IT’S nine years to the week since Jermaine Beckford gave a seven-game barren run the boot with a sensational FA Cup hat-trick at Northampton.
The mercurial Leeds forward secured his second cup triple of the season as Gary McAllister’s men won 5-2, booking their place in the second round and in what then looked like a routine tie against non-league Histon. It hadn’t been long since Beckford had himself arrived from the non-league scene, of course, and after a bedding-in period that had seen him excel on loan at Scunthorpe, Beckford was named League One Player of the Year in a 20-goal 2007/08 season.
By now very much the main man in McAllister’s side, his season had started with consummate class, claiming ten goals in eight starts.
From here he stuttered, though, and without his goals Leeds had gone on a run of one win in five heading into the trip to Sixfields.
In a sign of the times at Elland Road, the club had agreed to accept £40,000 from Setanta television to move the first-round replay to an unfavourable Monday evening slot. The match arrived just two days after a face-reddening 2-1 defeat at home to rivals Huddersfield.
Beckford had suffered his fair share of bad luck in recent weeks, and so it was perhaps fitting that his drought-breaking strike came on 13 minutes. When a Mark Hughes own goal put the Whites 2-0 up within half an hour, Leeds were cruising. McAllister had made six changes, one of which had handed a debut to Malcolm Christie in favour of the free-scoring Luciano Becchio. If this move had piled pressure on Beckford you’d never have known, and after his opening strike he began to take control of every Leeds attack.
With the break approaching, a crazy five minutes unfolded. Ben Parker extended Leeds’ lead to three on 41 minutes, before Jason Crowe made it 3-1 three minutes later. A moment later Beckford’s second was the last kick of a whirlwind first-half, cutting in from the left to restore the three-goal lead.
McAllister’s was not a vintage Leeds side of course, but in a half-empty and bitterly cold Sixfields Stadium Jermaine Beckford delivered an irresistible display. This was one of the many occasions in a Leeds shirt where he looked as if he was playing in a league unbefitting his ability.
His hat-trick was complete on 55 minutes when an inch-perfect Neil Kilkenny ball offered him the opportunity to go clean through on the Northampton goal. Whether or not Beckford would have finished with such confidence an hour earlier is debateable, but finish he did, sparking passionate celebrations.
With his hat-trick secured and Leeds 5-1 up, the match dwindled into nothingness when Beckford’s legs were spared on 71 minutes. Crowe added his second in the final moments to reduce the Northampton arrears, but there was no doubt that the match had belonged to one man.
McAllister’s was not a vintage Leeds side of course, but in a half-empty and bitterly cold Sixfields Stadium Jermaine Beckford delivered an irresistible display.
It was a match that changed the season of that man, who bagged a brace in a 4-1 win over Hartlepool five days later. Leeds’ fortunes nosedived, however, and a run of six defeats including that shocking defeat against Histon followed. By Christmas, McAllister was out of a job.
Beckford’s form continued regardless and Leeds recovered to a fourth-place finish under Simon Grayson. If Thomas Christiansen is to finish the season as Leeds manager, one of his strikers may have to spearhead a similar recovery.
Steve Evans took his Leeds United side to Wycombe for a bizarre friendly match made to occupy both clubs’ time during the international break. An impressive Lee Erwin performance was as good as it got for him at Elland Road, as his goal and an effort from Sam Byram sealed a 2-0 win.
A sublime 16-minute hat-trick from Luciano Becchio saw off Bristol City 3-1 and launched Simon Grayson’s side into the Championship play-off zone, where they would do battle for many months until an all-too familiar loss of form saw them finish seventh.
Leeds were dumped out of the Football League Trophy after suffering their first home defeat of the season to League Two Bury. Leon Constantine’s opener was soon forgotten as Bury netted two quick goals, before Felipe Da Costa was sent off and the Whites lost 2-1.
Despite a strong 3-1 win in Turkey, Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side agonisingly lost out on a European Championship place to arch rivals England, who won the group by a single point thanks to a late Gary Linekar leveller in Poland.