The Sky Bet Championship regular season is a 46 game slog of a journey, with many child-like instances of fans calling out “are we there yet?”
For some of these fans, the ‘there yet’ represents the yearnings for the play-offs, whilst for others it is either the unwanted snugness of an expected mid-table finish or the darkness of a resignation to relegation.
For Leeds United fans, the past few seasons have been somewhat mediocre and unrewarding, but this season has been something a little different. Six games in and in the relegation places suddenly turned into a play-off charge that, unfortunately, petered out leaving the Whites high-and-dry in seventh place.
There was a definite sense of Shakespeare about Leeds’ 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship campaign, moving from opening drama to closing tragedy, but thankfully without the sense of comedy that befell previous seasons.
With the sense of comedy largely gone, Leeds United fans had a season where looking forward to the next game, even after a loss, brought a definite sense of hope rather than the usual despair Whites fans were used to feeling.
Here are two stand out moments that could be seen as turning points of Leeds United’s 2016/17 campaign.
Rotherham United 1 – 2 Leeds United
It was this game that saw Leeds United hit into the top six and the promotion play-off places. Rotherham vs Leeds has always been a fractious game over recent seasons, with red cards aplenty and usually Gaetano Berardi left spilling blood over the pitch. Rotherham’s Matt Derbyshire and Leon Best, along with Leeds’ Gaetano Berardi have all seen red in previous games.
That trend was continued with the Miller’s Peter Odemwingie (29′) receiving his marching orders for a definitely aimed and obvious elbow to the chin of Leeds defender Liam Cooper. By this time, home side Rotherham were already 1-0 down, Chris Wood (14′) the scorer for Leeds, and were facing 60 minutes of chasing a game with only 10 men.
In first-half injury time, Souleymane Doukara (46+6′) made the situation more grave for Rotherham, scoring Leeds’ second of the game. The Frenchman received the ball from Kemar Roofe and scuffed a left-footed shot through the legs of a crowd of defenders and into the bottom right corner of the Rotherham goal.
Rotherham pulled one back when a cleared corner ball was headed back in by Chelsea loanee Isaiah Brown, for Richard Wood (86′) to nod beyond Rob Green who got a glove on it from a despairing dive but failed to keep it out. A scramble at the end saw Leeds frantically throwing bodies in front of the ball to preserve their lead and take all three points back to Elland Road.
Leeds United 0 – 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
From entering the top six, to exiting it, Leeds United fans endured 26 games and enjoyed 142 days. But a 1-0 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, in a damp squib of a Leeds display saw the Whites form slump begin.
It was just four games from the end of the season, four games against sides all below them in the table and four games where points needed to be picked up to reclaim a play-off spot. In truth that didn’t happen, the Wolves defeat sparking a run where Leeds only gained two points from a possible 12.
Leeds did fashion some early chances, but there was no real rhythm or threat to their play and it was Wolves who looked the more threatening of the sides in the first half. The visitors deservedly took the lead on 38 minutes with a simple through ball played beyond Liam Bridcutt proving the Whites’ undoing. Nouha Dicko seized on the ball and shot beyond Rob Green, despite the close interest of a covering Kyle Bartley.
Leeds continued to press in the second-half, showing more urgency, and did fashion a number of attempts at goal. However, in a season that had promised so much, the home side came up short and the narrow defeat saw them drop to 7th in the table, a position they never recovered from.