Leeds United know all about set piece values as Gareth Southgate considers England decision
ENGLAND boss Gareth Southgate overlooked a true set piece specialist in Southampton's James Ward-Prowse for his final 26-man Euros squad.
Following the injury suffered to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, it might well be that Ward-Prowse is yet handed a call up as a replacement and one of the options on the standby list.
Throughout the years, Leeds United have certainly benefited from free kick stars, Ian Harte immediately springing to mind in and around the Champions League era.
Yet two years after United’s Premier League demise, it was American Eddie Lewis who starred with a corking set piece that helped send Kevin Blackwell’s side on their way to the 2006 play-off final.
Leeds were in their second season in English football’s second tier having been relegated from the Premier League in May 2004.
A 14th-placed finish followed in United’s first season in the Championship but Leeds then gave themselves a shot at sealing promotion back to the promised land at the second attempt when qualifying for the 2005-06 play-offs.
The Whites looked on course for automatic promotion earlier in the season but eventually had to settle for finishing fifth which meant a two-legged semi-final play-off against fourth-placed Preston North End.
It also meant three games against the Lilywhites in a row given that Blackwell’s Whites had ended the regular season with a 2-0 loss at Deepdale.
The reverse fixture at Elland Road back in November had finished in a goalless draw.
Six months later, Preston then looked set to take a 1-0 victory back to the play-off second leg at Deepdale as Dave Nugent’s strike three minutes after the break put the visitors in front.
Yet Leeds and American winger Lewis had other ideas and the Californian’s superb free kick 12 minutes from time ensured the first leg ended 1-1.
The momentum proved key as Leeds then raced into a 2-0 lead in the second leg and held on for a 3-1 victory on aggregate despite seeing both Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell sent off.
How the season then ended in the play-off final against Watford is best forgotten but there was no sign of the dreadful end to the campaign when Lewis struck against Preston.
With the visitors seemingly on course for a 1-0 victory, Leeds won a free-kick some 20 yards out, just in front of the right corner of the Lillywhites box.
Up stepped Lewis to send in a stunning free kick into the top corner which gave visiting ‘keeper Carlo Nash no chance.
Leeds had initially gone close to taking a lead in the contest when Matthew Kilgallon headed against the post.
Preston then cashed in as Nugent scored a fine individual goal to put his side in front shortly after the restart.
But Leeds were cheered on by Elland Road’s biggest crowd of the season since relegation and the majority of the 35,239 supporters inside the famous ground were left punching the air in delight as Lewis brilliantly equalised against his former club.
Preston had signed Lewis in 2002 from Fulham where the States star had moved to back in 2000.
Lewis did not feature heavily for the Cottagers but Preston snapped up his services and Lewis enjoyed three years there until Leeds came calling when signing him in the summer of 2005 on a free transfer.
Particularly on Friday, May 5 of 2006, that looked like very good business indeed.
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Thank you Laura Collins