Leeds defiantly storm into the Championship! TSS May 9, 2010 Match reviews 56 Comments It’s through extremely blurred vision and with a very heavy head I write my final match report of the season. A season full of ups and downs, ended in a match many of us will be telling the next generation about in years to come. As the champagne flowed around Leeds City centre last night, the events of the day were celebrated and relived amongst thousands of ecstatic Leeds United fans, as the promotion party continued late into the night. It could all have been so very different though. The match itself was as eventful as they come. Historically, Leeds United are well known for bottling the big games. You only have to look back to the drama of the play-off’s over the last few years to see Leeds United seldom do things the easy way, and this was to be no exception. A sold-out and deafening Elland Road crowd sang their heroes onto the pitch for what we hoped would be the final game of the season. No Richard Naylor, Robert Snodgrass or Jonny Howson in the starting XI, Max Gradel moved out wide and Jermaine Beckford restored to the starting line-up as captain. Simon Grayson had hinted at changes, but few had seen this coming. Leeds looked hungry and it seemed as though things would be simple. All we had to do was get in front, and with Leeds dominating as they were, it was unlikely that Bristol would be able to respond. Controversy soon struck though; after Jermaine Beckford’s opener was ruled out by the linesman, Max Gradel sought retribution for an earlier foul and stomped on Rovers left-back Daniel Jones. Jones hit the floor like he’d been shot and feigned injury to his face. Chaos ensued, with Leeds and Bristol players clashing violently. Another dismal referee dismissed Max Gradel, but despite his part in escalating the situation, Jones escaped with just a yellow. Marching orders for Gradel The scale of the situation hadn’t escaped Gradel and he reacted furiously to the sending off. Jermaine Beckford in his new role as captain tried to play peace-keeper, but Gradel was a man possessed and determined to get his own back on Jones or the referee – whoever he could get to first. After several minutes of drama, Gradel was forcefully removed from the pitch by his team-mates, but he wasn’t finished yet and came back on for another go at whoever he could get to. This time, two pretty hefty security staff were sent on, finally managing to restore order. The tense and nervous atmosphere inside Elland Road was replaced by one of anger and disbelief. To the on-looking Leeds fans, it seemed that we’d once again been the victim of a major injustice that could well have cost us our place in the Championship. The referee was subsequently ridiculed with chants of ‘this games too big for you’ and ‘you’re not fit to referee’ along with some more x-rated stuff towards half-time. Daniel Jones’ part in the incident hadn’t been forgotten either and he was booed every time he touched the ball from that point on. After five minutes added time, an angry Leeds United crowd left for the break where the events of the first half would be analysed further. Most of the crowd were busy watching Beckford at the time, so few had actually seen the incident involving Gradel. There was much confusion as to what actually happened and many believed Gradel had punched the left-back, probably because of his exaggerated reaction. You have to wonder whether the referee had drawn a similar conclusion, but either way, the odds were now stacked against Leeds United and we were in for a roller-coaster 45 minutes that would ultimately decide our fate. Such is the way with these things, the villain of the day Daniel Jones hadn’t finished tormenting Leeds United yet. Minutes into the second half, Hughes failed to close Jones down and his cross led to a soft goal conceded by the make-shift Leeds United defence. 1-0 down, and the news elsewhere was that Charlton were winning. Whilst Millwall and Swindon were level, I can only imagine the roar that came from both sets of fans on discovering Leeds United’s troubles. Leeds were wounded and in total disarray. Fresh out of ideas and struggling with a numerical disadvantage, Simon Grayson was forced into his first change of the day. Jonny Howson was brought on in place of Shane Lowry in what would prove to be an inspired substitution from the gaffer. Just six minutes after coming onto the pitch, Howson levelled the scores. For all his inconsistencies and lack of goals, Jonny has a habit of scoring when it matters. Few will have forgotten his brace that sent us into the play-off final a couple of years back, but even those goals weren’t as big as this one. From the edge of the area, Jonny found himself in space and struck sweetly to curl the ball past the Bristol keeper and restore parity for the Whites. The roof lifted off Elland Road once again, but this time, it was a roar of defiant brilliance – Leeds weren’t done yet! Howson levels the scores It was easy to forget Leeds were a man down as they pushed Bristol back and went in search of a winner. All out attack was what the crowd wanted, and that’s exactly what Leeds United delivered. Those that did remain on the pitch will have been fully aware of what another goal meant for Leeds, and it seemed only fitting that Jermaine Beckford would be the one to get it. For all his flaws, Beckford’s goal tally is a big part of why we were in this situation to start with. Even his most hardened of critics couldn’t knock his performance today, he’d chased everything, battled hard and been an exemplary role-model for the younger fans in trying to resolve the sending-off situation peacefully. As Leeds United exits go, Jermaine Beckford’s is unlikely to be forgotten. The most valuable goal of the season, probably Jermaine’s final one in a Leeds shirt and the one that sends Leeds United up was beautiful in it’s simplicity. A classic poachers goal which was started by Jermaine’s hassling of the Bristol keeper. His poor throw was deflected by Beckford into the path of Bradley Johnson who surged down the left and sent a cross into the box. The Bristol defence struggled to deal with the cross and when it spilled free, Jermaine Beckford was on hand to send Leeds into the Championship. Needless to say, the Leeds fans nearly took the roof off Elland Road once more. Leeds continued to try and put the game beyond reach, and Bristol gave us a few scares as the final whistle agonisingly drew closer, but the poachers goal from Jermaine Beckford would prove to be decisive. The pitch invasion began before the referee could blow for full-time, but it didn’t matter. As the Leeds fans spilled onto the pitch to celebrate a historic win, the reality of it all began to sink in. The PA man’s attempts to get the fans off the pitch proved completely ineffective, and it took a plea from Simon Grayson to restore some order so the players could come out for a well-deserved lap of honour. "Na na na na na na na na na na, Leeds are going up..." As the players and the fans struggled to control their emotions, all order at Elland Road was lost once more. Some cheer-leading from TSS’ player of the season, Patrick Kisnorbo would follow and once Elland Road was finally vacated, the party spilled into the streets of Leeds. After six long years of demise, Leeds United have finally began to rise again. TSS man of the match Before I return to a state of slumber to recover from one of the most vicious hangovers I’ve had in years, I’m left with the final man of the match of the season decision, and perhaps, one of the easiest. In what is most likely to be his final game in a Leeds United shirt, Jermaine Beckford led by example. Not only did he score the winning goal, but he also assisted in Jonny Howson’s screamer. One of the most dramatic love/hate relationships I’ve ever seen between a player and fans ends in style. Whatever happens to Jermaine Beckford from here on in, I wish him well and thank him for the memories.