Leeds United Bygones: Battling Barnsley dent the Whites' promotion hopes
ANOTHER derby day looms for Leeds United on Saturday when Sheffield Wednesday will visit Elland Road for a key game in the club's promotion quest.
Another Yorkshire club stood in the way in similar circumstances for Leeds six years ago this week when Barnsley rolled into town.
Sixth-placed United, who were seeking back-to-back promotions after their elevation from League One, were looking to open up a five-point gap to those teams outside the play-offs.
Burnley were this year’s Fulham – sat down in tenth and five points adrift but with two games in hand.
Yet from the chasing pack it was ninth-placed Reading who pipped the pair of them and results like the 3-3 draw at home to Barnsley six years ago did Simon Grayson’s Whites no favours at all.
Leeds ultimately missed out on a play-off place by three points so would have needed more than to just beat Barnsley who arrived at Elland Road looking to extend United’s misery in White Rose derbies.
United had won just one of their last five clashes against other teams from Yorkshire and were looking to banish the memory of a 5-2 hammering at Barnsley back on September.
Leeds went into the game on a five-match unbeaten run, although three of those games were draws ia 2-2 draw at home to Norwich in the previous game.
Mid-table Barnsley had won just won of their last five but looked set to cause Leeds more grief when taking a lead after just two minutes through Jason Shackell.
Leeds came roaring back with Max Gradel’s free-kick smacking the crossbar and then keeper Luke Steele’s head before sailing narrowly wide.
The Tykes had had a lucky escape but there was no denying Leeds a 23rd-minute leveller when Steele missed Neil Kilkenny’s cross, allowing Luciano Becchio to head home into an empty net.
And 14 minutes later United were in front after referee Mark Clattenburg ruled that Matt Hill had fouled Gradel who dusted himself down to convert the penalty.
But Hill atoned for the penalty blunder when equalising just three minutes after the break when calmly slotting home after a Jacob Mellis through ball.
United’s task was then made even harder when Bradley Johnson was shown a second yellow card for tugging back Mellis and sent for an early bath.
But ten-man Leeds looked set to have the last laugh when Gradel put United ahead with a beautiful curling strike in the 70th minute.
But an 82nd-minute free-kick gave Barnsley an opportunity to bag the game’s third equaliser and Kieran Tripper did just that when firing his effort through the wall to bag the Tykes a share of the spoils.
“After losing three goals, it looks like the back four have been poor but it’s in other areas that we have to do better if we are going to do anything,” said Whites boss Simon Grayson.
“There is a fine line between winning and losing games. It’s frustrating and it’s a game we should have won.”
A 5-0 loss at Swansea City then followed before Leeds bounced back with consecutive league wins against Doncaster Rovers and Preston.
But a run of one win in the final nine games ultimately did for United’s promotion hopes.
Leeds Utd 3
(Becchio 23, Gradel pen 37, 70.)
Barnsley 3 (Shackell 2, Hill 48, Trippier 82.)
Championship Tuesday, February 22 2011
Leeds United: Schmeichel; Lichaj, Bruce, O’Brien, McCartney; Kilkenny, Howson, Johnson; Snodgrass (Watt 66), Gradel, Becchio (Somma 66). Booked: Johnson, Gradel.
Barnsley: Steele; Hassell (Butterfield 74), Shackell, McShane, Hill; Trippier, Doyle (O’Brien 46), Mellis (Gray 89), Arismendi, Haynes; O’Connor.
Referee: M Clattenburg (County Durham.
United midfielder-turned TV personality Chris Kamara, above, scored his only goal for the Whites in a 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. Lee Chapman netted the other as Leeds kept up their pursuit of the Division 2 title.
Leeds ended Anderlecht’s proud 20-game unbeaten run in the Champions League at their Constant Vanden Stock Stadium with a stunning 4-1 victory. Alan Smith (2), Mark Viduka and an Ian Harte penalty secured a famous win in Belgium.
The Division 2 Whites enjoyed one of the most popular FA Cup victories in their history when they beat QPR 2-1 of Division 1 in the fifth round at Elland Road. Terrace cult heroes Ian Baird and Brendan Ormsby – with a famous header at the Kop end with the goals.
United went through to the sixth round of the FA Cup after beating Division 1 rivals Manchester City 1-0 in a fifth round tie at Elland Road. England international defender Trevor Cherry got the Whites goal in front of 47,731 fans.