Ross McCormack - Matchwinner - Ian Walton
Leeds United made it 6 wins on the spin at home in the Championship with a narrow victory over the bottom of the table Robins. But with just over 18000 inside Elland Road, the fans are voting with their feet, as sometimes they want to see a little style to go with the substance. Braving the sub-zero temperatures to watch another sub-par performance was Stephen Clark.
All it took was five minutes of concerted pressure for Bristol City to crack and allow Leeds United the opportunity to earn a victory, yet for the few who ventured to Elland Road on an icy cold afternoon will have been frustrated that it took the home side an hour to pluck up the courage to push forward and grab what proved to be a winning goal.
The two Ross's combined to provide the decisive strike, Ross Barkley producing a quality ball to the back post where Ross McCormack rose to head back across the goal and put the Whites in front midway through the second half.
Before that moment of inspiration the match had been another turgid display, devoid of ideas and lacking any quality to lift an already lifeless crowd. On an afternoon when excitement was required to get the blood flowing through the frozen masses, Leeds struggled to raise the temperature, despite at least making an effort to avoid the hoofball tactics of recent weeks.
Once again Neil Warnock rang the changes, switching the formation to a 4-2-3-1. Aidy White, the 3rd best left back at the club, retained his place with Lee Peltier preferred at centre back alongside Tom Lees. With the spectators dreaming "of a team of Michael Brown's" they had to put up with just the one, as he lined up alongside Rodolph Austin as the holding midfielders. McCormack and Barkley where joined by El-Hadji Diouf as the attacking triumvirate to back up Luciano Becchio, the striker recovering from illness to lead the line. Reports that his illness was a bout of dizziness caused by all the head turning that has been reported remained unconfirmed.
On paper it looked like a decent line up, and a decent formation. However in a side so patently lacking in real width, the two holding midfielders are required to have that little bit of quality required to open up opposition defences. Unfortunately where Tesco's quality beefburgers include a little bit of horse meat, Leeds United's quality midfield includes a whole lot of donkey.
Neil Kilkenny received a bit of a rough ride from Leeds supporters during his time with the club, but on watching him today, it made me wish for the time when he was running round berating his team mates for their inability to pass the ball instead of watching Brown only break into a run to berate the referee for not giving a decision. To call Brown pedestrian is being kind and when his lack of movement is coupled with an inability to move the ball forwards, Leeds hopes of playing a progressive passing game fell at the first hurdle.
At least though it was nice to see Leeds make an effort to try to retain possession, rather than the hopeless hoofing of recent weeks, but when most of the passing ends up going back to Paddy Kenny to launch forward it turns out to be a pointless exercise. The forward players had no outlet to keep things moving when they were closed down with the ful backs not supporting out wide, and Brown not moving out of the centre circle. Rodolph Austin did try to get involved, but his passing was generally poor.
Two bookings were the highlights of the opening ten minutes, one of them going to Kilkenny who looked determined to leave his mark on someone. He picked on Tom Lees knowing that, unless he threw in some racist abuse, he was likely to escape retribution.
With little else going on, I took the time to pay close attention to Kilkenny. I was a big fan of his during his spell at the club, feeling he was the man who made us tick. Lacking the aggression of a Bradley Johnson or the attacking prowess of Jonny Howson he was often the odd man out of those three when Leeds played 4-4-2. However it was his prompting and probing that was often at the heart of United's displays under Simon Grayson, particularly on those occasions when Howson played in the hole.
Oh how Leeds could do with some one like him now. Even with his side bottom of the league and with him having been out of favour in recent weeks, Kilkenny was the boss of the Bristol midfield. Doing the simple things he kept the visitors ticking over, despite the Robins being totally impotent in attack.
Even though Leeds were in charge of affairs, they were punchless in attack, with Becchio certainly not looking himself. If his head hasn't been turned by overtures from other clubs, then he looks disillusioned with life under the current manager and there were signs of dissent in the ranks, with the striker having one heated exchange with Brown following a misunderstanding between the two.
It was the visitors who forced the first real save of the game, full back Richard Foster dancing into the area and unleashing an effort which stung the palms of Kenny just before half time.
Kenny was forced into another save after the break, reacting well to turn an effort from Greg Cunningham behind. For once Neil Warnock had made no changes at half time and around the hour mark Sam Byram seemed to make it his mission to lift the crowd and his teammates out of their slumbers.
The young full back began a series of raids down the right hand side which stretched the Bristol City defence. One cross found Diouf whose shot was easily saved by Tom Heaton. Then from a corner Lees rose superbly to head goalwards, but straight into the arms of the keeper. Finally the pressure told and Mccormack broke the deadlock.
Unfortunately that seemed to be the limit of Leeds ambitions. Once in front the urgency disappeared from United's game. As Bristol City made attacking substitutions to try to get back into the game, Leeds were happy to sit back and soak up the limited pressure that they were put under.
There were few scares for Leeds, the worst being a terrible challenge by Wes Burns on Byram that deserved a red card but only received a yellow. Leeds saw out time by running the ball into corners, instead of going for the second, the right thing to do but not what a crowd bereft of excitement want to see.
However a win is a win and the three points see Leeds remain in the hunt for a play-off place, five points behind sixth placed Watford with 54 points still to play for. Next up is the distraction of the Cup and the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. If Leeds want to keep the fans that will undoubtedly flock back for that game, then they certainly need to improve the entertainment on show. Pragmatism will not win over the floating fan.