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….
16th March 2020 marks one year to the day since Leeds United welcomed Sheffield United to Elland Road in one of the biggest games of the 2018/19 Championship calendar, as both sides tussled over the second automatic promotion slot.
The Whites had been pushing for a top-two spot under Marcelo Bielsa while the Blades’ second season back in the Championship was proving to be a very successful one as Chris Wilder was in the midst of something special at Bramall Lane.
A December clash at the Lane saw Leeds come out 1-0 victors as Dean Henderson’s gaff saw Jack Clarke tee up a winner for Pablo Hernandez in a very high-stakes affair.
However, Leeds’ entry into 2019 wasn’t the smoothest and saw Wilder’s men close the gap to second place ahead of the promotion run-in.
A win would have seen Leeds create some daylight between themselves and their South Yorkshire rivals, but a defeat to the Blades would have seen the visitors leapfrog Leeds into second place with just eight games left to play.
A rainy Elland Road was the setting for an extremely tense and well-contested affair with both sides coming close to an opener, but with Leeds having the lion’s share of the chances, as was often the case under Marcelo Bielsa.
In the first half, Jack Harrison’s close-range volley flew over, while Bamford lashed a half-chance well over, and Tyler Roberts came very close with a guided header going agonisingly wide.
The second half saw the Welsh international go even closer as his 12-yard strike cannoned off the near-post and out to safety.
It was the away side who broke the deadlock, however, when Billy Sharp’s tireless work up front laid the ball into the path of an onrushing Chris Basham who fired past Kiko Casilla whilst mid-slide to send the packed-out away end delirious.
The drama wasn’t over there as there was still a chance for Pontus Jansson to divert a gilt-edged chance just wide from a mere six yards out, but even Jansson wasn’t finished with this game as he stepped up to play in goal when Kiko Casilla was given his marching orders for hauling Billy Sharp down in stoppage time.
Can you name the last 15 Leeds managers?
A game that summarised the hectic end to the season for Leeds and not in a good way. The mood around Elland Road shifted completely as Leeds fans faced up to the reality that they were now playing the chasing game for the first time in 2018/19, having led the way for most of it up to this point.
The full-time reaction was justifiably downbeat as one would expect…
FULL TIME: Chris Basham's second half goal gives Sheffield United the win at Elland Road pic.twitter.com/qJ1dasiOVK
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 16, 2019
Blame Bielsa for failing to sign a proven striker during the transfer window.
Hope the defeat to QPR will not be too costly. WASTED 3 POINTS!!!!
— ramesh parshotam (@gramesh55) March 16, 2019
Leeds fans on here talking like we’ve just lost promotion. We’re one point behind, have the better games (Ipswich). Why give up on the lads after such an incredible season so far. Fans acting like it’s the end of the world.
— Callum (@LUFC__Callum) March 16, 2019
I can't believe we we've lost that. We played them off the park. Long ball hoofers. Same as always. They really are not that good.
— …………!! (@AndyBulleyment) March 16, 2019
— leevi (@littlehavann4) March 16, 2019
Casilla being sent off, Jansson playing up front and in goal whilst on one leg and us dropping out of the top two certainly wasn't how I had hoped today would go. #lufc
— Tom Marren (@TomMarren__) March 16, 2019
— David Crane 📝 (@D_Crane1) March 16, 2019
Not having any negative comments about players/lack of signings. Blades made it difficult for us to get a shot on target and took their chance. We're still in this, only a point behind, plenty to play for.
— Alex (@AJG8701) March 16, 2019
Shocking defending in the biggest game of season
— Kieran Egan 💙💛 (@420slm) March 16, 2019
All this possesion & no bite in front of goal is frustrating.
— Alan Thompson 🇮🇪 (@thombo1987) March 16, 2019
Sheff utd looking good, Norwich are gonna bottle it last 9 games, no panic, yorkshire top 2
— Jackie Haradona (@Jimmy_Lazers) March 16, 2019
— FIRST LIGHT (@56clearvision) March 16, 2019
While a one-point deficit didn’t leave Leeds with a mountain to climb to get back in the driving seat for the run-in, it was a psychological blow that they never really seemed to hurdle before the end of the season.
What followed was two teams that went in very different directions as Leeds were continuing to falter, while the Blades went from strength to strength.
Mid-April saw Leeds manage to claw their way back into a strong position as they beat Sheffield Wednesday while Millwall held the Blades to a draw at Bramall Lane. An Easter weekend capitulation meant that Leeds surrendered the lead in the top two, to which they never looked back and cruised to promotion where they six-point lead to Leeds after Bielsa’s men failed to win any of their last four league games, to then implode in the play-off semi-final.
This season has been extremely successful so far for both sides as Leeds look comfortable, seven points clear of third with a similar amount of games to play, while the Blades amazingly sit in the midst of a push for Europe in the Premier League.
All hope was not lost after Basham’s strike, but the mental tear on the players was irreparable after that weekend, along with the 1-3 humbling at home to Norwich City casting doubt over their top two credentials.
Poor defensive mistakes capitalised on after a glut of golden chances was a key theme in the Whites approach to the second half of the 2018/19 season and they paid the price, as the Blades did quite the opposite in both penalty areas.