Lose another match? Kidding.
Well, someone had to say it.
There’s little doubt that, given the past month or so, Simon Grayson is living on borrowed time in regards to his Leeds United tenure. Since his not-so-private indiscretions were made public, Ken Bates has been looking for a cast-iron excuse to send Grayson packing with his P45.
After the win over Millwall at the top end of December- which, lets face it seems a rather long time ago. It was a long time ago, it was last year.. Yes, since then, then only point we collected was a rather fortuitous one at Watford before defeats to Reading, Derby and Barnsleh. Things weren’t looking great.
That said, football is a fickle game and its fans even more so. After the utter shambles at Barnsley, Leeds fans were calling for anyone to be sacked/dropped/terminated, the lot. Grayson is no longer untouchable and a great many wanted him out. This afternoon is a different story. With the top teams faltering, we’re now a ‘mere’ nine points off the top spot, it’s ridiculous. I might add at this point that we’re also ‘only’ 14 points off the relegation places.
Grayson had to do something. Barnsley had done the double but more worryingly, they had done it with consummate ease and Burnley, a point and 3 places ahead of us before kick off, would be no pushovers. He had to play his hand; the changes were rung. It had the feeling off ‘the last roll of the dice’ and for 80 very nervous minutes, it might have been his last.
The first 15minutes were not witnessed by me as I was finishing work/in a cab/running into the ground; apologies for the gross lack of fanatical status here.
I did make it for the interesting stuff though; Kieron Trippier (by name…) managed to erm, trip/haul down the lively Andros Townsend to earn a second yellow card after just 29 minutes. It was probably no less than he deserved but the way the rest of the match panned out had very much to do with the referee being completely unable to assert any authority on the game whatsoever.
Charlie Austin went closest for Burnley with a vicious strike which Andy Lonergran tipped over the bar in what was their only other notable effort, save for their goal.
In the second half, Leeds had the possession but not the goal which was desperately needed. Ramon Nunez and Townsend both went close with long rangers while Lloyd Sam attempted a horizontal scissor kick. I can safely say it failed. His other meaningful contribution was when he beat the defender (gasp) and whipped in a great cross; only for no bugger to be anywhere near it. I might add at this point it’s not Sam’s fault for missing, but the attackers for not getting on the end of it.
Darren O’Dea even looped a header against the bar which the referee inexplicably gave as a corner, just presuming he wanted to make Lee Grant look good. Despite Leeds’ dominance, the final ball was absent and as time ticked away, Leeds looked less likely to score.Grant was called into action to deny Nunez before Thompson sent a clean strike just wide of the left upright.
Predictably though, Burnley took the lead; totally against the run of play but there was no doubting the quality of Austin’s strike. O’Dea hesitated and completely misjudged the bounce of the ball, which allowed Austin to nip in and finish with an excellent turn-and-volley across Lonergran who was helpless.
That sinking feeling was once again draped over Elland Road; from being in the ascendancy to being a goal down against a team who apparently had ten men, not that you could tell. Despite one of two nervy moments, they had defended stoutly, kicked Leeds off the park as much as possible and time wasted at every opportunity.
The frustration level was close to boiling over. Grayson’s backside must’ve been sweatier than Lee Evans running in a sauna. On came Mikael Forssell and Ross McCormack; it was now or never.
Somehow, with the ball loose in the box, Forssell managed to blaze over after Grant had flapped but from a corner, one of the worst in a match which had scarcely seen a set piece clear the first defender, Lloyd Sam sent the ball in low and somehow, Brian Easton managed to convert it between the post and Grant. Leeds were level in the most fortuitous of circumstance but it didn’t matter. It was a reprieve. With the crowd urging them on, Leeds piled forward again; nervy were the moments at the back as Leeds lost possession.
Burnley wanted the point, they had done since the red card and they continued to waste time. Five minutes on the board, five minutes to salvage something and Leeds had Grant to thank. As the referee finally grew some bollocks, on 93 minutes he booked him for time wasting. This, amongst others meant Leeds had more time, and on 97 minutes Townsend’s shot was spilled by Grant and there was McCormack to bundle it past his disparing drive before smashing it into the net from point blank range.
Elland Road went a bit mental. The relief was tangible. I could almost see the perspiration off Grayson’s backside as he leapt into the air in celebration.
The result doesn’t necessarily paper over the cracks, even Stevie Wonder would be able to see we have problems. The result buys Grayson time. The Arsenal result doesn’t matter. Save for a 10-0 pounding, he’ll be in charge for the match at Palace, with a few new faces in the squad. He’s the first to admit changes need to be made; the injury to Patrick Kisnorbo is a blessing in disguise – I wouldn’t wish injury on anyone, I must say but it gives Grayson an easy decision. Hopefully Tom Lees will be fit for Palace and will play alongside A.N.Other.
I’ve long said I don’t think Grayson should be sacked. Very few would’ve stayed if they were in his position, working with his hands behind his back; that said, he’s not untouchable. I’m sure he’d admit he’s a bit naive sometimes and he’s made poor decisions but he needs time, and more importantly, he needs the chairman to back him. And not in the ‘I totally back my manager’ kind of way, hours before he sacks him.
New faces are needed, badly. This Townsend chap looks exactly what we need; a little arrogance and the will to have a shot, even if you are 30yrds out with a defender right in front of you. Mind you, if he keeps being so selfish, Aidy White might end up smacking him one; it ain’t easy sprinting your tits off for 60yrds 20 times a match; even less so when you don’t even get passed the damn ball.
Hopefully Santa brought RMac his permanent shooting boots and he’ll bang ’em in again for fun; come February, we could see a rather different starting XI.
So hardly a vintage display but that didn’t matter for Grayson today, it was all about the result.
Here’s to 2012 and all the ups and downs it will bring.