Today should have been Leeds United’s day!
02 May 2020 09:31 am, by YorkshireSquare
Today should have been the day! Saturday 2nd May 2020 should have gone down in history as the day Leeds United regained their rightful place in the Premier League at Elland Road against Charlton. But it is not to be! This season may still end up with Leeds promoted to the top flight for the first time in over fifteen years, we may even be crowned Champions but that moment of joy, relief and unbridled passion has been taken from us. Fans would have streamed onto the sacred turf as Marcelo Bielsa and his bucket were held aloft, paraded around the Elland Road pitch as the hero he is. It’s a thought that brings back memories of 2010; Max Gradel, Jonny Howson, Jermaine Beckford and Andy Hughes.
In 2010 the scene was set for the final game of the season against ninth-placed Bristol Rovers, the team they had beaten 4-0 on their own ground back in October and there were no excuses, a win would mean promotion. United were forced to make one change as Richard Naylor had picked up an injury and was replaced by Leigh Bromby in Central Defence. Simon Grayson also made another change from the team that lost to Charlton Athletic, making the decision to bring back Jermaine Beckford in place of Robert Snodgrass, who dropped to the bench and Lubomir Michalik filled the vacant spot alongside him in the substitutes.In what was thought to be his last game for Leeds, Jermaine Beckford was given the Captain's armband.
The teams came out to a capacity crowd of 38,234 and it was Leeds that began the stronger as the Bristol goal came under threat on several occasions. Good work by Jermaine Beckford on the left played in Bradley Johnson and his dangerous centre was palmed away by Rover's keeper Mikkel Andersen. Max Gradel got in a low cross and Luciano Becchio was inches away from touching the ball into the net. Bristol responded and forced a couple of corners, which came to nothing. Infringements were constantly slowing down the pace of the game and both sides were equally guilty as the players sought to repay for perceived transgressions. Leigh Bromby twice cleared for Leeds.
The tension was building as the crowd and Leeds players realised that things were not going to plan and it would be a long, slow and hard job for Leeds to get the goal they so desperately needed. The niggles and tit-for-tat fouls continued until the game blew up after thirty-five minutes when there was an altercation in the Bristol Rovers penalty area between Max Gradel and the Bristol defender Daniel Jones. Jones had flattened the Leeds winger with a heavy tackle just previously and the diminutive Ivorian stamped on his adversary's shin in retribution at the first chance. Jones immediately went into his dying swan act clutching his face and rolling on the floor and players from both sides confronted before the Referee showed a red card to Max Gradel and a yellow to Jones.
The Leeds winger became incensed and clearly agitated and got into more problems as his Captain, Jermaine Beckford, and Michael Doyle tried to restrain him and get him to leave peacefully. It required the intervention of stewards to make the irate Ivorian leave the field. The Bristol defender was booed loudly every time he touched the ball, but the visitors pressed strongly with their one man advantage, and Darryl Duffy was booked for a foul on Shane Higgs. United had more defending to do, but half time came with no goals to show and the referee and players left the field to a loud chorus of booing.
There was a huge blow to United's chances just two minutes after the restart. Arch-villain Daniel Jones crossed from the left and it was hooked back by Joe Kuffor and Darryl Duffy was on hand to shoot home from close range, as the visitors went 1-0 up. Luciano Becchio went close for United and the Referee further endeared himself to the home crowd when he turned down an appeal for a penalty after a Bradley Johnson shot had been blocked. United went to a back three when they brought Jonathan Howson on in place of Shane Lowry after fifty-four minutes. He had not been on the field for five minutes when, after Luciano Becchio had played a Bradley Johnson cross back to him on the edge of the penalty area, he put in a curling shot which beat the Bristol keeper to hit the back of the net for the equaliser.
Four minutes later the ten men took the lead. Bradley Johnson was again heavily involved with a surging run and cross from the left, which was partially stopped by a defender and the ball fell to Jermaine Beckford just six yards out and he smashed it into the net with an emphatic finish for his thirty-first goal of the season. United went looking for a third goal and this left them open to a quick break from the visitors and only a brave stop by Goalkeeper Shane Higgs saved them as he dived at the feet of the onrushing Joe Kuffor in the seventy-second minute. However it was United that went close to getting a third three minutes later when Neill Collins sent a header when bounced off the woodwork.
Sanchez Watt came on for Luciano Becchio with two minutes left on the clock and then in the last minute Jermaine Beckford left the field to a standing ovation when he gave way to Robert Snodgrass, but the game was soon over and the supporters were able to celebrate the victory which, as usual, was obtained the hard way. Fans streamed onto the Elland Road pitch and Andy Hughes was carried aloft in front of the Kop, his passion clear for all to see. If that was the celebration after three years in League One, imagine what it would have been like securing promotion after fifteen years outside the Premier League. A curling beauty from Pablo, a Bamford tap in, an Ayling thunderbolt, whatver the goal that sealed it there would have been a mental like no other. Limbs absolutely everyhere!
It should have been today, but we will get our moment!