By Andrew Butterwick
No matter how poorly we performed last season and no matter how much turmoil off the field corroded my Teflon support for the mighty whites it's amazing what the summer break can do to inject dangerous amounts of optimism into my willing veins.
Adam Pearson appears to have done the impossible and kept the mad Italian locked in a cupboard all summer and away from the media whilst Uwe Rosler has impressed with his steely organisation and preparation for the new season culminating in the impressive victory against Everton in the final pre season game. Add to that a decent session in the transfer market where none of our crown jewels were sold off, unless you count Steve Morison, coupled with some decent acquisitions and unusually things on Planet Leeds look remarkably positive as we start another campaign in the championship. Could this actually be the dawn of a new era at the Theatre of Hope? Time will tell.
The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board as I gunned the car towards South Leeds for the lunchtime televised kick off on Sky Sports Leeds. The excitement and anticipation of another season of ups and downs increased as we parked the car and joined the stream of fans swarming down Elland Road in glorious sunshine to the famous old Stadium. Would Dallas start? Would Berardi or Bellusci see red? Would the 4.3.3 system work? All questions eagerly debated as we refreshed ourselves ready for the game. As an aside we amused ourselves counting the number of fans who had "misjudged" the sizing of the new figure hugging Kappa replica shirts.
Rosler had replaced Doukara with Dallas much to the approval of the majority of fans congregating in the bar. There were also league debuts for Wood and Adeymi. Burnley, fresh from their dalliance with Premier League, had a strong team despite losing Shackell, Ings and Trippier over the summer. Nearly 28,000 fans were inside Elland Road as the game kicked off in a cacophony of raucous noise that generated a nerve tingling atmosphere. It was good to be back even though it was a lunchtime kick off.
Leeds started brightly feeding on the vociferous home support but it was Burnley who had the first shy at goal as Jutkiewicz tried a spectacular overhead kick that drifted over Silvestri's bar. Leeds were on fire though as Dallas capitalised on excellent work from Byram down the right to rifle a stinging shot at Burnley's goal that had the visiting goalie Heaton scrambling the ball over the bar. Bamba got booked in the aftermath by the fussy referee as the decibel levels reached new heights from the optimistic home support. Leeds were pressing the Clarets hard and unsettling the Lancastrians with Rosler's high tempo tactics. Bellusci fizzed a shot in from 25 yards on 20 minutes as Leeds tried to convert their pressure into that oh so vital opening goal. Burnley drew breath and slowly began to ease them selves into the game. Kightly fired a shot far too close to Silvestri's post for my liking quickly followed by both Vossen and Jutkiewicz testing the Italian goalies reflexs with goalbound shots. As the half drew to a close Bamba missed the best chance of the match after his back post header found the wrong side of the post.
Half Time 0.0. The Urinal philosophers were in positive mood during the half time gents debate. "Dallas doesn't look bad" commented one hardened Leeds fan whilst another thought "midfield looks a bit better than last year, that Adeymi seems OK" High praise indeed from the notoriously hard to please Leeds fans. Bamba and Bellusci were looking strong at the back and we were creating good chances. We just needed to convert a couple?
The 2nd half followed a similar pattern to the first with the referee Mr Friend's whistle in constant use. Arfield received a yellow card on 55 minutes for a classic cynical professional as he dragged back Cook as he galloped away from a Burnley corner with the ball and the visiting defence in disarray. Bastard! Two good chances followed for Leeds though as Mowatt shaved Heaton's post with a thumping drive before Adeymi finished off another sumptuous Leeds move by volleying over from 7 yards. Surely Leeds were going to snatch the lead if they kept this up? Jutkiewicz fired in a low shot that Silvestri did well to cling onto just to temper the building optimism amongst the Leeds hordes.
The game was finely balanced as the hour mark was past. Wood spurned two good chances and Dallas finished off a good move with decent shot that cannoned off a desperate Burnley leg. 70 minutes gone and both coaches made some substitutions to try and win the game. Sordell and Vokes came on for the Clarets whilst Antenucci replaced the tiring Dallas. The Northern Ireland debutant received a standing ovation from the home crowd. Would this break the deadlock?
On 80 minutes Kightly got a yellow for another cynical foul when Berardi was scampering away into the Burnley half. This time though Leeds did get some reward. The free kick was taken and Leeds set up another attack. The ball was cleared but only to Berardi who headed the ball back to Antenucci. The Italian turned smartly and ran at the retreating Burnley defence before jinking inside and curling a superb shot into the top corner. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds and the place was rocking. Just reward for a combination of perseverance and no little skill from this new look Leeds side. Only 8 minutes left as well. All we need to do now is hold on or even snatch another one?
Mmmm. 3 minutes later that old saying "you're at your most vulnerable straight after you score a goal" proved true yet again. Boyd danced down the right wing teasing Charlie Taylor before swinging the perfect cross into the Leeds box............ex Leeds loanee Vokes, who else, leaped high and thumped an unstoppable header past Silvestri. 1.1. The pit of my stomach reminded me of the joys of watching Leeds United. Bollox! The Burnley travelling support were in heaven as their favourites snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat.
Antenucci nearly pinched a winner in added time but the game ended with honours even.
In some ways it felt like a defeat as the fans streamed away from the ground. A draw against a strong Burnley side with good Premier League experience is not the worst result in the world but if only we'd hung on...................... Bamba was my man of the match closely followed by Byram who just gets better every game. Dallas had a promising debut with some nice touches and some much needed width to the Leeds team. Adeymi looked solid in the holding midfield role. Wood worked hard up front and with a bit of luck could have finished with two goals. All in all a decent performance in an entertaining game in which Leeds played some lovely football at times. It seems light years since the awful opening game last year when Wackaday's team meekly succumbed to Millwall.
Next up Donny away in the cup. A good chance for Leeds to progress to the next round?
PS. My next report will be Derby away as I am away for two weeks on a well earned holiday.