By Andrew Butterwick
The deep lying snow had miraculously disappeared overnight and bright sunshine greeted the Happy Chocker, Quiet One, Brother Chris and yours truly as we headed for Leeds down the M62. Cup fever was in the air mixed with a taint of unpleasant smells wafting across from the public squabbling between the club and our top scorer Mr Becchio over his future. GFH are adamant they have done all they can to keep him whilst Becchio's agent claims his client just wants to stop and play for Leeds for a realistic salary. In the end it appears the bridge that is insurmountable is between £2.5 and £5k per week between what Leeds will pay and what Becchio wants. Such a shame.
Most of the pre match talk was about the Becchio situation that is until the team was announced. The under fire manager Warnock had gone with the team that battled so well against Brum in the last round. But Spurs are a completely different proposition? Surely our midfield axis of Brown and Austin won't be able to cope with the Spurs superstars and why is Varney on the wing? There weren't many fans in the captain's lounge shouting for joy at the selection. Still this was the FA Cup and anything could happen couldn't it?
Michael Brown was captain for the day against one of his old clubs. The sun was streaming down on the 30,000 fans inside Elland Road as the game got under way. Leeds started on the front foot and won a corner in the first minute. The atmosphere was cautious rather than spine tingling as the fans became engrossed in the opening exchanges. Spurs were playing with Dempsey up top and Lennon and Bale on the flanks, a potent force but Leeds young defence dug in and defended with some assurance. behind them Ashdown looked cool and calm as he dealt with a couple of early chances, notably from Sigurdsson. Brown and Austin were snapping at anything that moved in the middle whilst Green and Varney on the flanks were working hard. 15 minutes flew by then suddenly Varney was free on the left flank after a mistake by Naughton. His undoubted pace took him away from the struggling Spurs defence and into the box where he coolly curled the ball around veteran goalie, Freidel, and into the net. 1.0 Leeds and the old stadium erupted with unexpected joy. Luke Varney had scored and for the 4th time this season we had taken the lead against a Premier League team in a cup competition. Unbelievable. Scott Parker had warned his team mates before the match about what to expect from the Leeds crowd. Now they were knew exactly what he meant.
Spurs were struggling to cope with the high tempo Leeds play but did create a number of half chances. Bale got free down the right and cut in but chose to shoot rather than pull it back. Ashdown saved comfortably. He was soon in action again as he pulled off a superb save from a Dempsey shot. Leeds relieved some of the pressure with a long ball over the top... Ross Mac was straight onto to it and into the box with just Freidel to beat... his reverse shot was just saved by the Spurs goalie. A 2nd goal for Leeds just before half time would have lifted the roof off Elland Road. Half time arrived and the unfancied Leeds team trotted off to a thunderous ovation. 1.0 Leeds.
The Leeds players who get the most stick from the fans, Varney and Brown were playing superbly. At the back Byram was peerless whilst Pelts and Lees were rock solid. Aidy White's pace at left back was not found wanting against both Bale and Lennon. This was a proper cup tie and Leeds were giving it a proper go. But could they hold on or would they suffer in the 2nd half as they did against Chelsea?
Leeds started the second half on fire though. Varney, having his best game for Leeds, wriggled through into the box and was only denied by a dubious last ditch tackle by a Spurs defender. The high flying Premier League team looked decidedly uncomfortable as a robust home team stuck to their game plan. 5 minutes into the half and Leeds were in dreamland. The magnificent Diouf released Ross Mac over the top and the Scot sprinted away from the Spurs back line into the box... he cut back inside and then hit an unstoppable shot past Freidel. 2.0 Leeds. Get in! Elland Road was dancing with delight as the team that couldn't muster a shot at goal or a corner against lowly Barnsley were now leading Spurs by 2 goals. It's a funny old game.
Spurs were now stung into action. Dempsey missed a golden chance to pull one back for the London team. Dembele and Obika replaced Huddlestone and Sigurdsson as AVB tried to get his team back in the game. Bale who had been kept relatively quiet found some space on the left and delivered a dangerous cross for Dempsey to flick a looping header beyond Ashdown into the Leeds net. 2.1 Leeds. Bollox.
Spurs poured forward looking for the equaliser but it was Ross Mac who so nearly got the next goal. Another ball over the top found Ross Mac free but Freidel kept his team in the game as he blocked the shot. Nerves were now starting to jangle as a game we didn't expect to win was now within our grasp. But could the defence hold out? Lees was absolutely fantastic at the back ably supported by Pelts. Has the Leeds captain found a position that he can play in?
The game entered the last 10 minutes with Spurs throwing everything forward but without carving out any real clear chances. Any sniff of a chance Spurs had was soon squashed by either Lees, Byram's or Brown's legs. This was stirring stuff. This is what the FA cup is all about. The 4th official held up a board that said 4 excruciating minutes of added time to play. Could Leeds hold out? Spurs pumped the ball into the box but Leeds cleared towards the corner. Brown then had a complete rush of blood as he scythed down a Spurs player who was going nowhere. Free kick in a dangerous position. This was the game right here. Could Leeds hold out. Freidel came up to join the attack as the ball floated into the box... bodies clattered together but the ball ran free to Austin who ran the ball out before rolling the ball from the half way towards the empty net. Leeds fans were celebrating a third goal prematurely as the ref bizarrely blew the whistle before the ball rolled into the net. It didn't matter Leeds had won 2.1 and were through to the next round of the cup. Fantastic!
Difficult to name a man of the match. The whole team were outstanding. Brown, Varney, Lees, Pelts, Green all looked at ease against their Premier League superiors but it was Byram who once again caught my eye with an absolutely brilliant performance. This was just the performance Leeds needed. If only we could play like this every week. The excited chatter of fans leaving the stadium after a win and a good performance filled Elland Road as we marched back to the car. Even a fixed penalty notice
stuck on the car couldn't dampen our spirits. We were in the draw for the 5th round. Delicious!
Home in time to here the draw... Man City away! Get in. Let's do the Leeds Poznan!!!!!!
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