When Simon Grayson announced the signings of Billy Paynter and fellow striker Ross McCormack, many Leeds fans were excited about the prospect of two strikers who could fill the void of the departing Jermaine Beckford.
Yet today the two forwards played only their second game together, in a season which has already span 45 league games. Grayson's ideal partnership has not been given the chance to gel, but in the 90 minutes of football today they showed the skill and potential we have been looking for all season. Today's performance from the pair, showed promise for the next campaign, but it wasn't just the strike force the whole team looked more together as a unit.
Simon Grayson handed Ross McCormack a start, and also recalled George McCartney and Neil Kilkenny to his starting eleven. Out of form Robert Snodgrass was dropped to the bench. The atmosphere was electric come kick-off, the final home game of the season had attracted 31,186 to Elland Road. The fans were excepting a performance, the play-offs were every so slightly in sight, but results had to go Leeds' way at Forest and Millwall.
Leeds started brightly McCormack and Paynter both had chances after some good play by Howson and Gradel. Burnley also showed they were going to be no pushovers, after midfielder Chris Eagles went close. Leeds keeper Schmeichel was called into action after twenty minutes, the Dane had to use his face to make sure Leeds kept their clean sheet. Leeds' first real chance fell to Paynter, McCormack played a pinpoint cross to the former Swindon man, his goal bound header was stopped at the last minute by Jensen.
Minutes later McCormack finally grabbed his first Leeds goal, with a superb one-on-one finish after a superb curling pass from Bradley Johnson. The rest of the team came across to the corner flag to congratulate him, in what was a real moment of relief for both the team and the striker. Eagles wasted several chances at goal before half-time, much to the delight of the fans faithful, who were giving him some grief for his past club.
Leeds continued to pepper Burnley's goal in the second-half, Paynter should have scored with a header, and was unlucky when he rounded Jensen but could only find the side netting. On the hour, the players were involved in a team-on-team scuffle after McCann kicked Gradel in the back. McCormack and Lichaj were booked for their part in the incident, but from the resulting free-kick O'Brien nearly made it 2-0 with a header.
Vice captain Howson managed to find his way into the box, and carve out a shot but it was Jensen to the rescue once again with a superb diving save. Sanchez Watt was brought on late on and could have scored/ assisted but chose the greedy option and fired high and wide on both occasions. United managed to hold on for all three points, to keep their play-off dream in sight, all be it very very very far in the distance.
Today's strike partnership looked promising, both linked up well and could have scored a brace each. The team looked good using the 4-4-2 formation, something I didn't think I would be saying this season. The final home game of the season saw the players come out to say thanks to the fans, some of the players will most likely be saying goodbye, but we will just have to wait and see.
My man of the match:
Ross McCormack looked sharp and lively all game (no surprise seen as he has been warming the bench this season). He linked up well with Paynter and Gradel, grabbed his first goal for the club and should have added more. Today's performance will hopefully be a sign of things to come, with a few new signings Leeds could be a force within the division.
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