BLACKBURN ROVERS will welcome Leeds United this evening with the Whites threatening to win a place back in the Premier League after an absence of 13 years.
Rovers, second bottom, are in danger of plummeting down to League One.
Yet 22 years ago Blackburn were the champions of England though Leeds halted their progress on this very night during Rovers’ title-winning campaign as a late Gary McAllister penalty salvaged a 1-1 draw in 1995.
Leeds themselves had been champions of England just three years earlier with the Whites having finished 17th and fifth in the two seasons that followed – the first two Premier Leagues.
Blackburn, though, who won the Second Division play-offs in United’s title-winning season, had finished fourth and second in the previous campaigns and were destined to go one better the following year.
Still managed by title-winning boss Howard Wilkinson, United arrived at Ewood Park on an impressive run of just just one defeat from their last ten games in league and cup though six of those contests had ended in draws. But bar a 1-0 loss at Manchester United in mid-January, Rovers had that winning feeling with Kenny Dalglish’s side having won 12 of their last 16 league games and five of their last six. But that run looked in jeopardy after just 72 seconds against Leeds, when goalkeeper Tim Flowers was shown a straight red card for tripping Brian Deane after a raking ball put the striker through on goal.
Flowers came hurtling out of his area but was bamboozled by the pace of Deane who was sent flying by Flowers and given his marching orders.
Yet it was Blackburn who bagged the game’s first goal just six minutes later when Rovers were awarded a penalty after a lay-off from Alan Shearer led to a tangle of legs in the box.
Shearer stood up to take the spot kick and confidently sent Whites keeper John Lukic the wrong way with a powerful drive that soared towards the top right-hand corner.
Leeds still had 84 minutes remaining and a one man advantage to try and halt Blackburn’s winning run.
But despite their best efforts and the introduction of January recruit Tony Yeboah from the bench, Rovers looked set to march on as the clock headed for the 90th minute.
But Leeds would not be denied a share of the spoils and John Pemberton’s long cross ultimately led to United being awarded an 85th-minute penalty when captain Gary McAllister was sent tumbling to floor.
McAllister dusted himself down to take the spot-kick and opted for a different tactic to Shearer but one that ended in the same result.
The Scot blasted the ball down the middle into the roof of the net and with Rovers’ substitute ’keeper Bobby Mimms diving to his left, Leeds had bagged themselves a draw.
As it turned out, a Whites winner in the final four minutes would have ultimately denied Blackburn the title, but Rovers went on to pip Manchester United by a single point with Leeds finishing fifth and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Third in English football’s second tier could beckon if Leeds can win tonight at Blackburn who are facing the real prospect of third tier football 22 years after being English football’s best side.
Blackburn Rovers 1
(Shearer 6, pen)
Leeds United 1 (McAllister 85, pen)
FA premier league, Wednesday, February 1, 1995.
Blackburn Rovers: Flowers, Berg, Pearce, Hendry, Le Saux, Warhurst, Atkins (Minns 2), Sherwood, Wilcock, Shearer. Subs not used: Wright, Newell.
Leeds United: Luckic, Kelly, Pemberton, Radebe (Worthington 71), Torigo, Palmer, McAllister, Speed, Masinga (Yeboah 71), White, Deane. Subs not used: Beeney.
Referee: Rodger Gifford.
Attendance: 28, 561.