Leeds clinch promotion in dramatic afternoon
Leeds United finally clinched promotion back to the Championship but not before an anxious 90 minutes at Elland Road.
Leeds went into the game knowing that victory would guarantee promotion and backed by over 38,000 expectant fans.
Jermaine Beckford returned to the starting line up in what could be his last game in a Leeds shirt and with regular captain Richard Naylor out with a hamstring injury, he was also given the armband.
With the passionate Leeds fans behind the team they went at Bristol from the off but without ever seriously testing the Rovers keeper.
The first chance almost fell to Becchio but a last ditch clearance just took the ball away from the Argentinian.
The next chance fell to Gradel, a ball in from the left found the head of Gradel but he was just in front of the ball and actually headed the ball away from goal.
Gradel had another chance soon after but his cross/shot failed to trouble the Rovers backline or pick out Beckford.
Leeds were slowly getting closer, after a free kick from Gradel the ball ended up falling to Beckford but he failed to get any contact on the ball when in on goal.
The game changed just past the half hour, Neil Kilkenny`s through ball fell to Beckford who coolly slotted home only for the assistant to have his flag up for offside.
In the lead up to the disallowed goal Gradel had been upended by the Bristol defender Jones that left Gradel down injured.
The two players came together and Gradel clearly stamped on the Bristol players foot which led to a mass brawl.
When the fracas calmed down Gradel was shown the red card that incensed the midfielder, who had to be man handled by Beckford and Doyle to stop him getting at the referee.
Jones was shown a yellow card and became the target of the Leeds for the rest of the game.
If the game could have had anymore of an edge to it, it suddenly did.
The referee was beginning to take centre stage and two more bookings followed before half time with Mike Doyle from Leeds and Daryl Duffy from Bristol both finding there way into the referee`s notebook.
The referee added five minutes of time on but neither side looked like finding the opening goal.
Although down to ten men at half time, Leeds were still clinging on to second spot with Millwall and Swindon drawing and Charlton winning, Leeds were above Charlton on goal difference.
Leeds couldn`t have wished for a worse start to the second half when a deep cross found Kuffour at the back stick, some hesitant defending by both Collins and Lowry allowed the ball to be played back into the middle and Duffy was on hand to score for the visitors.
As the scores stood, Leeds were now down to third place and that was soon to be fourth as Millwall took the lead against Swindon.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson came in for some stick for his substitutions last week at Charlton but today his gamble came off and local boy Jonny Howson entered the fray in the 53rd minute in place of Lowry.
Leeds had gone 3-4-2 in their desperate search for two goals.
The gamble was to be rewarded inside six minutes when a lay off by Becchio found Howson who calmly curled a 20-yard shot into the left hand corner of the net to send the home fans wild.
Within four minutes the turnaround was complete, Beckford got his head to a throw out by the Bristol keeper.
The ball fell to Johnson, his cross looked like reaching an unmarked Becchio at the back post, the ball was just poked away by a Bristol defender but there waiting to score his 31st goal of the season was Jermaine Beckford.
The Leeds fans went wild and the turnaround was complete.
Now all we had to do was get another to calm the nerves but as Leeds had done all season that goal wouldn`t come, Leigh Bromby went closest but his header came back off the post.
Leeds fans were moving nervously in there seats (not that anyone was sitting) and they owed a great debt of gratitude to Shane Higgs who came out to save at the feet of Kuffour inside the final twenty minutes.
Simon Grayson was trying to run down the clock in the final five minutes, Luciano Becchio was replaced after once again running himself to a stand still for the Leeds cause for the good of Leeds United. The fans showed there appreciation by giving him a fantastic reception as he left the pitch.
In the final minute of normal time captain marvel Jermaine Beckford was replaced, once again to a standing ovation from the Leeds faithful.
It might be the last time he will be seen in a Leeds shirt and after a very mixed second half of the season for the striker between the fans and himself if he does leave he will leave as the player that scored the two most important goals of the season, which will live long in Leeds history.
The game went into added time and to make things harder for the Leeds faithful the fourth official failed to give any indication of what time was to be added on.
Leeds managed to keep hold of the ball in the corner and after five nerve jangling minutes the referee blew the whistle to the relief of 38,000 Leeds fans inside the ground.
Despite constant requests from Leeds officials to keep Leeds fans off the pitch, the fans ran on the pitch to celebrate promotion.
After the scenes that had marred games around the country last weekend, this was all about celebration for the Leeds fans after what had been a rollercoaster of a ride since Christmas.
The pitch was eventually cleared to give the Leeds players a very brief chance to celebrate with the fans.
The celebrations were led by the injured influential defender Patrick Kisnorbo who hobbled into the centre of the pitch to lead the singing with 'Leeds are going up, going up, Leeds are going up`.
An unbelievable season was finally over, so many highs and so may lows.
The most important thing was that after three years of League One football Leeds were finally heading back to the Championship.
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