LEEDS UNITED head up the A1 to Middlesbrough on Saturday – and almost exactly four decades to the day, they made the same frequently-negotiated trip to compete for the unofficial ‘Yorkshire Championship’.
That was how United’s game at Ayresome Park to face Jack Charlton’s Boro on February 22, 1975 was billed on Teesside, a clash which caught the imagination of the Middlesbrough public.
A huge crowd of 39,500 packed out Boro’s famous old ground, the Teessiders’ biggest home league gate for over a decade since 43,905 attended the game against Sunderland in October 1963.
Over 5,000 Leeds fans were in attendance in a game which saw Charlton manage against the side which still contained a number of household names he strode out with during the Super Leeds era.
Leeds may have been reigning champions, but Boro, who won the old second division by a record 15 points in Charlton’s first season in charge in 1973-74 were by no means their inferiors – and headed into the game in eighth spot in Division One.
Leeds were in 12th spot and struggling to find their shooting boots, but the trusty finishing of Allan Clarke provided respite to help Jimmy Armfield’s side jump four places and leapfrog Boro in the table.
Clarke netted the only goal of the game out of blue on 32 minutes in front of the crammed-full Holgate End, lashing home an unstoppable 20-yarder after fine work by the impressive Paul Reaney.
Charlton spoke of the game being like a ‘cup final’ with Leeds being the side everyone wanted to beat and his side showed terrific intent from the off. But they found the Leeds rearguard, led incomparably by Norman Hunter in masterful form.
Peter Lorimer went close to a second after Clarke’s opener, but Boro refused to be cowed.
David Armstrong went close just before the break and Graeme Souness and Bobby Murdoch fired just over after the break. A penalty appeal midway through the second half for a foul on Alan Foggon was rebuffed and Leeds held out, with David Stewart making a brave save at the feet of Mills with 17 minutes to go.
Leeds United 1 (Clarke 32)
Division One February 22, 1975
Middlesbrough: Platt, Craggs, Maddren, Boam, Spraggon, Armstrong, Murdoch (Brine), Souness, Foggon, Mills, Hickton.
Leeds United: Stewart, Reaney, Madeley, Hunter, F Gray, Lorimer, Giles, Bremner, Cooper, Jordan, Clarke. Unused substitute: McKenzie.