By Andrew Butterwick
There was something very strange in the air as we headed to Elland Road for our clash with Burnley. It seemed to have infected each Leeds fan I spoke to before the game. I think it's something we used get quite a lot at the Theatre of Hope in years gone by and if I'm not mistaken it's called.......positive vibes. The impact of Saturday's victory against the Owls or more to the point the performance in gaining that victory had quickly elevated Brian McDermott to the status of Demi-God in Beeston. He'd achieved in one game what we'd struggled to do for a long, long time. He'd got the same team of clueless, directionless players of just two weeks ago passing and moving like they'd been to a Barcalona master class. Question was could they continue against the Clarets from Burnley?
Demi-God McD had shuffled his team bringing in Diouf, Tonge and Lees for Morison, Norris and Drury respectively as he tried exactly the right combination to play his diamond formation. Our erstwhile nemesis, Charlie Austin, had been rushed to hospital to have his appendix removed and was missing from the Burnley line up. Much as I wouldn't wish pain on anyone I was pleased he wouldn't be getting his obligatory goal against the Mighty whites. A disappointing crowd of just under 17,000 had made their way to Elland Road by kick off.
The first ten minutes were disjointed as Leeds settled into their new passing game. Austin had moved to the right mid field point of the diamond leaving Green to play the defensive position whilst Tonge was out wide left. Diouf glided about in the hole behind Ross Mac and Varney. Leeds started to get a foothold though as they kept the ball firmly on the floor. The immaculate pitch was going to get more wear in the last two home games than it's had all season as balls were now routinely played out from the back rather than the big hoof it up front mentality that has dominated the season up to now. Leeds began to dominate and soon had 5 corners in succession as they looked for an illusive first half goal for the first game since what feels like March 1963. Leeds had the ball doing the work as Diouf, Ross Mac, Byram and Warnock revelled in their new found freedom. Austin who had looked decidedly out of sorts all season was running about like a man possessed and causing havoc down the right flank. This was good to watch and the fans, who have been weaned off decent quality football during Warnock's reign, warmed to the spectacle unfolding in front of their very eyes. More passes had been exchanged in the first 30 minutes of this game than in the first 30 games of this frustrating season.
Pearce had a golden chance on the half hour as his header was cleared of the line only for Saturday's hero, Varney, to head weakly over the bar. At the other end Kenny was hardly troubled other than a swerving shot from Wallace that whizzed past his post. The game remained goalless as the match headed to half time but the entertainment value was high. We just needed to find a cutting edge to compliment the excellent approach play. Diouf was in his element with his subtle touches and neat passes coupled with invitations to defenders to clumsily bundle him over which they did on a number of times. Half time 0.0 but the team got a good ovation as they ran down the tunnel. Not everybody was happy though. The guy in front of me was bemoaning the fact that we were "fannying about with the ball instead of getting it in the box" as Leeds stroked the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. The same guy who screamed at Warnock's team for hoofing it down field?
The new manager's tactics were now becoming clear as he deployed his team to not only pass and move but also rotate positions in the diamond and even allow all the defenders to move forward when we have the ball. The urinal philosophers liked what they saw. "I'm pinching myself. This is Leeds and not Brazil we're watching isn't it" one wag said " yes and he's done it with the same who couldn't pass the salt under Warnock" Amazing!
Leeds took control as the second half started with Leeds attacking the kop. Varney missed an absolute sitter at the start of the half and soon after he leaped like a desparate salmon at the back post and thundered a header just over the bar. Time and again Leeds' neat passing opened up the creaking Burnley flanks. The pressure on Burnley steadily increased as Leeds regularly strung 15 to 20 passes together. Unbelievable Jeff! A goal was inevitable as most home fans watched in disbelief. Same players, different tactics and we were playing liquid football. The goal when it came could have come straight out the Barcalona play book chapter one. The ball moved from one side of the pitch to the other through everybody in the team.......Ross Mac fed Diouf who advanced towards the bewildered Burnley defence before clipping an inch perfect ball over the top of the defence into the path of the marauding Austin who coolly slotted the ball into the net. Get in! Elland Road was in ecstasy. A goal out of the absolute top drawer. 1.0 Leeds.
Leeds now looked for the killer goal but a combination of good defending by the Clarets, especially Shackell at the centre of defence, and some hurried final balls denied the home side extending their lead. Burnley pushed for an unlikely equaliser as the game came to a close and caused some heart stopping moments as the clock wound down but Leeds ran out deserved winners. The home crowd had delighted in singing "We're passing the ball, we're Leeds United, we're passing the ball" and gave the team a thunderous ovation at the final whistle.
Austin was my man of the match with a thunderous performance on the right of the diamond closely followed by the peerless Diouf who rolled back the years with a superb performance. How Brian McD has transformed the team in two games is remarkable in gaining back to back wins when we seemed incapable of getting another point after the Charlton game. Just think what he can do with a summer of strengthening the team?
A brilliant night at Elland Road watching Leeds' version of Total Football. Lots more of this to come I hope. Now how many points are we off the play offs? We couldn't possibly could we? Birmingham on Saturday looking for a third straight win and an away victory to boot. Have faith in the Demi-God. He's already turned tarnished pig iron into gold in the blink of an eye. Loosen your seat belts this could really be a pleasurable ride to the end of the season.