Leeds United’s run to the last four of the FA Cup in 1987 was a bitter-sweet experience for Brendan Ormsby.
Many years later, the club’s captain described his winning goal in a fifth-round tie against Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road as “one of my most enjoyable moments in football”.
It contrasted sharply with the critical error which helped eventual winners Coventry City to end United’s run in the semi-finals two months later.
“If the Leeds fans can chuck anything at me then it’s the mistake I made in the semi-final when we were leading 1-0,” Ormsby said.
“I always wonder what might have been but that’s the way it goes in football.”
Leeds’ defeat to Coventry at Hillsborough wrecked their best opportunity of lifting the cup since the early 1970s, but Ormsby’s super finish against QPR on February 21 gave them that chance in the first place.
The centre-back steamed in at the far post as John Pearson flicked on John Sheridan’s corner and his bullet header from six yards gave goalkeeper David Seaman no chance.
Ormsby peeled away and jumped over the fencing in front of the Kop, raising the roof around him. With five minutes to play, his goal guaranteed second division United’s place in the draw for the quarter-finals.
QPR, a first division side, had come to Elland Road as clear favourites, but Ian Baird summed up United’s performance and attitude, saying: “They’re a pretty side and we are not. We got them by the throat.”
Leeds drew first blood in the 18th minute when Micky Adams – named at left-back in place of the cup-tied Bobby McDonald – floated a cross to Pearson whose delicate touch gave Baird time and space to head the ball beyond Seaman.
Pearson’s height was a constant problem for Rangers’ defence and would take its toll before the game was out but United were fortunate to see Gary Chivers nod a poor finish wide of Mervyn Day’s net midway through the first half.
They were less fortune on 64 minutes when David Rennie stuck out a foot and turned the ball past Day as QPR mounted another attack.
“After they got their goal we didn’t panic,” said Ormsby. “In fact, we picked our game up and got the reward that we deserved.”
The closing stages of the tie belonged to Leeds and Elland Road dared to hope that a winning goal was in the offing.
Ormsby delivered it in uncompromising style and was delighted to see United handed a quarter-final tie away to Wigan Athletic.
“I wanted a third division club in the next round,” Ormsby said. “I didn’t fancy Tottenham or Arsenal because if you want to go to Wembley you get there by not playing the hardest teams.”
But the painful realisation for both him and Baird was that yellow cards received against QPR would rule them out of the quarter-final.
“We were both sick about that,” Ormsby said.
United: Day, Aspin, Adams, Rennie (Buckley 72), Ashurst, Ormsby, Stiles, Sheridan, Pearson, Baird, Ritchie.