the visiting keeper with no chance and giving Leeds the lead on 36 minutes. 1-0.

After switching to a flat 4-4-2 for the 1-1 draw against Birmingham on Saturday, Leeds returned to 4-2-3-1 which allowed us to keep plenty behind the ball and dominate the midfield. Nevertheless, Bournemouth looked good value for their lofty position and were still managing to create the better chances, the best of which was converted by Brett Pittman only to be wrongly ruled out for offside by a referee whose terrible decision-making only added to the night’s drama.

Before Bournemouth were wrongly awarded a penalty and Bellusci was sent-off for a foul that unquestionably occurred outside the box, the visitors had missed a point black header, seen close-ranged efforts blocked and scrambled away, hit the woodwork and shaved several years off the life expectancy of every Leeds United fan inside Elland Road as the tension hit dangerous levels and 17000 fans were reduced to shivering wrecks – and that wasn’t due to the snowy conditions.

But Kermorgant fluffed Bournemouth’s late penalty and the visiting side must have been left wondering what they’d done to upset the football Gods. For Leeds however, this felt like we were being repaid for all the bad luck we’ve been dealt recently, such as two clear penalties denied against Birmingham last time out.

And while Bournemouth had the better chances and should have taken something from this game, the battling performance from Leeds was something to behold, most notably for the performance – once again – of 17-year-old Lewis Cook, returned to defensive midfield after playing out-wide against Birmingham and central to everything Leeds United did.

Luke Murphy is on-fire at the minute and he too deserves great credit, as does Sam Byram, Rudy Austin and Charlie Taylor who all put in a great shift. Once again I was impressed by Steve Morison’s performance and while he hasn’t managed to snatch a goal, he’s worked tirelessly and definitely deserved one.

The relief around Elland Road as Leeds fans head for the exits was overwhelming, not too dissimilar from the full time whistle against Bristol when we were promoted from League One. The stakes weren’t much lower either when you consider how dangerously close to the edge we’ve been skirting after failing to convert some good performances into wins. This, you feel, was a desperately needed win to attest that slide.

We still have our problems of course. Aside from Massimo Cellino’s ongoing chaos, our defence is still something of a catastrophe, but we’ve kept fighting on, made the best of what we have and four points from the last two fixtures is about right for what the performances deserved – even if the results should probably have been reversed (ie. winning against Brum, drawing against Bournemouth).

Neil Redfearn deserves great credit, as do the fans for maintaining patience after a series of disappointing results. Hopefully this one will prove to be a catalyst for a more enjoyable few months ahead.

On and on…

  • henrymouni

    Great display & maybe our luck has turned.
    I am really pleased Morison is getting a run in the team at last!!
    I hear Massimo cooked the pre-match dinner (Pasta)!
    Maybe he will have to do it for the next game, seen as we won!!
    Will the FL allow him to be the team cook?

    • Irving08

      Thought you’d be pleased by Morison Henri. Him and Rudi made an unlikely couple up front last night, but it seemed to work. For the second match in succession though Sharp, coming on as a sub, did nothing to justify his curious status as a crowd favourite at Elland Road. Bringing him on rather than Antennuci was the only thing our (to me unexpectedly) astute Head Coach perhaps got wrong last night. Wooton does not look comfortable at full back, but Redders did give a good reason for playing him there. Shame about Bellusci – he delivered the pass of the evening, a magnificent long, looping ball out of defence to Byram’s toes, executed with the shortest of backlifts. But there’ s a great spirit about this team, and whoever replaces him (Wooton ? with my man Berardi returning to right back ?), won’t let us down. Great game – very important victory. We won’t go down.

      • TSS

        Sharp has the same problem McCormack once did at Leeds, he just doesn’t suit the system and is being slot in left, right and centre. When we built around McCormack, it paid off, but before then, he always tried to make things happen but his success rate was very hit and miss.

        • Irving08

          Frankly, I don’t think Sharp is good enough to build anything around. He’s not a patch on McCormack. Anyway Antenucci is a more complete player and we should persist with him.

      • henrymouni

        I know I keep banging the drum for Morison, and to me he has a strong character and must be a handful to play against!!
        His is brave and intelligent and not afraid to talk to his team mates.
        I wish Rudi would not shoot so much, from long distance and acute angles!! LOL
        I understand Bamba will be with us soon to bolster our defence.

        • Irving08

          Even at close range he misses Henri; the angle he missed from last night was not that acute. Besides has he never heard of the near post. Still, fair do’s his presence upfront definitely unsettled their defence last night. Morison must have a strong character to have survived the cold shoulder for so long.

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  • RoystonLUFC

    Everytime I’ve seen Morison play he’s looked pretty good. I know he’s missed a couple of sitters but doesn’t everyone? His link-up play is good and he’s not selfish – definitely a team player – and I think it would be good if his critics got off his back and started giving him the support he deserves. I reckon he still has a few goals left in his locker – goals that could save our season.

    I wrote after the Sunderland game that we still need time before giving Redders the thumbs up; I suggested that his brave team changes might have been random rather than carefully thought out; I said that I hope he can prove me wrong and scupper my cynicism. I’m currently enjoying being scuppered! If he continues like this he will not only save our season but will look like a genuine long-term prospect. He seems to be learning rapidly and making the relevant plans to do what’s necessary; he also seems to be getting some good use out of previously-forgotten squad players.

    I’m so pleased that the “Redders out” brigade are crawling back into the woodwork along with the “Cellino out” brigade. Will you whingers try supporting the team for a change – you might even enjoy it.

    • TSS

      The importance of Redders is the kids, who we should have been building around for years but never really did. Look at the confidence Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt are suddenly playing with again and the phenomenal impact of Lewis Cook along with the brilliant Charlie Taylor.

      It’s taking a while for everything to click together, but that’s the cost of a young team. The benefit is that unlike season pros, these players can and are improving and I genuinely believe we’ll be a force next season IF we keep the squad together and leave Redders alone.

  • Paul Donnelly

    I think it’s quite telling that there were only 2 of the Italians in the starting XI last night and assuming Beradi and Pearce or Wootton and Pearce (or even Bamba) start against Hudds, then it will be just Silvestri left. I think Cellino has finally allowed Redfearn to do his own thing and he is sensibly putting the Championship-experienced pros around the kids.

    I hope this is the general way forward for the rest of the season. Don’t mind Antenucci and Bellusci playing a part, but the likes of Bianchi should not be near the team again IMO – just don’t have a strong enough mentality for the rough and tumble of Div 2

  • oldschoolbaby

    NR`s learning curve has been rather steeper than I thought it would be but he`s getting there. I wish he would take Shankly`s advice and throw the opposition ” a bit of toffee” in his pre match comments. Opining that Bournemouth were due a defeat had to make Howe`s teamtalk that little bit easier.
    Morison is suited to our new style but I struggle to warm to him. He looks ambivalent too often for my liking. Antenucci can be infuriating but his willingness is refreshing.
    I long thought Murphy was bewildered in a diamond. Not to mention bewildered by, and strangely deferential towards, Austin. Long may his new persona continue
    Bellusci is enigmatic but seeing him anywhere near Zigic at the weekend gave me a panic attack. I think Bamba may well take his shirt if he materialises and plays well
    I don`t care if it involves smashing the children`s money boxes but can somebody please, please give Cook an extended contract

    • Irving08

      But the panache, the sheer coolness of the man, the calm distribution, the range of his passing – wouldn’t you miss them OS ?

      • oldschoolbaby

        Oh he has attributes but I have been craving a tall, commanding CB for a very long time. I suspect my mind plays tricks on me but he often seems to shrink in my eyes to less than average height, to the point there is no expectation he will contribute aerially. As I say if Bamba arrives I will be extremely interested in what he has to offer

        • Irving08

          How many goals this season have we conceded in the air (or from knock downs or related confusion), I wonder ? My impression, from watching home games, is that teams are playing predominantly on the ground. Pace seems to matter more than stature.

          • oldschoolbaby

            Fair point but for me football is more about what you can anticipate rather than what you`ve experienced. We haven`t had a settled defence this season. If Bellusci was considered first choice by the remainder of the Championship teams the more consistent aerial attack would materialise.
            Whilst I happily concede Pearce wins a not unhealthy percentage of aerial duels I consider him to be a weak link aerially too. If B and P were considered to be our first choice CB pairing, coupled with Silvestri`s tendency to be tentative dominating his area, then you could expect a veritable barrage. Pace may have prevailed to date but in this League stature is in most clubs armoury and it`s one of the easier weapons to deploy.
            To boot ! Neither of them would make it in the PL. Rather a long shot but we may have others who can

          • henrymouni

            Our defence lacks speed and anticipation, and a strong leader.
            We let attackers get the wrong side of us, and we can’t catch them – hence the ‘not’ penalty against Bournemouth.
            It happens too often.
            Also bad marking in the box.
            Too many attackers ‘spare’, in the box.