LEEDS United head coach Garry Monk knew the importance of getting a decent result in Saturday’s Championship visit to Nottingham Forest.
With teams in the country’s top two divisions not playing again until two weeks’ time, a victory is an even more potent tonic then ever heading into the September international break.
Following just two points out of nine in 2003-04, it was hoped that a dramatic 3-2 victory at Middlesbrough 13 years ago this weekend would provide the platform for a successful Premier Division campaign under Peter Reid.
Yet the Riverside triumph would prove Reid’s second last victory as United boss with the former Sunderland manager sacked ten games after the Boro boost when United were trounced 6-1 at Portsmouth en route to Premier League relegation.
Leeds had began the season with a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle United for whom Alan Shearer rescued a point with an 88th-minute equaliser.
Mauricio Taricco and Frederic Kanoute then broke Whites’ hearts when netting for Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-1 verdict at White Hart Lane and United’s subsequent hosting of Southampton resulted in a goalless draw.
With Middlesbrough having fared even worse from their opening three games which resulted in just a single point at Leicester, it meant there was no denying the importance of the league clash at the Riverside on the eve of the international break.
A Boro side who had finished 11th the previous season lined up with a team that included Gareth Southgate, Gazika Mendieta, Juninho and a certain Danny Mills who was making his Middlesbrough debut against his former side.
But it was the vastly lesser known United front man Lamine Sakho that upstaged his bigger name rivals by pouncing first to give United a 16th-minute lead after latching on to Jermaine Pennant’s pass.
Mills had earlier missed a 10th-minute opportunity to open the scoring against his former side but Boro drew level 15 minutes after the break when Mendieta fed Szilard Nemeth who raced clear before beating Paul Robinson.
Just three minutes later, the home side took the lead with Mendieta again responsible for another assist, this time to set up Juninho to curl home from the edge of the area.
But Leeds were not done and another forgotten ex-White – Zoumana Camara – put the Whites level with 18 minutes left when converting Pennant’s corner.
And after Boro had missed a host of chances, United then bagged a dramatic 88th-minute winner when Mark Viduka cashed in on a slip from Andy Davies by brilliantly lobbing Mark Schwarzer.
Sheer relief for Reid and Leeds but whereas Boro recovered to win two of their next two league games en route to a swift recovery and again finishing 11th, United followed the international break with ten defeats from their next ten league games.
A run that cost Reid his job – and in the long run United’s proud status in the Premier League.
Leeds United 3
(Sakho 16, Camara 77, Viduka 89)
Middlesbrough 2 (Nemeth 60, Juninho 63)
Premier league August 30, 2003
Leeds United: Robinson, Kelly, Camara, Harte (Lennon 71), Matteo, Pennant, Smith, Morris, Johnson, Sakho (Radebe 84), Viduka.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Mills, Southgate, Parnaby (Stockdale 52), Davies, Mendieta, Greening, Boateng, Juninho, Nemeth (Ricketts 88), Job (Christie 88).