Elland Road retro: When the Leeds United goalie was saved by a substitution

His Leeds United career was officially buried around 9pm on an early November night.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 3rd November 2018, 11:17 am
Updated Saturday, 3rd November 2018, 11:23 am

Paul Rachubka knew it and his body language as he trudged from the pitch after 45 minutes in a 5-0 defeat to Blackpool back in November 2011 was that of a goalkeeper asking to be saved by a substitution at half-time.

His manager, Simon Grayson, saw that Rachubka’s confidence was shot and as a desperate measure teenage keeper Alex Cairns made his Leeds debut and his solitary appearance for United on 59 minutes.

It was something of a shock that Grayson allowed Rachubka to start the second half.

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Grayson had tried his best to defend Rachubka in the weeks leading up to the Blackpool rout.

An experienced player, the former Manchester United keeper had stepped into United’s side after Andy Lonergan – an established and reliable first-choice at Elland Road – broke a finger in a 3-0 win at Doncaster Rovers.

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The roots of Rachubka’s demise can be traced back to the following match, a 1-1 draw against Coventry City. Faultless for 93 minutes, he cost Leeds a victory by fumbling a cross into the path of Richard Wood inside United’s six-yard box.

“His head is in his hands but he’ll be fine,” Grayson said. “I’ve no problem with him.”

Little by little, that faith was tested.

Leeds survived two soft concessions away at Peterborough but were beaten by Birmingham City at St Andrews after Rachubka palmed the ball to the feet of Nikola Zigic.

Grayson spoke carefully after the Blackpool horror show but left no doubt that Rachubka was finished.

“There’s not a lot I could say to him,” Grayson said.

“He’s obviously really down but I felt I had no opportunity to keep him on. I felt for him, for the team and for the club that it was best to take him out of the limelight. Obviously his confidence was very low.” Grayson conceded that a loan signing might be sensible and within a matter of hours, Leeds had lined up a deal to take Alex McCarthy from Reading. Maik Taylor arrived soon after. Rachubka never featured again and by the end of November, a move to Tranmere Rovers took him out of the heat of Elland Road.