Grayson delighted to steal a march as hard work pays off

THE plan hatched by the Leeds United hierarchy to ensure that Saturday's game went ahead was give the wonderful sobriquet 'Operation Buckingham' (Get the Palace On).

It worked like a dream as Elland Road, for the second time this year, became the only Football League stadium north of the Midlands to beat the arctic weather and host 90 minutes amid freezing temperatures.

Not only had the under-soil heating done its job to leave the pitch in such good condition that the game against Crystal Palace will take some beating this season in terms of excitement and attacking quality.

But the surrounding areas, thanks to the efforts of both the club's staff and also the Council who own the vast majority of the car parks surrounding United's home, were also perfectly capable of coping with the 25,476 crowd who chose to forsake the warmth of their own fireside or the pub to brave the elements.

Happily for Leeds, the considerable endeavour that went into 'Operation Buckingham' was rewarded with three points – something that had not been the case at the start of the year when the home game with Wycombe Wanderers in League One that beat the freeze ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw.

United manager Simon Grayson said: "We had all the groundstaff getting the game on and we had 25,000 through the turnstiles.

"We didn't want to waste an opportunity to get a result while some of the other games were off.

"We wanted to reward a lot of people who put a lot of work in to get the game on.

"We started the game well, their goalkeeper was in great form and we had good chances. But then we got hit by a sucker-punch.

"The key is you have to keep believing.

"Our fans demand that we keep going to the very end and that is what happened with the equaliser and the winner.

"You do worry that it might be one of those days when we're throwing players forward and the goalkeeper's making so many saves.

"We changed the system to try and win the game. We had a really good go and got our just rewards."

United's victory was enough to nudge Grayson's men back into the play-off places ahead of a daunting fixture schedule in the rest of December that includes trips to Burnley and Leicester City plus home meetings with unbeaten leaders Queens Park Rangers and Portsmouth.

Grayson, who is on the four-man shortlist to be named Manager of the Month for November, added: "We have done okay so far. We have given ourselves a platform. But we have still got a lot of games to go before we achieve anything."

Becchio's two late strikes took the Argentinian's goal tally for the season to 11, ten of which have come in the league.

His late double also fully vindicated the United manager's adventurous approach in the final quarter when he took off a defender (Andrew Hughes) and switched to an attack-minded 3-4-3 formation.

Grayson said: "When Billy Paynter was coming on, Luciano was half-walking to the bench because he thought he was coming off. But we wanted to keep as many attacking options on the pitch so we could equalise and then win the game.

"You have got to keep people on the pitch who you think are going to score you goals.

"He is a fantastic player, he is proved his worth to the club in terms of his goals, his commitment and his effort.

"That is why we are trying to keep him. I am sure clubs and scouts if they have got anything about them will be taking notice of him, as we are of other players.

"But we are trying to keep our best players and Luciano fits right into that category."