THE FANS group hoping to buy out Massimo Cellino at Leeds United believe a deal can be done inside three months if the Italian grants them a period of exclusivity.
Before last night, it was tempting to wonder if the Championship club would have won again at Elland Road by the time that deadline had elapsed.
But a quite stunning strike from Alex Mowatt has banished such thoughts after United finally claimed all three points on home soil for the first time since March.
Twelve games had elapsed since that last triumph against Ipswich Town and Mowatt’s strike just after the hour almost made the long wait worthwhile.
The midfielder has, in common with many at Leeds, not had the best of seasons. His first goal since Easter Monday, however, was of the very highest order. Collecting the ball 25 yards from goal, Mowatt took one touch before unleashing an unstoppable shot that Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall could only watch helplessly as the ball arrowed into the corner of the net. It was enough to not only end that eight month wait for three points at Elland Road but also a 31-year run without a victory over Cardiff.
Mowatt’s wonder strike was a major relief to those supporters who had been given hope over previous days that Massimo Cellino may be willing to step aside if Leeds Fans United can meet his asking price of £30m.
The group is some way off that target at the moment. But LFU chief executive Dylan Thwaites, who is set to meet the club’s owner today for further talks, believes a deal can be done by early next year if Cellino is willing to commit legally to an exclusivity period that would allow due dilligence to be undertaken.
Whether that proves to be the case, only time will tell. But, for now, United’s fans can at least bask in the glow of a first league win in seven outings.
A solid if unspectacular opening half hour or so provided the platform, as the hosts displayed the commitment and desire that had been so badly lacking in the wretched start against Blackburn Rovers five days earlier that had allowed the visitors to race into a two-goal lead.
The fare may have been dull until Leeds, who yesterday signed Liam Bridcutt on loan from Sunderland, sprang into life shortly before the interval but it was just what Steve Evans’s men needed after last Thursday.
In fact, 39 minutes had gone before either goalkeeper had a save to make, Stuart Dallas doing the honours with a fierce drive that Marshall beat away.
Coming just a couple of minutes after Mowatt had been denied a clear shot on goal by desperate defending, Dallas going close suggested United were finding their feet.
Chris Wood added to that sense of hope in the final few minutes before the interval with a blocked shot and a header that flew wide.
Cardiff did their best to squash any optimism generated by the hosts’ strong end to the opening 45 minutes as Scott Malone almost made Marco Silvestri pay for a poor clearance early after the restart.
Craig Noone then fired goalwards but Luke Murphy threw himself in front of the ball before United had another escape on 54 minutes. Poor marking at a corner allowed Sean Morrison to meet the ball powerfully with a header but Silvestri did well to block amid a melee of bodies.
Leeds’ response was impressively swift, as Dallas and Mirco Antenucci combined well to put Cardiff under pressure after a long punt forward from Scott Wootton.
Dallas then scampered to the byline before drilling a low cross that Morrison cleared behind under heavy pressure from Wood.
It was a let-off for the Bluebirds but one they failed to heed as Leeds went ahead courtesy of Mowatt’s sublime strike.
United had 27 minutes to hold on and Joe Mason was denied by Silvestri, who then held a Morrison header from the resulting corner.
Wood should have wrapped things up for Leeds six minutes from time but, after rounding Marshall, he fired into the side-netting with just Matthew Connolly to beat on the line.
It meant there was still a nervy finale for Evans’s men to negotiate but they managed to do so admirably to help ease some of the pressure that had been building around the club, Anthony Pilkington blazing the visitors’ best opening high and wide in stoppage time.
The focus now returns to Cellino, who missed last night’s victory due to his self-imposed ban, and whether he is willing to grant the period of exclusivity that LFU are demanding.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper; Murphy; Dallas (Byram 81), Cook, Mowatt (Phillips 87); Antenucci (Doukara 90), Wood. Unused substitutes: Botaka, Buckley, Sloth, Horton.
Cardiff City: Marshall; Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Ralls, Malone, Gunnarsson, Whittingham (Pilkington 77), Noone (Ameobi 60); Revell (Jones 69), Mason. Unused substitutes: John, Tamas, Moore, O’Keefe.
Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).