It was a great day to be a Leeds United fan as the supporters were greeted to an offensive display by the Whites who scored four times while the visiting MK Dons capped their miserable showing by having a total of three players sent-off. The pre-match talk was about former skipper Lucas Radebe who was a surprise guest and who was the winner of the PFA Merit award for 2010 as a token of appreciation for his charitable work. Leeds came into the match needing to win in order to remain second and Simon Grayson made only three changes to the team after last weekend’s loss to Gillingham yet his most significant move was to maintain his trust in the recently formed strike partnership of Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel. Top scorer Jermaine Beckford was once again on the bench yet his positive approach must be applauded as it appears he has been working hard to regain his starting role in order to leave Elland Road on a high note. Beckford managed to score two late goals after coming off the bench with around 15 minutes left to play and has certainly begun the process of redeeming himself after a few sloppy performances.
The prolific scorer took his first goal with a beautifully struck, flying volley before he was fouled and then duly converted the spot-kick to confirm his growing status as a super-sub. The Manager might have done the best move of the season by benching his top scorer as it seems to have revitalised Beckford while the Becchio-Gradel partnership continues to deliver the goods after Becchio’s goal opened the floodgates for the Whites. The Argentine scored with a nifty touch after a fine ball from Sanchez Watt while strike partner Gradel scored the second goal to restore the lead for the hosts. The crowd at Elland Road, estimated at just under 26,000, were delighted with Beckford’s first goal and the club’s third in the match as the build-up epitomised the group effort with Becchio, Watt and Bradley Johnson all playing a role in creating the scoring opportunities. Grayson must have been pleased with what he saw and will be hoping the Whites keep up the momentum in their remaining two fixtures with Leeds needing to win both, regardless of other results, to secure Championship football at Elland Road next season.
The players appear to have put behind their recent struggles with the Whites winning four of their last five games while scoring 13 goals in the process. Ironically the recent scoring run has come after a barren run of four games and some 360 minutes which witnessed Leeds fail to score a single goal. The changes made by Grayson must be complimented as moving Gradel to a striking role has revolutionised the attack while giving Gradel the perfect opportunity to express his talent and secure regular playing time after spending the majority of the time since permanently joining the club warming the bench. Becchio’s fitness problems remain a concern but he did shake off the ill effects to start, score a goal, create other scoring opportunities and finish the match to prove his fitness ahead of the crucial away match against Charlton Athletic. The Leeds boss will likely stick to the latest lineup for the remaining two fixtures after Watt impressed and left-back Ben Parker proved to be solid while Johnson was industrious. Prolific striker Beckford will likely have to settle for the bench once again yet this could prove to be a positive move as he will be fired up and raring to go when his name is called to warm up and torment the tired opposing defenders after at least 45 minutes of football.
Two games, two wins and six points are all what separate Leeds from the much anticipated return to the Championship with the supporters desperate to put behind the last few years of misery piled by play-off losses in consecutive seasons. Grayson must ensure the Whites focus on the upcoming clash against Charlton by insisting to them this is as important as an FA Cup tie. The League One campaign suffered a severe blow following the exit at the hand of Tottenham Hotspur with the players clearly taking time to adjust between playing Premier League opposition such as Manchester United and Spurs in the FA Cup and facing division clubs such as Southend United and the Dons.