Ken Bates' first anniversary as chairman of Leeds United blew in on the back of a 3-0 rout of Sheffield Wednesday, another indication that promotion to the Premier League might mark the end of his first full season at Elland Road.
Leeds United 3
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Elland Road, Saturday, January 21, 2006
Bates had taken up his post at a time of severe financial angst in West Yorkshire, and a ban on champagne in the boardroom – one of numerous measures designed to cut costs, debts and a culture of excess – left no bubbly with which to toast the passing of 12 productive months.
In unusually low-key style, Bates described the rout of Sheffield Wednesday and the significance surrounding it as "a good day."
Manager Kevin Blackwell, who had been in his post at the time of Bates' arrival and received the support of his new chairman, said: "I'm sure he'll have been happy with that. It's a nice present on his anniversary and we've come a long way since he came to the club.
In some respects, Saturday showed that."
The final scoreline flattered Leeds slightly but the result was indicative of their high ranking in the Championship. Blackwell was reluctant to assume anything of United's season but most of his managerial colleagues had reached the conclusion that United would compete in the play-offs at the beginning of May.
Wednesday's position in the division was more dubious, eight months after their promotion from League One.
Their defeat at Elland Road was completed by two goals from 1.1million striker Richard Cresswell, a former Wednesday player and a man with strong family ties to Hillsborough.
"My mum's a big Wednesday fan but she was chuffed to bits to see me score," he said.
"I'm sure she'll forgive me. I had a lot of family at the game – I usually do – but I think they'll all have been pleased as well.
"I always did well against Wednesday for Preston but these goals were a bit sweeter.
"I got a bit of stick from their fans and it was nice to quieten them down."
Cresswell's brace in the final nine minutes glossed a scoreline which was goalless until United's captain, Paul Butler, set an important victory in motion midway through the second half.
A Wednesday midfield consisting of John Hills, Glenn Whelan and Chris Brunt tied Leeds down for 69 minutes but Butler's close-range header from a Jonathan Douglas cross forced Wednesday to abandon their negative strategy.
As the game began to stretch, Cresswell met Gary Kelly's corner while Wednesday defender Richard Wood received treatment on a head wound, and the Owls were already beaten when substitute Simon Walton teed up the striker for an easy finish in the last minute.
"I don't feel the final score flattered us because we dominated possession and created chances," said Blackwell.
"Wednesday didn't really have a shot on goal."
United: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey, Derry, Miller (Walton 83), Douglas, Blake (Healy 62), Cresswell, Lewis. Subs (not used): Bennett, Pugh, Einarsson.