By Andrew Butterwick
As the only option of travelling 270 miles to get to Bournemouth in time for a 7.45pm kick off from work was a Lear Jet I opted for the cheaper option of watching the game from the comfort of the members bar at Elland Road and the LUTV beamback. The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One joined me for this new experience of watching the mighty whites and despite being rationed to one pie each, with no gravy or peas, we settled down to watch the game with cautious optimism. Could we start where we left off on Saturday? Could we avoid the battering we got last season at the Cherries? Would the live LUTV link last the full 90 minutes? All questions eagerly debated as kick off time approached.
The room was packed as the team news filtered through. Doukara and Austin started in place of the injured Mowatt and Sloth who dropped to the bench to join Byram who was returning from suspension. Leeds set out with a 4-3-3 formation presumably to try and counteract one of the best footballing sides in the division. The game kicked off on the slightly out of focus big screen and it didn't take long for a familiar sense of foreboding to wipe out any sense of optimism as the Cherries flew at Leeds like a super sonic express train. Barely two minutes had gone before Fraser galloped at the Leeds defence and fired a searing shot that Silvestri expertly tipped behind for a corner.
The home side applied suffocating pressure to the visitors with wave after wave of attack inspired by Fraser and Surman. Memories of last season's capitulation when they conceded three goals in the first 28 minutes came flooding back to haunt us. The inevitable goal came on 6 minutes when the ex Canary, Surman, pounced on a ball on the edge of the box and finished superbly to give the visitors a deserved lead. An uneasy silence descended on the room as we battened down the hatches for another battering at the expense of our South Coast opponents.
Bournemouth's speedy and forceful attacks yielded chances for Ritchie, Kermorgant and Wilson as a combination of desperate defending and outstanding goalkeeping kept the score at 1.0 as the clock ticked past the half hour mark. Ex Leeds left back Harte was exploiting the space down the left flank as Leeds tried to draw breath. Silvestri made a brilliant one on one save against Wilson when he looked certain to score. Leeds did have a couple of bright periods when Antenucci drove hard from midfield to create a half chance for Sharp before Doukara released Sharp but his cross came to nothing. It was Bournemouth who dominated the first half though and somehow Leeds got to half time without conceding another goal. "I'm glad I'd not driven all that f****** way to watch this" a rather frustrated fan muttered. Frustration was the name of the game as we contemplated the 2nd 45 minutes.
Redfearn didn't make any personnel changes at half time but his subtle tactical changes seemed to have some effect in quelling the Cherries domination. Now it was Leeds who were looking dangerous going forward................well sort of. Austin followed up a driving run with a poor shot. Sharp found some joy attacking the inside left channel and Doukara was coming deeper and deeper to get the ball. Lewis Cook had given the ball away a number of times in the first half but that didn't stop him trying to create something in the 2nd period. He has lovely burst of pace that he uses intelligently. Leeds were grinding their way back into the game as the hour mark approached. Silvestri still had to be on his toes to save a stinging shot from the illusive Fraser though.
Antenucci was again showing some lovely touches and tested the home keeper with a long range shot on 65 minutes as Leeds started to threaten the Cherries rearguard. Then out of the blue a superb piece of football changed the game. Bianchi strode onto a ball from the half way line and slid a laser guided pass through for Doukara who timed his run into the box beautifully before finishing in style to bring Leeds back on level terms. The room erupted in unexpected joy. 1.1 and very much game on.
Leeds picked up some much needed momentum from the goal and soon Billy Sharp was pouncing on an Austin ball into the box to worry the home defence. After the battering we took in the first half the sensible thing to do would have been to hold what we had and settle for the point but the home fans and team were now getting frustrated. They'd had a chance to win it and now Leeds were showing some attacking prowess of their own. Austin went on a typical run powering forward but not quite knowing where he was going until he was brought down 25 yards out. "What's Bellusci doing standing over the ball? This is in row Z FFS" a puzzled fan commented. What Bellusci did next will be remembered for years to come. He hit what can only be described as the perfect free kick which rose over the wall and then dipped just enough to leave a 1mm gap between the ball and the underside of the cross bar before hitting the back of the net. Everybody jumped off their seats in the Members bar whilst it was absolute bedlam in the away end at Bournemouth. 2.1 Leeds.......How?
Bournemouth were stung into action and threw everything forward at Leeds in the hope of making up for their wastefulness early in the match. "we'll get a third here" I gleefully predicted to the Happy Chocker. "I hope not he replied the Quiet One's got £95 quid riding on a 2.1 win" Sorry as the Quiet One was when Antenucci broke away on 90 minutes and ran half the length of the field before coolly slotting the ball past the keeper for the third Leeds goal the rest of the room was in football heaven. From 1.0 and down and out we had turned it round into an easy 3.1 win. Football is beautiful game at times. The referee's whistle signalled the end of the game and the members bar celebrated a very welcome win snatched from the jaws of another mauling from the Cherries.
Antenucci was my man of the match with eye catching performances also from Silvestri and Cook but overall this was a gritty and impressive team performance from Neil Redfearn's team. The team is still work in progress but there are all the signs that out of adversity this season might just be one of the brighter ones from recent years. Uddersfield up next. 30,000 inside ER with Leeds playing attractive and effective football... That'll do nicely thank you very much.