This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club, assess the initial reaction from the fans, and then proceed to evaluate and reflect on whether fans were right to react in that way….
If not for recent events and the EFL’s subsequent postponement, Wednesday night would have seen Leeds United face Fulham at Elland Road in a massive game in the hunt for automatic promotion.
The Whites have been in scintillating form recently, with five straight wins and clean sheets seeing them open up a seven-point gap to third-placed Fulham with just nine games left to play.
The run has sparked a very similar feeling amongst the fans that they were experiencing just before the halfway point of the season, as a 2-0 triumph over Hull City saw the Whites extend their gap in the top two to 11 points, and was pushed out to a 13-point lead with an hour on the clock against Cardiff City in the following game.
However, Leeds fans know what happened next as the Bluebirds sprung a miraculous comeback to draw the game 3-3, which seemingly spun Marcelo Bielsa’s side into a frenzy that they couldn’t shake until recently.
After dropping points for the first time in eight games, Leeds then made the tough trip to Craven Cottage to face Scott Parker’s Fulham side, eager to put a woeful record in London behind them and restore their healthy lead at the top of the table.
The game was set up to be a cracker with both teams playing expansive, attacking football regardless of their opponent, leaving gaps all over the pitch that both attacking setups have been craving for after facing stubborn opponents.
Proceedings got off to the worst possible start for Leeds as Pablo Hernandez had to be taken off through injury before a very contentious penalty award saw Aleksandar Mitrovic open the scoring inside the first seven minutes. The penalty came when Ben White was deemed to have pushed Bobby Reid to the ground, despite little contact and the Fulham man already on his way down.
Can you name every Leeds front-of-shirt sponsor from the past 15 seasons?
A cagey affair saw Leeds still manage to dominate matters, and were rewarded in their efforts as Eddie Nketiah’s smart movement and quick shot was palmed into the path of Patrick Bamford at the back post, who couldn’t miss.
A point would have been a fair and decent result for Leeds against a promotion rival, but they had to settle for nothing after a scrappy corner fell into the path of Josh Onomah on the edge of the box, which he fired past Kiko Casilla to give the hosts all three points in a battle between two of the promotion favourites.
One particular issue seemed to grab the attention of the fans after this disappointing defeat in the Capital…
FULL TIME: The referee brings the game to an end, and #LUFC fall to a 2-1 defeat in the capital
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 21, 2019
— Mr Geldard (@MrJGeldard) December 21, 2019
Every year lads, I'm starting to not enjoy Christmas as the years go by
— Keiran (@lufckeiran19) December 21, 2019
9 point gap
We put it right against Preston
— James (@JamesWood501) December 21, 2019
A defeat in the capital?
— Bielsa Ball 🇦🇷 (@BallBielsa) December 21, 2019
Cheated in the capital as usual
— Thomas Hallam (@tompahal) December 21, 2019
Outrageous performance from the ref cost us there.
— Yosh Cawthorne (@cawthornejosh) December 21, 2019
Absolute horror show from the referee. Constant blowing and then lets Fulham waste all the time in the world without any cautions. Embarrassing performance
— Matt Reynolds (@GoTkunt) December 21, 2019
When will we learn? pic.twitter.com/sigi4PL2RO
— Gary Marshall (@Garymarshall_85) December 21, 2019
We have made this point gap to 3rd for games like this . We go again ! #mot
— Josh Shaw (@Dottyshaw) December 21, 2019
It has been almost unanimously agreed that the penalty decision given that day was the incorrect decision, but it was still a bad day at the office for Leeds as they continued to squander great chances in front of goal, while Fulham more or less took the only clear-cut chances they got.
This result seemed to spark a very poor run from the Whites, seeing them surrender their healthy lead at the top, as Fulham moved level on points with them at the beginning of February. It looked to be happening all over again for Bielsa’s men, but after defeat to Nottingham Forest, they have dusted themselves off and built up another healthy lead over the Cottagers.
Missing out on their trip to Cardiff City at the weekend, along with Wednesday’s cancelled clash with the side sitting third, Leeds have to now wait patiently to get their charge for promotion back underway. There’s no surprise that the panic was beginning to creep in for the Leeds fans after two games without defeat, just as it was looking good. However, absolute faith from the players and coaching staff in the system has seen them come out of the other side.