Sometimes a hard-earned result after a run of defeats can do the trick, reinvigorate a team, instil confidence and set them on a much more positive run. Sometimes. There must be some doubt as to whether this struggle to beat a Bournemouth team reduced to 10 men after only just over half an hour will do that trick, inspiration-wise. The initial lift provided by Cherries goalkeeper Ryan Allsop’s dismissal for a professional foul was immediately negated when Ross McCormack missed the resultant penalty, sub keeper Darryl Flahavan saving the Scot’s weakish effort. That “here we go again” gloom descended on Elland Road and the two teams headed in at half time level.
The second half was better in a way it couldn’t really help but be after the disappointment of the first. The usual procession of half-chances and fluffed shots had in the end come to a familiar outcome: no goals for Leeds. The deadlock though was broken when Bournemouth’s depleted side finally cracked as McCormack got onto the end of a Stephen Warnock low pass to sweep the ball past Flahavan from close range. Leeds had been somewhat more effective since the Cherries had been reduced to ten, and the feeling was that they could now go on to capitalise.
Typically though, it would not be that simple. Another set-piece to defend on 73 minutes, another awful mix-up at the back for Leeds as Eunan O’Kane headed on for Lewis Grabban to equalise. 1-1 and Leeds were threatening to throw away at least two points. That impression was reinforced when Flahavan then produced a one-handed save to deny Rudy Austin, but after 80 minutes of embarrassingly tense struggle, former Bournemouth defender Jason Pearce managed to knock the ball down for sub Dom Poleon to lash in the winner.
It was the kind of game that could so easily have proved a disaster for Leeds, even at this early stage of the season. The psychological import of failing to win against ten men, on the end of such a dismal run too, was too horrible to contemplate. As it was, United prevailed and they can draw a line under this performance and move on. Things will need to be a lot better against Derby at the weekend if the Whites are to build on this less than convincing win.