LEEDS United’s quest to finally return to the Premier League will continue with this coming weekend’s home clash with Simon Grayson’s Preston North End.
The second Saturday in April will see the Whites look to net the latest win of a profitable Championship campaign.
But 13 years ago, the second Saturday in April saw Leeds net what remains their most recent win of Premiership football as Eddie Gray’s Whites left Blackburn Rovers with a 2-1 victory that, at the time, looked to add serious weight to the club’s bid to beat the dreaded drop.
After a wretched late December, January and February, a seemingly improving United then approached the trip to relegation rivals Blackburn buoyed by a 3-2 success at home to Leicester City on the previous Monday night.
Nevertheless, Gray’s charges started the day in the relegation zone and three points behind Blackburn and Portsmouth.
The trip to Ewood Park presented an opportunity to put United on the cusp of escaping the drop zone and United faced a Blackburn side that had not won at home since November 29.
In all, a Rovers side managed by Graeme Souness had won just one of their last eight games.
And United enjoyed a dream start when Steven Caldwell gave Gray’s men a second-minute lead. Jermaine Pennant’s strong run bagged the Whites a corner which was fed to the recalled Gary Kelly, who delivered a fine cross for Caldwell to do the rest.
Caldwell was completely unmarked by a Blackburn defence that had kept just four clean sheets all season and the defender duly headed past Rovers ’keeper Brad Freidel to give his men the lead.
United were off to the perfect start and very nearly doubled their lead just seven minutes later when Alan Smith’s long-range half-volley forced Friedel to produce an acrobatic save.
Rovers were going nowhere and, from a rare attack, Whites goalkeeper Paul Robinson saw John Stead volley a decent opportunity, created by Andy Cole’s header, straight down the goalkeeper’s throat.
United looked more likely to bag the game’s second goal and Seth Johnson fired wide before Kelly hit an effort over the bar.
An injured Johnson had to be substituted for Erik Bakke at half-time but Leeds continued to bomb forward and James Milner crashed a an effort against the crossbar with Pennant unable to convert the rebound. Blackburn then finally began to threaten but Robinson smothered to deny Cole whose overhead kick was then fantastically saved by Robinson, with those chances coming either side of an opportunity for Viduka who steered an effort wide.
But Leeds would not be denied their second goal which arrived in the 89th minute when Pennant’s cross from the byline ws allowed to run by Smith to Viduka, who slotted the ball home.
Blackburn eventually pulled a goal back when Craig Short headed Paul Gallagher’s free-kick home, but the damage was done and Leeds moved level on points with Blackburn – but still in the drop zone on goal difference.
But ultimately that was where United stayed as just two draws from the club’s next six games consigned the Whites to the drop while Rovers easily survived thanks to winning their next four games.
Blackburn Rovers 1
Leeds United 2 (Caldwell 2, Viduka 89)
premiership saturday, april 10, 2004
Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Amoruso, Short, Gray, Emerton, Tugay, Flitcroft, Reid (Gallagher 45), Cole, Stead (Jansen 68). Subs Not Used: Todd, Andresen, Enckelman.
Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Caldwell, Duberry, Harte, Pennant, Seth Johnson (Bakke 56), Matteo, Milner, Smith (McPhail 90), Viduka. Subs Not Used: Radebe, Simon Johnson, Carson.
Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).
Leeds United produced their best performance of the season with a 6-1 win at Charlton. Mark Viduka scored a hat-trick, while Harry Kewell scored twice. Ian Harte extended the lead with a penalty.
Leeds continued thier unlikely push for the top four with a 1-0 win at Wimbledon. Midfielder Lee Chapman scored the winnner. He would go on to score 21 goals that season.
Leeds put their troubles off the pitch to one side, as they beat Portsmouth 3-2 at Fratton Park. Goals from Ian Baird and Andy Ritchie ensured the win for the Whites. Leeds would go on to finish that season in mid-table.
Leeds United marched towards the Division One league title with a 2-0 win over Derby, goals from Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer securing the points. Manager Don Revie would leave to become England manager at the end of the season, with Brian Clough taking over and lasting for 44 days.