17 minute hat-trick for Luci

The first league game between Bristol City and Leeds United for more than 30 years got under way after a minutes silence was held around the country to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. The teams were also wearing modified kits, which included a red poppy to mark the occasion and there was a number of service men and women in attendance at the game.

In the Bristol City side were a few familiar faces, not least of which was former England keeper, David James. Former Leeds United Academy player, Danny Rose also made his return to Elland Road as a Bristol player on-loan from Tottenham Hotspur – he started from the bench.

Simon Grayson meanwhile remained as unpredictable as ever. The Leeds boss once again went with a 4-5-1 formation, but had replaced Luciano Becchio with Davide Somma alone up front. More surprising perhaps, was Bradley Johnson retaining his place in the team after an absolute mare of a game against Hull City in midweek.

It was a slow and scrappy opening ten minutes, but Leeds United eventually took control of the game with a long spell of patient passing that retained possession whilst they looked for an opening. The extended spell of possession ended when Jonny Howson back-heeled the ball into the path of Davide Somma, who despite a poor first touch, managed to get a shot away which was well saved by David James.

Jonny Howson remained influential in everything and was once again the provider as Max Gradel’s shot was deflected into the path of David James just minutes later. This time, Bristol City managed to break quickly with a brave Kasper Schmeichel denying Jon Stead, as Bristol forged their first real attack of the game.

Leeds remained the more dominant of the two sides, but the game was pretty scrappy overall and neither team created much in the way of solid goalscoring opportunities. Howson, Gradel and Snodgrass were all lively for Leeds but the final ball wasn’t there and the sides went in goalless at half time,

At half time, the talking point was the formation and the general consensus was that we needed to go 4-4-2 with the introduction of Becchio or Paynter alongside Somma. Grayson stuck to his guns though and the teams lined up for the second half unchanged.

With unchanged tactics, came an unchanged football match. Leeds remained the more dominant side, but a combination of mistakes, poor passing and offsides were starting to cause frustration and the crowd were getting restless.

After 15 minutes of the second half, the substitution board finally appeared but there was to be no change of formation as Grayson brought Becchio on for Somma and Sam on for Gradel. I thought the better option would have been Johnson or Killa off for Becchio with the team switching to 4-4-2, but what do I know?

Simon Grayson’s persistence with the 4-5-1 was fully vindicated just minutes later when Robert Snodgrass surged down the wing to cross in for Luciano Becchio to send Leeds United in front.

1-0 to Leeds. TSS silenced…

…for all of two minutes anyway, because that’s the amount of time it took Bristol City to equalize. Some pretty lousy defending from Leeds gifted Jon Stead the space to equalize with ease. 1-1. Game on.

The game had really sparked into life though as Grayson’s other substitute, Lloyd Sam was pulled back in the box and denied a clear penalty. Rather than complain about another injustice, Sam came again forcing a save from David James which spilled into the path of Luciano Becchio who scored his second in four minutes to put Leeds back in front. 2-1

Leeds remained in control and despite the self-destructive nature of our draw to Hull still fresh in memory and the added worry of Danny Rose’s introduction, I was confident our run of home games without victory was about to come to an end

My confident stance proved well-founded too, as McCartney delivered the cross that would provide Becchio with the chance to finish off his hattrick in front of the Kop. The Argentinian made no mistake, scoring his third in just 17 minutes to simultaneously end his run of games without a goal and Leeds’ run of home games without victory.

A couple of other chances after that, the best of which came from Bristol as they forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel but the game ended 3-1 and the Leeds fans left Elland Road happy for the first time since September the 25th (when we beat Sheffield United 1-0).

I was a bit mythed by the substitutions at the time, but in hindsight you can really see why Simon Grayson picks the team and why we watch on scratching our heads. Grayson used a similar tactic last year, letting the pacier striker start (Beckford) and sending the stronger, more physical striker on to finish them off. When Becchio and Sam were introduced, Bristol just couldn’t adapt to the new threat and were found wanting as Leeds went in for the kill.

Becchio also answered my recent criticisms in style today. After singling him out following the Scunthorpe and Coventry games, I actually thought he improved no end midweek (v Hull) and was surprised he started from the bench. But as I said above, the tactics worked well and Becchio was used to devastating effect.

That win takes Leeds up to 5th in the table as the twists and turns continue. It also takes our goal difference out of the negative with 31 for and 31 against. Never boring watching Leeds this season, is it?

TSS man of the match

Howson, Snoddy and Sam all had excellent games, as did O’Brien and McCartney who often get overlooked because of the dire defensive record Leeds have. The hat-trick hero takes the spoils though with a memorable three in front of the Kop.