GARRY Monk’s Leeds United side have eight games left to set up a possible return to the country’s top flight, 13 years after relegation in 2004.
Following an eight-year exile, Howard Wilkinson’s Whites were also enjoying a return to the nation’s top division 26 years ago – and a 2-1 victory at big rivals Chelsea this corresponding weekend.
The win gave Leeds a first victory at Stamford Bridge since September 1978 – and just 14 months later, Wilko’s Whites were crowned champions of England.
United and Chelsea had sat side by side in Division Two just two seasons earlier – a season in which Chelsea had recorded a league double over the Whites en route to going up as champions as Leeds finished 10th. But it was United’s turn to go up as champions the following season and Leeds hammered the Blues 4-1 at Elland Road upon the two teams’ first top-flight meeting for 12 years on Boxing Day.
Chelsea, under the stewardship of chairman Ken Bates, had finished fifth upon their return to the Premier in the previous campaign and their side for the March rematch against Leeds at Stamford Bridge featured future Leeds favourite Tony Dorigo, plus 2006 Leeds manager Dennis Wise, as well as Andy Townsend. But Leeds drew first blood when a long range free-kick, taken by Gordon Strachan, caused chaos in the Chelsea penalty box.
Bobby Campbell’s Blues were unable to clear as Strachan’s delivery met Chris Whyte just inside the area. Whyte then drilled a low effort goalwards and while a diving Dave Beasant saved, the ball was only parried to the onrushing Carl Shutt, who slid his effort home from three yards out.
And Leeds then doubled their advantage soon after in not too dissimilar circumstances, through Chris Fairclough.
This time an angled ball to the opposite side of the Chelsea box was flicked goalwards by Shutt and Fairclough broke loose in the are and had the simple task of guiding the ball past a stranded Beasant from 12 yards out.
The Blues then briefly looked vulnerable again when Gary McAllister powered through the middle of the park but was ultimately stopped in his tracks by Ken Monkour.
And Chelsea hit straight back to put themselves back in the game. Monkour fed Graeme Le Saux but there appeared to be little danger as the left-back picked up the ball just inside the Leeds half. But the defender raced through the United defence and, on to the edge of the Whites’ area, before guiding the ball home past John Lukic and into the bottom corner.
Yet the damage was done and Leeds were on their way to their second win in four games, following a barren run of eight games without a victory throughout January, February and early March.
Included in that run was four FA Cup ties against Arsenal, who eventually ousted Leeds in a fourth replay at Elland Road on Saturday, February 16.
But the Chelsea triumph provided the platform for three consecutive league wins and six victories from United’s last 10 games of the season.
In their first year back in the country’s top flight, Leeds were on their way to a fourth-place finish as Chelsea had to make do with 11th.
Things were to get even better for Leeds United one year on.
(Goal: Le Saux)
Leeds United 2 (Goals: Shutt, Fairclough)
division one saturday, march 30, 1991
Leeds United: Lukic, Sterland, Whitlow, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte,
Strachan (Williams), Shutt, Chapman, McAllister, Speed. Subs not used: Varadi.
Chelsea: Beasant, Clarke, Monkou, Cundy, Dorigo, Le Saux, Dicken, Townsend, Wise, Dixon, Durie.