The euphoria of the cup victory over Norwich hung heavy over Elland Road like the smell of fireworks on the morning after bonfire night. Reflections on one of the best nights at Elland Road in the last 10 years and the prospect of the trip to Anfield filled the air as we followed the human swarm heading to the stadium. All of a sudden life is fine and dandy on Planet Leeds and it feels great.
With all due respect to Burton Albion if ever there was a fixture to bring you back to earth in this oh so tight Championship it’s Burton at home. Their meteroic rise up through the Football League pyramid is admirable and remarkable in equal measures but inevitably this game will feel a bit like an old fashioned 3rd Round FA Cup tie against a non league team to those Leeds fans of a certain age. 24,000 fans were inside Elland Road to hear a brilliant rendition of The Last Post before an impeccably observed minute’s silence in memory of our fallen service personnel.
Garry Monk had recalled Hernandez in place of Vieira from the team that started at Wolves. Could Leeds continue their rich vein of form against the championship newcomers? We were about to find out. Burton flew out of the blocks straight from the kick off and earned a corner with their first attack. Not exactly what the majority of fans inside Elland Road were expecting. From the corner Leeds scrambled the ball away but minutes later the big bustling Burton striker, O’Grady, went near with a shot after good build up play. This wasn’t going to be an easy afternoon.
Leeds first bit of joy came when the ever improving Roofe turned his man delightfully on the half way and scampered away to the bye line but the move came to nothing. Leeds had a spell of pressure but attempts from Wood, Jansson and Ayling were all blocked. Although the game was open with both teams looking to attack at every opportunity it was also scrappy. Burton are a well drilled outfit and make up for their lack of quality players with hard work, physical pressing and a liking for keeping the ball on the floor. Leeds struggled to enforce consistent pressure on the Brewers back line as the game stuttered to half time. Palmer hit the bar for the visitors with a looping header and Sacko headed over for Leeds in a scrappy stalemate of a first half. 0.0 HT.
Although Leeds had shown glimpses of quality in the first 45 minutes too often promising moves floundered with the final ball. Monk would need to address this along with the physical approach from Burton during his half time talk. The 2nd half continued in a similar vein to the first with Burton enjoying plenty of possession but finding it hard to penetrate the fortress Leeds defence. Beavon, Turner, Irvine and O’Grady all had shots that didn’t trouble Green in the Leeds goal mainly due to number of Leeds bodies launched at any Burton player daring to shoot. It was like the defence took it as a personal insult if the ball reached Green. That was fine but if we were to get three points we needed to have more penetration at the other end of the pitch.
As the hour mark passed Leeds tried to move up a gear. Ayling slid a superb ball through for Roofe who hit it first time inches wide of the Burton goalie's post. This fired up the baying home crowd and it wasn’t long before Roofe was again released this time by Hernandez and tested the keeper. Suddenly it was Leeds on the front foot. Hernandez got two shots away but still couldn’t breach the Burton defence. Burton did look dangerous on the break though as we entered squeaky bum time with just 15 minutes to go. Garry Monk decided to try something different and swapped Roofe for Doukara. After his sterling work on Tuesday could the much maligned Leeds striker make a difference to this game? Yes indeedy he certainly could!
Doukara seems to be a changed player. Gone are his 10 yard first touches, absent is his inability to hold the ball up and all of a sudden his confidence is sky high. I don’t what they’ve done at Thorp Arch but it’s certainly worked. With the clock ticking past 80 minutes Elland Road erupted. After a clever interchange in midfield Wood fed the ball to Hernadez who’s first time volley landed perfectly into the path of Doukara who was streaking away from the Burton defence like a hungry Panther. Into the box he went only for Turner to bring him down before he could score. PENALTY Leeds.
Up steps Chris Wood to absolutely smash the ball past the Burton goalie for the opening goal. 1.0 Leeds and the now familiar group celebration in front of the kop with Jansson pumping the crowd up like a snarling Tiger. Now could we hang on? Burton threw everybody forward but the Leeds defence were now in absolute shutdown mode. Any shot or cross was met with at least one Leeds defender swatting it away. 5 minutes added time. God knows where that came from?
Burton battled for the equaliser but they couldn’t break the Leeds resolve. In the 96th minute from what seemed like the 110th block by a Leeds defender Wood broke with the ball. He headed for the half way with 24,000 fans urging him on………….The Black Panther was now surging through the middle looking for some more food……Wood provided the perfect ball for Doukara to take into the box. Once again he was assaulted by a Burton defender but nothing was going to stop him this time as he got to his feet and prodded the ball home. 2.0 and the game over. Jubilant celebrations in the corner earned him a yellow card from Mr Pedantic Ref. If ever there is a more ridiculous rule than booking a player for “over celebrating” then I’m a martian.
2.0 the final score and once again fans were streaming away from the ground smiling and laughing. Very UnLeeds like! It wasn’t a classic performance by any stretch of the imagination but it showed the sheer grit and determination Monk has instilled in his team. Doukara was my man of the match because he changed the game but Hernadez and especially Ayling also excelled. Leeds up to 9th and just a point off the play offs. The mighty white's juggernaut is gaining some significant momentum. If that continues through November when we play the likes of Norwich, Toon, Rotherham away and the little matter of Liverpool then we all better fasten our seat belts because this is going to be one Hell of a ride up to Xmas!