Leeds United looking for slice of history against West Ham after two tales of ups and downs
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Leeds dropped as low as League One, while the Hammers have bounced back from the second tier twice in the last decade and a half.
The two teams will finally be back locked in combat in a Premier League fixture in front of full stands today, nine months on from a 2-1 victory for David Moyes’ side at an empty Elland Road last December.
Leeds need a win to kickstart their campaign, and the Whites are seeking a first home victory against the Hammers in over 16 years; the last success coming when both sides were in the Championship in February 2005.
Back then, Shaun Derry was the hero when bagging an 86th-minute winner in a 2-1 triumph against a Hammers side for whom Teddy Sheringham was upfront.
The London outfit had been relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2002-03 campaign in which they finished third bottom.
Leeds ended that season in 15th place but followed the Hammers down the following season, by which point West Ham were completing their first season in the Championship in fourth place, qualifying Alan Pardew’s side for the play-offs.
The Hammers then overcame Ipswich Town in the semi-finals but suffered a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in the final at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as Neil Shipperley bagged the only goal of the game.
It meant another season in the second tier and with a new rival in town – a Leeds side under boss Kevin Blackwell who was tasked with a major rebuild amidst spiralling debts and the club’s relegation.
The season’s first meeting between the two sides at Upton Park ended in a 1-1 draw on a Friday night two weeks before Christmas as a last-minute David Healey strike sealed the Whites a point after Luke Chadwick’s opener.
And while West Ham had the last laugh in sealing promotion, Leeds went one step further against the Hammers in February’s reverse fixture at Elland Road thanks to Derry’s late winner.
United lined up with an XI of Neil Sullivan, Gary Kelly, Matt Kilgallon, Paul Butler, Michael Gray, Sean Gregan, Derry, Aaron Lennon, Simon Walton, Rob Hulse and Healy.
Danny Pugh, Clarke Carlisle, Fraser Richardson, Jermaine Wright and Seth Johnson made up the bench for a side looking to bounce back from the previous weekend’s 3-0 loss at Wigan which came after back to back wins against Burnley and Reading.
Leeds still had prospects of finishing in the play-offs and went ahead against the Hammers as Hulse tucked away a neat Lennon cross five minutes after the break.
A Derry tackle then led to a melee and West Ham eventually drew level when Gavin Williams volleyed past Sullivan in the 68th minute after strong work from Sheringham.
Matthew Etherington also hit the post as the Hammers looked to turn the game on its head. But with just four minutes left, Derry struck a dramatic late winner by netting a neat finish after latching on to Healy’s header.
“The players have done us proud, not just because they won but because we got to 50 points,” said Blackwell.
“We needed it as we were favourites to go down.
“Everybody thought the club would implode financially.
"We were written off as a Barnsley or a Sheffield Wednesday but the lads have shown that’s not the case.”
Leeds then drew their next four games and only bagged one more victory from their last ten games en route to a 14th-placed finish.
West Ham also lost their next two but a storming end to the season sealed a sixth-placed finish and this time promotion back to the Premier League through the play-offs.
Both sides would then have major ups and downs to follow but the Whites and Hammers are now back in the top tier together and finally back in combat in front of fans this afternoon.
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Thank you Laura Collins