Burnley v Leeds United: Whites storm back to Burn the Clarets

Simon Grayson spent Saturday evening in the company of a friend whose footballing allegiance lies with Burnley.

"We'll be drinking Claret," he said, leaving no doubt that the pleasure of the meeting would be all his.

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The right to brag was already apportioned but even Grayson looked mildly bemused to be in possession of it. The outlook after 45 minutes of Saturday's game at Turf Moor was so bleak that he could have asked for no more than a second half which protected his pride. "I'm looking forward to dinner more than I was at half-time," he said.

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Grayson has had his share of exasperating team-talks in two years as Leeds United's manager but Saturday's verged on thankless, forced upon a coach who was in poor health last week and gradually losing his voice.

Two goals down to a Burnley team who are ruthless enough at Turf Moor without the help of a long headstart, he and his players converged in the dressing room beneath the stadium's away stand and tried, in his words, to be constructive. The ripple of encouragement created a swell of animation which swept their bewildered hosts away.

Grayson was almost alone in believing that the fixture was anything other than a lost cause when Jay Rodriguez scored Burnley's second goal late in the first half. Leeds had the air of a beaten club and Burnley assumed they were.

Their manager, Brian Laws, asked out loud if that was the problem. "We hadn't won the game," Laws said. "Maybe one or two of the players thought we had."

For him, a postmortem. For Grayson, a relaxing night of reflection on a win as improbable as it was epic. He is growing accustomed to victories of that nature after a scrambled defeat of Crystal Palace seven days earlier, but Palace's desperate defence of a one-goal lead was in no way comparable with Burnley's superiority at the end of the first half on Saturday. The points gained at Turf Moor were pulled from the fire, like few others accrued during Grayson's tenure.

Their value was seen in a Championship table which is draining credibility from Grayson's attempts to talk of promotion as something which is not yet worthy of discussion.

Fourth in the division with 21 games completed; this is destined to be a merry Christmas at Elland Road, the most satisfying in terms of league position for five years. Saturday's game against QPR is a timely and meaningful comparison with the club considered to be the Championship's benchmark and one who might feel that there are better times to be visiting Leeds.

There were certainly better times to be visiting Burnley. The club's record at Turf Moor went before them last week, as strong as any other in the division after QPR's loss to Watford on Friday night, and a clinical streak spread through their performance as the first half wore on.

With 45 minutes played, the stadium was proving as unaccommodating as it threatened to be.

But even at that juncture, Grayson felt short-changed. The scoreline was the result of a perfect storm, comprising of loose finishing from his own players, finer accuracy from Burnley's and a mistake leading to Rodriguez's goal. "I still thought there was something in the game,"

said Grayson, admitting that a victory was not prominent in his mind.

The speed of Max Gradel's reply in the 52nd minute was pivotal, arriving early enough to foster patience among the players around him and make full-time a distant target in the eyes of those he had rattled.

Luciano Becchio equalised 14 minutes later, by which time Burnley's remarkable naivety had given way to an utter loss of composure as Leeds swarmed forward.

That it took a majestic goal from Jonathan Howson to win the match with five minutes remaining was due only to three chances that Burnley survived through luck more than judgement. Grayson did not have to argue too firmly that the result was fair.

Howson has a liking for the spectacular and his coup de grace was one flash of brilliance on a day of many from him, a low shot curled around goalkeeper Lee Grant after a 30-yard sprint from the halfway line. The 4,000 away supporters behind Grant's net reacted with the astonished delirium that football creates infrequently.

"You should have gone Christmas shopping," they taunted the home crowd, returning with interest an improvised song aimed at them in the first half.

Christmas shopping might have been on Andy O'Brien's agenda over the weekend after a thigh strain led Grayson to omit him from his line-up.

Against a club with so much authority at home, his absence was a nuisance, depriving Leeds of a player who brought order to their defence last month.

Neill Collins was reunited with Alex Bruce and certain bad habits resurfaced, specifically the error from Bruce which invited Rodriguez to score. Less obvious amid the chaos of the second half was their stoic resistance with Grayson's midfield committed to salvaging something from the game. Chris Iwelumo, Burnley's rugged striker, was seen off without finding the net in the 73rd minute.

Nor was it Bruce's fault that Leeds were themselves goalless at half-time. Max Gradel sliced a shot wide of Grant's left-hand post when the ball hit Robert Snodgrass and rolled to him inside the box two minutes after the start of the game.

The winger was as wasteful when Snodgrass slipped him in behind right-back Tyrone Mears, floating a lob onto the roof of Grant's net while Howson and Becchio screamed for a cut-back.

The implications of those missed opportunities became apparent in the 28th minute when Andre Bikey met a corner from Ross Wallace which struck a crowd of bodies on Kasper Schmeichel's goalline. Brian Easton found the ball at his feet and hacked it into the net.

With a lead to feed on, Burnley began to show the strength and fluency befitting of a side who might yet be promoted. Rodriguez's goal nevertheless owed little to creative skill. The forward pursued Bruce as the defender followed a long clearance from Clarke Carlisle, and Bruce's critical loss of footing left Rodriguez to sweep the ball under Schmeichel. Turf Moor smelt blood as Grayson thought about spilling some.

He stopped short of substitutions at the start of the second half but pushed Gradel forward to complement Becchio and intensify the fight. Within seven minutes, the winger met Becchio's knockdown with a careful shot and directed it past Grant with Burnley suffering from the disarray which afflicted them from there on.

Salvation would have been at hand for Laws had Iwelumo not driven a header wide at the end of Wade Elliott's cross, and his failure to score did not go unpunished. In the 66th minute, Paul Connolly advanced though Burnley's half and exchanged passes with Howson before producing a cross which Becchio dispatched with an outstretched foot. It was clear then that the game had more to offer Leeds than a draw.

A third goal eluded Leeds narrowly when Bradley Johnson sent a shot careering wide of Grant's goal and Snodgrass curled a shot against his crossbar. Substitute Ross McCormack saw an effort held up on Burnley's goalline as the crowd behind attempted to suck the ball in.

But Howson's touch was unerring and his accuracy perfect when a tiring run took him to the edge of Burnley's box with five minutes left.

McCormack had his opportunity to remove any doubt about the result but smashed a shot against Grant, seconds before Schmeichel denied John Guidetti an equaliser with a flailing right glove. Light work it was not but many hands are making Leeds a school of promise.

Burnley: Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Rodriguez, Elliott, Marney, Cork, Wallace (Guidetti 78), Iwelumo (Thompson 73). Subs (not used): Duff, Alexander, Edgar, Harvey, Jensen.

Leeds United: Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce, Collins, McCartney, Snodgrass, Kilkenny (McCormack 64), Howson, Johnson, Gradel, Becchio (Faye 90). Subs (not used): Higgs, Hughes, Paynter, Somma, Sam.

Referee: Richard Booth (Nottinghamshire).

Attendance: 20,453.