Last Time We Met...Leeds United (Part 2)
The last time we played Leeds United was earlier in the season at Turf Moor. The game was played on Saturday 11th December in front of 20,453 fans and it was not a day that Clarets fans would be celebrating. The Leeds fans came in their numbers and virtually shouted their team to victory with the Yorkshire outfit ultimately securing all three points in a 3-2 win. A dreadful second-half for the Clarets saw them lose a two goal lead for the third time so far following draws away to Sheffield United (3-3) and Norwich City (2-2) earlier in the season. This was a home defeat though and the chatter after the game on the way home, in pubs and clubs, on the local radio phone-ins and on all the Clarets websites revolved around one topic and one topic only. Was Brian Laws the right man for the job? The general consensus being that enough was enough and that it was time for the Board to act now before it was too late. The Board would act two games later following the dreadful 2-0 defeat at home to struggling Scunthorpe United but for now we had to lick our wounds.
It was a snow-thawed, above zero temperature day in Burnley when the two teams last lined up to face each other. Chris Iwelumo and Jay Rodriguez were the pairing up front that day supported by Elliott and Wallace on the flanks. Jack Cork and Dean Marney took up roles in the centre of midfield. With Fox not quite ready for a return, Brian Easton continued in the left back spot.
In summary we lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Elliott, Marney, Cork, Wallace, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs: Jensen, Duff, Edgar, Alexander, Harvey, Thompson, Guidetti
A record Turf Moor crowd turned up to see this game but let`s be honest there was a certain amount of irony in the massive Leeds support reminding us we only turned up in numbers because Leeds were the visitors. Administration? The Burnley Board fear it, the Leeds Board get on with it
Nottinghamshire referee, Russell Booth got the game underway and it was the Clarets who stormed out of the blocks first. There was a sting from Leeds though in the first few minutes after Gradel came the closest to opening the scoring. Picking up the pass from Howson, the diminutive winger fluffed his shot from 12 yards out. Gradel at this stage seemed to be doing all the hard work without the end product! Getting behind our back four, he could only slice an attempted cross onto the roof of the net.
Rodriguez though was looking so much more comfortable in the attacking role rather than being wasted out wide and he let rip with a shot from distance that went inches wide in the Clarets first real attempt on goal. On 27 minutes, the Clarets finally broke the deadlock to go 1-0 up and again Rodriguez was in the thick of things. He went on a brilliant run to eventually feed Elliott who crossed to the near post. Schmeichel tested by Iwelumo had no option but to concede a corner. As the ball came over from Wallace, Bikey got up to see his header blocked on the line but there was Easton to blast the ball into the roof of the net to score his first goal for the Clarets and his first in over two years for any club!
The Clarets now sensed blood and Bikey nearly made it 2-0 after thumping a free kick wide from 40 yards out. Just eight minutes of the first half remaining though and the Clarets faithful went wild after Burnley finally did increase their lead.
Clarke Carlisle was the architect after thumping a huge clearance down field from the heart of the Burnley defence. Alex Bruce looked to have it covered but stumbled at the wrong time to give Rodriguez an ideal opportunity to pounce. Pounce he did, and in a one-on-one with only Schmeichel to beat he coolly slotted home beneath the keeper to give the Clarets a two goal advantage at half-time.
Leeds though came out looking a different team for the start of the second half and Burnley fans feared the worst when they reduced the arrears on 52 minutes. We should have done better defensively but allowed Snodgrass to get in a deep cross to the far post. There was danger man, Becchio, pretty quiet up to now to be honest to head down for Gradel to thump the ball home from ten yards out. Now it really was game on and the Clarets seemed to panic no doubt recollecting the Sheffield United and Norwich away games. Laws should have acted after the first goal but he did nowt and now it really was crucial for the Clarets to get the next goal. They nearly did too following a sublime cross from Elliott. Iwelumo looked certain to score but somehow put his header wide with Schmeichel rooted to the spot. That was probably the turning point in this match and gave Leeds even further belief they could now crack on and extend their unbeaten run to eight games.
67 minutes and Leeds were level and they thoroughly deserved it. Connolly started the move after a surging run from the right back position. He linked well with Howson to cross for Becchio to score from close range.
All Clarets fans now feared the worst and the worst was about to happen. Leeds were now shamefully in total control and Laws seemed clueless as to what to do. Snodgrass was denied by the woodwork after a surging run from the half-way line led to a left-footed curling shot that rattled the crossbar. Bikey desperately then had to clear another effort with Snodgrass now running rings round a lacklustre defence. It was clear our midfield was just losing it big-time and if ever a substitution was required, that was the area to plug. It was only a matter of time with Leeds in the ascendency and the Clarets looking like startled rabbits that we would go behind and that came five minutes from time. Leeds captain, Howson decided to go it alone despite plenty of options. From 22 yards out he curled a shot past Grant to make it 3-2 and send the Leeds fans wild soon after reminding Clarets fans we should have gone Christmas shopping! They were right and we all hoped Laws was listening as well after such an embarrassment.
It was clear to everybody that if Burnley were to get back in this game they would to do it via improvements in midfield. The trouble is we only had young Harvey on the bench or possibly Edgar who could help in that department. Alexander would hardly have helped in the pace department and now was not the time to go 4-5-1 with a holding midfielder.
Instead all Laws could resort too was tinkering about with the strike force , so we saw both Thompson and Guidetti come on to replace the ineffectual Iwelumo and the tiring Wallace respectively. The substitutions added nothing despite being given a lifeline of five minutes of added time. It was a tale of woe despite late efforts from Thompson and Guidetti. Nobody likes losing to Leeds and for Clarets fans we did so in the worst way possible.
Putting aside pre-season friendlies the last time Burnley played Leeds United before this season was in the Championship back in 2006-7. This was a grim season of course for our Yorkshire rivals with the club going into administration, suffering a ten-point deduction and being relegated after finishing bottom of the League. A few seasons in League 1 followed before they finally got promoted as runners-up last season. Burnley of course went in the opposite direction enjoying a spell in the top flight for the first time in 33 years in 2009/10 before suffering relegation. Back in 2006-7, under Steve Cotterill, Burnley though finished in 15th spot during a period when mid-table mediocrity was becoming the norm for the Clarets. In the two games played that season against Leeds United honours were even.
In November 2006 we beat Leeds 2-1 at Turf Moor but suffered a 1-0 defeat in the return fixture at Elland Road in April 2007.
The match at Turf Moor was played on the night of Tuesday 28th November in front of a crowd of 15,061 fans. It would prove a disaster for Clarets fans and the club despite eventually winning the match 2-1.
The Burnley starting eleven for this game was as follows:
Coyne, Duff, McGreal, Thomas, Harley, Jones, J.O`Connor, Hyde, Elliott, Noel-Williams, Gray
Mahon, McCann and Lafferty would also feature in this came coming on from the bench.
After a goalless first half, Burnley punished Leeds with two goals in two minutes. Gifton Noel -Williams scored the first goal on 67 minutes with Andy Gray getting a second two minutes later. A late consolation goal by Leeds with three minutes to play reduced the arrears but the bad news for the Clarets was that Andy Gray who was our leading marksman and had been scoring for fun fractured his foot in a late challenge .That injury would subsequently rule him out for a lot of the remaining season and from being 4th in the League after this clash and play-offs contenders we would now suffer the usual festive slump and slide down the table. Many Clarets fans put our poor performance in the second half of the season down to the loss of Gray at a crucial time and the inability of the club to release enough funds to bring in a suitable replacement during the January window although we did welcome back Ade Akinbiyi for his second spell at the club. The loss of Gray however coincided with an awful winless run of 19 games destroying any hope of promotion and indeed threatening the club with relegation after reaching our lowest point of 19th by March 2007. Steve Cotterill was also under considerable pressure with a number of fans baying for his blood. He would hang on for another seven months but in the end that bad spell came back to haunt him despite two really good spells on either side of the luckless run that season.
By the time these two clubs met again at Elland Road on Saturday 14th April, Burnley had begun to recover slightly and were now in 17th spot. Andy Gray too had now recovered from his injury playing in this clash. Burnley had also at least by then broken their winless run following a 4-0 thumping of Plymouth at Turf Moor earlier that month which they had then followed up with two great wins, one away to promotion hopefuls, Birmingham City and then a victory at home against Cardiff City. Could they now make it four wins in a row? Expectations were high but it wasn`t to be.
The Clarets short winning streak of three consecutive matches and 375 minutes without conceding a goal came to an end against Leeds at Elland Road following a 1-0 defeat. A Matt Heath goal in the 21st minute was enough to give Leeds all three points and ease their relegation worries at least for the moment.
The Clarets lined up that day as follows:
Jensen, Harley, Thomas, Caldwell, Duff, Jones, Djemba-Djemba, J O'Connor, Elliott, McVeigh, A Gray.
Subs: Coyne, Spicer, Coughlan, Akinbiyi, McCann
Leeds United also had two familiar faces in their sixteen. Former Clarets idol, Robbie Blake was in the starting line-up for Leeds whilst another ex-Claret, Ian Moore was named on the bench but was not to feature in the game.
In a nervous, tense match Leeds practically dominated the game and the Clarets hardly threatened throughout .Our engine room of James O'Connor and Eric Djemba-Djemba, so effective of late seemed to have an average game by their own standards and the most disappointed player on the pitch was probably Andy Gray who failed to make an impression in the game and never really looked like scoring. Paul McVeigh, who had been the catalyst recently linking up well with Andy Gray also seemed to be off the boil and all Clarets fans were left hoping the defeat was just a blip. The defeat still left us in 17th place on 51 points, which was considered enough to avoid the drop although we were still not technically safe and needed three points at home to Norwich in our next match to be certain of safety.
We won that game and avoided the drop but it was the loss of Gray in the first clash that would have ultimately a significant effect on the club`s history. Owen Coyle would arrive following the departure of Steve Cotterill by mutual consent in November 2007 and we all know what happened then!