A first win in five at Elland Road finally saw Leeds take advantage of home comforts to dispose of a relegation threatened Bristol City courtesy of a 17 minute Luciano Becchio hattrick.
Early days in the shaping of the Championship it may be but the performance was perhaps an indication of how things will lie come the end of the season. Although I – the eternal pessimist, don’t think we’ll be in the play offs come May..
City offered little in the way of imagination as they packed out the midfield inviting Leeds to come and break them down, but despite a goal coming from Huddersfield fan Jon Stead, they never looked like emerging with a point. A bad day for Stead then, which probably didn’t get better when he saw Hudders lost away at Oldham. Ha and indeed, ha.
In truth the first half was a rather tepid affair, punctuated only by the frustrating ineptitude of the referee on occasions but it was a match that had the potential to really spark into life. Simon Grayson was later the catalyst as he sent on Becchio on 60 minutes for a frustrated looking Davide Somma, a move which changed the game.
Before the match, the club and fans alike held a minutes silence to remember our war dead; it was well observed, moving and weirdly, slightly eerie.
Lining up in the now rather customary 4-5-1, Somma returned to the side, fresh from penning a new deal with the club and Becchio – black eye anorl, was dropped to the bench. Elsewhere, Ross McCormack returned to the bench.
The first half was reasonably uninspired as it so often has been at Elland Road recently as half chances came and went; generally nothing to write home about except a worrying moment when Kasper Schmeichel went down under a challenge and about a million offsides against Somma – most of the correct. Somma cut a frustrated figure due to the lack of good service served but unlike Becchio, he was more reluctant to come and get the ball.
The usual naff half time entertainment came and went in the form of yet another fan who couldn’t score, on the full, from the penalty spot. The unlucky sod hitting the bar this week. The salute from the HMS Ark Royal crew was far more worthy of attention however.
The 2nd half started where the 1st left off but on 60 minutes, Becchio was introduced to rapturous applause and just six minutes later Leeds were ahead. Robert Snodgrass twisted away from the Brizzle full back to turn in a cross and Becchio rose to head past a helpless David James.
It was a reflection of the way the game had threatened to go, Leeds had the better of possession without really testing James but just two minutes later, the match was level. George McCartney hasn’t set the world alight since he joined and had been struggling as Bristol City made inroads down the Leeds left so it wasn’t a great surprise when Albert Adomah shrugged off his challenge to square for Stead who steered it in at the near post.
The referee then somehow contrived to not give a Leeds a penalty despite Nicky Hunt doing his very best to unshirt Sam as he made a run to the byline. Arsene Wenger himself would struggle to get his rose-tinted spectacles around that one.
The games third goal in five minutes followed though as Sam’s shot was palmed into the path of Luciano Becchio who managed to slide the ball past James. The former England keeper hardly covered himself in glory with the first parry but will be disappointed to have conceded from such an angle.
McCartney then sought to atone for his earlier error by providing the cross for Becchio to complete his first hattrick for Leeds with a well taken header.
A few nervy moments ensued as Schmeichel tipped over from Stephen Caulker’s header but Leeds more than held on to secure a first home win since September.
A deserved result but fair play to the away fans who were in good voice throughout – “It’s a long way to Bristol when you’re shit!” rang out from the kop. It really is and from this showing, it’ll generally be a long season for them.
Unsurprisingly, the after-match tattle turned to the issue of Becchio’s contract which is in rather urgent need of being renewed. He is undoubtedly one of our most valued players having worked his way up with the club from League One but whether his loyalty and commitment, and not to mention goals will be rewarded with the appropriate contract remains to be seen. Compensation for the people in the back row of the South Stand who caught a Bradley Johnson shot square on in the noggin’ may well be deemed more important though.
Next up, Norwich.. Who tonight threw away a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 at Reading. Leeds though have seen the most goals in the league, if not the country – 62 in total after today, so next week is sure to bring many more.
0-0 it is then? I’ll take that.