The fairy tale thirty minutes that proved Leeds United's first step towards Premier League return
LEEDS United were able to peruse a second set of top-flight fixtures in succession this week.
Following their ninth-placed finish last season, the Whites are very much back in and amongst the country’s elite.
Yet 11 years ago Leeds were relieved to be sizing up Championship opposition having finally ended three years in League One with a thrilling 2-1 success against Bristol Rovers at Elland Road
United had been demoted to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history via relegation from the Championship in May 2007, and two doses of League One play-offs heartache followed.
Doncaster Rovers ended United’s bid to immediately bounce back in the 2008 play-off final at Wembley under Gary McAllister, and Leeds were then KO’d in the semi-finals by Millwall the following season, five months into Simon Grayson’s spell in charge.
But United finally got it right at the third time of asking in 2010 – and without the need of the play-offs thanks to the late drama against Rovers at Elland Road.
Four months on from their epic success at Manchester United in the FA Cup third round, Leeds approached the final day of the season with just a one-point cushion in second place following a stuttering end to the campaign.
But the equation for Leeds was simple: beat Rovers and end three years in the doldrums of League One.
Roared on by a packed out Elland Road, Leeds began brightly and Max Gradel and Luciano Becchio both squandered chances before a strike from captain Jermaine Beckford was ruled out for offside.
But the contest then exploded in the 34th minute as the Whites threatened to almost literally shoot themselves in the foot.
Gradel felt he had been fouled by Rovers defender Daniel Jones and reacted by stamping on his opponent’s foot. This led to a mêlée and, ultimately, a furious Gradel being sent off.
Leeds were suddenly facing an uphill task... and just 74 seconds into the second half, Rovers went one goal ahead.
Jones supplied a deep cross which Jo Kuffour hooked back across goal towards Darryl Duffy, who took a touch to control before poking the ball past Shane Higgs from close range.
Leeds were heading back to the play-offs, but all that changed thanks to a fairy-tale last half an hour at Elland Road.
With 59 minutes on the clock, an attempted cross from Johnson reached Becchio, who laid the ball off to Howson on the edge of the box.
Howson quickly unleashed a first-time shot that curled its way beyond keeper Mikkel Andersen into the back of the net.
Elland Road erupted and Johnson then squandered a fine chance to put Leeds ahead just moments later, blazing an effort over the bar from close range.
But even with 10 men, United had the momentum and Grayson’s side netted an iconic goal that proved the strike to put them back in the Championship three minutes after the hour.
Keeper Andersen made an absolute mess of his attempted throw out and the ball was seized upon by Johnson.
His shot was desperately blocked but fell to Beckford, who needed no second invitation to tuck home on the half- volley from six yards out.
Leeds were going up, but the Whites still had to see out another 29 minutes plus added time and Higgs produced a wonderful piece of goalkeeping to race off his line and thwart Kuffour as he attempted to latch on to Duffy’s pass.
At the other end, Leigh Bromby’s header to a Neil Kilkenny free-kick crashed back off the post, but the strikes from Howson and Beckford proved enough to end three years in the doldrums of League One.
The full-time whistle sparked a mass pitch invasion and in the long run it was the first step of Leeds United being back.
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Thank you Laura Collins