Flashback – 2010: One bounce, two bounce ... three points for Leeds United

Jonathan Howson
Jonathan Howson
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A JINK, a drop of the shoulder, and Jonny Howson was on his way.

The midfield, as they say, had opened up in front of him, and with space to play with, the talismanic playmaker unleashed a shot at the Burnley goal.

Jonathan Howson

Jonathan Howson

It didn’t leave the foot the way it does in dreams.

Visibly tired after an 85-minute slog between two highly competitive sides, Howson’s attempted thunderbolt flounced over the surface, bouncing once, twice, three times.

Sprawling desperately to his left, the home side’s loanee goalkeeper Lee Grant outstretched his left hand to no avail. Spluttering its way across the Lancashire turf, the ball bent low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Scored eight years ago tomorrow, it was a strike that kept Leeds’ promotion chase warm heading into an intimidating Christmas fixture pile-up.

From 2-0 down at the break, the Whites had won 3-2. It was an important result and today some describe it as one of the great modern Leeds United comebacks.

The Turf Moor away end was a collage of celebratory limbs, a snapshot highlight into a season that would ultimately end so close to a return to the Premier League.

But abject that first half certainly was. The Whites’ defence was nothing short of a mess, an experienced back five of Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce, Collins and McCartney lacking the organisation of an in-form Andy O’Brien.

A young Jay Rodriguez ran riot, finding space between the lines with regularity, holding midfielder Neil Kilkenny unable to offer a faltering defence any support as Howson bombed on.

It was Rodriguez that put the Clarets 2-0 up after Brian Easton’s well-taken opener, and heading into the break, Leeds were appalling.

Then it changed. As happened a handful of times in his tenure at Elland Road, Simon Grayson went to work. What exactly was said in that pokey Lancashire dressing room has stayed between those present, but what unravelled was a U-turn of some magnitude.

Talismanic as ever, Ivorian trickster Max Gradel sparked the tide-turn when he angled in a classy shot seven minutes after the break.

Leeds fans witnessed the finer moments of Gradel’s career during the latter stages of 2010, and with momentum swinging his way, the winger went to work.

Wave after wave of United attack came at 2-1, Burnley players and fans melting slowly into two banks of four, frustrations permeating from the terraces.

Understandably so. Burnley fans’ distaste for Leeds United is well documented after a three-year battle with Don Revie’s all-conquering Super Leeds side that inflicted a 1974 injury to the Clarets’ Frank Casper before Ray Hankin and Gordon McQueen were sent off for fighting at Turf Moor six months later.

The Lancashire groans were as audible as Dimitar Berbatov comparisons as Luciano Becchio swept in an equaliser just after the hour mark.

A draw would extend Leeds’ unbeaten run to eight games and preserve their place in the play-off places, but with every passing movement, it became clear the Whites were unwilling to settle for a stalemate.

Gradel again went close, after Bradley Johnson jinked past Clarke Carlisle to swing one wide. It was the Yorkshire side taking precedence in this War of the Roses, Grayson making his intentions clear with Ross McCormack replacing Kilkenny.

A Robert Snodgrass effort hit the Burnley crossbar and Johnson fluffed his lines. For all the huffing and puffing, Leeds went into the last five minutes needing a hero.

And who else? Operating in an otherwise deeper role after McCormack’s introduction, it fell to Pudsey-born Howson to pull on his ‘Roy of the Rovers’ mask and complete the comeback.