There’s no such thing as a bad win away in a Yorkshire derby, but this 1-0 success for Leeds United at Bramall Lane was particularly sweet, and for reasons that transcended three very welcome points.
I might even go so far as to say that today’s win was every bit as satisfying as our last victory at this stadium, way back on 26th April 1992. Victory over the Blunts on that far-off Sunday proved sufficient for United to clinch the title of Last Champions, eventually finishing 4 points clear of what is now Manchester’s junior club. That was a great day – today’s result, fashioned out of adversity and good old-fashioned Football League corruption, had a savour all of its own.
As delighted as I was on the final whistle, I’d been snarling and raging at a lot of what had unfolded before me during the game, particularly a first half notable for the most abysmally atrocious refereeing performance you’ll see outside of United’s last two European finals. Referee Oliver Langford was so bad, you thought it had to be a joke or some surreal and paranoid dream. He looked on as McGoldrick of the Blunts stamped down on Mateusz Klich‘s shin in a classic over the ball challenge normally earning the perpetrator an early bath. Langford waved neither yellow nor red, he didn’t even blow for a foul. Whatever his agenda, such dereliction of duty exposed him as, at best, an incompetent fool; far more likely, given United’s treatment so far this season, he was simply as bent as any other corrupt official of this corrupt Football League, a body that seems to view its Last Champions not with veneration, but with cold hatred.
Langford wasn’t finished with Leeds in this comically bad first half display of persecution. Having booked Sheffield’s Enda Stevens after 25 minutes, he then contented himself with a mere warning for another blatantly bookable challenge; by this time I was chewing the carpet with frustration. The home side should have been reduced to 9 men by the interval, and could easily have been behind as a very decent penalty shout was ignored when Kemar Roofe was pushed and pulled out of the way in the Blunts box. And, just to add insult to injury, Kemar himself received a yellow for the heinous crime of turning his back to avoid a head to head collision. It was a Tinkleresque performance by the laughably bent Langford, and fans of a certain age will know exactly what I mean by that.
By half time, it seemed clear that I was going to get nothing out of watching this game apart from a headache, dangerously raised blood pressure and rear molars ground to powder. It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to the second half.
And yet, it all came right in the end. Having endured yet more injury woe when losing skipper Liam Cooper after 21 minutes, to add to the various injustices listed above, United thoroughly deserved the two pieces of good fortune that eventually came their way. First, on 82 minutes, an overhit backpass had Blunts keeper Dean Henderson scrambling to stop the ball going out for a corner. All he managed to do was present sub Jack Clarke with an opportunity to put an open goal on a plate for Pablo Hernandez, a chance the Spanish wizard snapped up with relish, to the delight of the massed Whites in the stand behind.
And, as time ran out, Dame Fortune, that fickle jade, smiled on Leeds a second time, as a Conor Washington overhead effort beat United keeper Peacock-Farrell all ends up, but crashed against the crossbar instead of pegging Leeds back. So, we got the three points that one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen had tried so hard to deny us, and the very best of hard cheese to him, to Sheffield United and to the corrupt clowns of the Football League.
As for Leeds – the heartiest of congratulations on a win that showed character and guts in the measure needed by any team that knows it will have to battle against the odds to get anywhere. Based on today’s gritty and committed display, this Leeds United team might be about to sample a bit more of that title-winning glory that followed, with a little help from Liverpool, our previous success at Bramall Lane. Let it be.