By Andrew Butterwick
The temperature was raw and unwelcoming as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly headed for Elland Road for Leeds latest game against Eddie Howe's championship leaders. After all the off the field carnage and uncertainty it was good to focus on a football match rather than a courtroom and the latest efforts of the Football League to support one of their long standing members.
Would the Cherries forthcoming Cup clash with Villa be playing on their mind? Could Leeds continue their unbeaten league run since the turn of the year? Would Leeds send their President off into exile with a win? These and many more questions were all debated with the help of a warming mug of Bovril as kick off time approached.
The team news was intriguing. Redfearn had reverted to the 4-2-3-1 formation with Morison leading the line and Mowatt replacing Antenucci from Saturday's starting eleven. News that Cellino had cooked the pre match meal for the team filtered through to many a puzzled fan in the bar. However you describe Cellino conventional is not likely to be in the top 100 adjectives most people would use! I wonder if it was Massimo's version of the Last supper?
The game kicked off after a tribute to former Leeds United chairman, Leslie Silver, one of the last "normal" leaders we've had who oversaw the successful rise from the old Division 2 to become the last champions of Division 1 before Sky TV money invaded our beautiful game. Bournemouth quickly showed just why they are riding high at the top of the league as they hit Leeds with a blast of early attacks as Wilson and Pitman both went close within the first 10 minutes. Leeds drew breath though and on their first real venture into the visitors territory Mowatt swung a teasing cross into the box where Austin's header forced a save from Daniels in the Cherrie's goal. Spurred on by the near miss Leeds enjoyed a spell in the Cherries half. Austin released Morison who sent a pin point ball into the box for Mowatt who was thwarted by a last ditch tackle from Francis. With Cook pulling the strings in midfield chances started to flow for Leeds. Austin twice found himself free in the box but couldn't convert either chance.
Bournemouth were looking dangerous on the break with the pacey Wilson catching the eye with some intelligent running. Bellusci was struggling to keep a tight rein on one of the stars of this season's championship. Leeds were giving as good as they got though with Austin, Cook and Murphy a revelation in the Leeds boilerhouse. Redfearn's deployment of Austin as the attacking midfielder was working a dream as he terrorised the Bournemouth back four every time they tried to pass their way out at the back. The whole team was playing a very high line to nullify the threat of the Cherries skillful passing game.
The grittiness and spirit from the last few games was there in spadefuls for Leeds as the crowd warmed to their efforts. The magnificent Murphy thumped a stinging shot that Boruc just turned over the bar as pressure mounted on Eddie Howe's men. Then on 35 minutes Leeds got their just reward. The human dynamo that is Austin laid the ball superbly into Murphy's path who took one touch with his right foot before hitting an absolute screamer into the top left corner with his left peg. Boruc had no chance as he flapped helplessly at the vapour trail the ball left in it's wake. 1.0 Leeds and the 17,000 home fans who had braved the cold were suddenly warm as toast as they drank in a sparkling Leeds performance.
Bournemouth reacted positively to the one goal deficit as they bombarded Silvestri for the remaining 10 minutes up to half time. The Cherries had the ball in the net as the Leeds keeper failed to hold a Wilson shot but Pitman was offside when he snaffled up the rebound. Phew! Next they seemed certain to score as a deep ball to the back post was headed back across the goal for Wilson but a scrambling save from Silvestri thwarted the Bournemouth striker. But was the ball over the line when the Leeds keeper gathered it up? Half time came with the score 1.0 to Leeds after a pulsating first half.
It was nice to see smiling faces and positive vibes oozing out of every pore of the half time throng. Suddenly Redfearn has found the perfect recipe for his collection of young talented footballers with the youngest of them all, Cook, turning in another outstanding performance. Now can we keep it going in the 2nd half?
It was Leeds who started the 2nd half the brighter as Morison latched onto a lovely through ball only to be tripped by Francis with 35 yards of space between him and the goal. The red faced Cherry got a yellow for his troubles. Austin screwed a shot horribly wide followed by a couple of Leeds corners but that was short lived joy for the mighty whites as the Cherries started to dominate possession and pressurise the Leeds back four. The hesitant Silvestri cleared a long through ball straight to Ritchie who failed to hit the target from 40 yards with the Leeds goalie in no man's land. On the hour Bournemouth rang the changes as Kergomant and Gosling came off the bench to give the visitors fresh impetus. Glancing at our bench wasn't a pretty sight as we looked for our own fresh legs to replace some very tired bodies in the home team. The Leeds pressing game continued to frustrate the visitors but chances were opening up for the League leaders. A post was hit before the lively Wilson lifted a golden chance over Silvestri and inches past the post.
Sharp replaced Morison for the last 20 minutes but fluffed his first chance as he snatched at a shot from 25 yards with Austin wide open to his left. Leeds were now hanging on for dear life and happy to hit Bournemouth on the break as the game entered the final 10 minutes. Leeds should have sealed the game when Cook hit a delicious ball for Byram who's initial shot was blocked by Boruc and Austin's follow up header cleared off the line. Bollox! It was Rourke's Drift at the other end though and when Bellusci was adjudged to have brought Wilson down inside the box on 87 minutes the ref pointed straight to the spot before dispatching the Italian for an early Chianti. After a superb backs to the wall performance we were now going to surely lose 2 points at the death? Kermorgant stepped up nervously as snow fell around him and the smashed the ball against the bar and away to safety. Elland Road erupted as the poor travelling fans resigned themselves to a pointless trip back to Dorset.
Pearce replaced Mowatt for the last few minutes as Redfearn's band of brothers held out for a much needed win and a surprising double against the League Leaders. Cellino's pre match pasta clearly did the trick! Full time 1.0 to Leeds and the good times were back at a chilly Elland Road. Laughter and smiles accompanied our short walk to the car for a change. Cook was simply outstanding in central midfield for Leeds well supported by Austin and Murphy who have suddenly found an understanding that seemed inconceivable in the early part of the season. Morison led the line well but altogether an awesome team performance in which they rode their luck at times but showed a dogged resistance that should bode well for the rest of the season. I'm sure I wasn't the only Leeds fan who had forgotten the adrenoline fueled buzz that a Leeds win gives you as we streamed away from the ground. Still unbeaten in the league this year aswell.
The Dog botherers up next. If Leeds can continue with this form I think 3 points might well be heading back to LS11?
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