Leeds United nostalgia: Grella shines as United set up Old Trafford clash

DECEMBER 2009: Mike Grella, celebrates scoring the second goal for Leeds past Keeper Lee Harper in second half of extra time.
DECEMBER 2009: Mike Grella, celebrates scoring the second goal for Leeds past Keeper Lee Harper in second half of extra time.
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There was a brief moment in the aftermath of Leeds United’s draw with Kettering Town when it felt as though a significant clash could be snatched away from the Whites.

Fans had waited through two relegations and five years of disappointment for another opportunity to face-off against rivals Manchester United.

Drawn against them in the FA Cup Third Round, Leeds fans had hope but knew it could be snatched away from them in the replay. The sight of the Kettering players celebrating the draw in the changing room reminded fans watching at home that this was a determined side, one that had already threatened to cause a cup upset at Rockingham Road.

By the time the replay rolled round, there was a huge level of anticipation for Leeds fans. They had little to fear, although a presumed procession at Elland Road took 105 minutes to get going.

While Luciano Becchio got the goalscoring underway in the 20th minute, Leeds struggled to turn a domination of the first hour into a convincing lead.

Becchio’s header was the only goal of that Leeds-controlled period of the match.

That came back to haunt the Whites.

Former Leeds player Anthony Elding, a disappointment in his time at Elland Road, popped up after 62 minutes to head Kettering level.

Nerves began to jangle, but Leeds continued a pattern of play that had seen the Kettering goalkeeper Lee Harper drawn into save after save.

The game ended up going into extra-time after the two sides could not be separated over the 90 minutes. It was a far cry from the usual swashbuckling displays of Simon Grayson’s side that season.

It took until the 115th minute and the introduction of a certain American for that Leeds United to show up.

Mike Grella was thrown on against a tired non-league side and put in his best display in a white shirt during his time at Elland Road.

It was Grella who ended the resistance offered up by Kettering and goalkeeper Harper.

Only three minutes after being introduced from the bench, Grella rifled a shot into the back of the net after good work down the right by Leigh Bromby.

It was then Tresor Kandol’s turn to nod home after a beautiful cross by Robert Snodgrass.

The dam had well and truly burst. By the time the 26th minute of extra-time arrived, Grella had added another. It was a special goal, Grella performing a series of stepovers before curling the ball into the top corner.

Jermaine Beckford had the last word, as he often would throughout that cup run. He was miles offside when the ball dropped to him after Kandol’s mis-hit, but slid home with no flag from the assistant referee.

It set up the tie with Manchester United, and there will be very few Leeds United fans who cannot tell you how that particular day went.

Simon Grayson believed his side deserved to beat Kettering.

He said: “I think when you look at the overall play then we deserved to win by the scoreline we did.

“We didn’t take the chances when we had the opportunities in the first half, whether it was good defending or the post or bar.”

Liam Cooper

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