Date: Thursday, 14th May 1987.
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds.
Second Division Playoff Semi-Final First Leg.
United 1 Oldham Athletic 0.
United: Edwards. Oldham Athletic: Nil.
Leeds United: Day;
Aspin, McDonald; Aizlewood,
Ashurst, Ormsby; Ritchie
(Edwards), Sheridan, Pearson, Baird, Adams.
Oldham Athletic: Goram; Irwin, Barlow: Henry, Linighan,
Moore; Palmer, Cecere, Wright, Milligan, Williams.
Referee: Mr. G.M. Tyson (Sunderland)
small percentage of Keith Edwards' two hundred and fifty-nine career goals were
scored for Leeds United, but two of his most important strikes were in the
famous white shirt. While a last-gasp equaliser in
the Semi-Final of the FA Cup would be enough for most strikers to celebrate,
even in defeat, it was Edwards' contribution to United's
efforts in the inaugural play-offs that stands out the most. The Twenty-nine-year-old,
who joined Leeds for £125,000 in the summer of 1986 after boasting a goal
average of one every two games, may have struggled for a regular place in Billy
Bremner's side, he was given the all-too familiar tag
of being a "super-sub", but he scored two of the most vital goals in
the club's history.
After five seasons of Second Division drudgery, United were handed a lifeline
in 1986-87 when the Football League introduced the play-off system. Leeds
secured a fourth place in the Division and were handed a two-legged Semi-Final
clash against Oldham Athletic, who had finished eight points in front of Bremner's men in the final league table. Oldham manager Joe Royle
described the system as grossly unfair and suggested that the introduction of
play-offs made for the longest cup competition ever. "You play 46 games
just to get to the semi-final," he seethed. But Royle,
understandably bitter that his Oldham side were denied
outright promotion, was right in his assertion that the season's work went out
of the window when the Latics locked horns with Leeds over two legs.
United who drew first blood in the semi-final first leg at a packed Elland Road when Edwards, on as substitute,
scored late in the game to give Leeds the advantage.
"It was great for me to score that night," recalled the goal-scorer.
"Oldham were a
good side, but there was a feeling that it was our year. I think Billy Bremner actually wanted to avoid Oldham in the play-offs, but we got them
and won the first game at home 1-0. John Sheridan whipped in the free-kick from
which I scored and, because it had been a bit of funny season for me, it was
nice to get the goal in such an important game."
Oldham had lost to Leeds at Boundary Park the previous December, but the
Lancastrians were a well-drilled outfit who had won over half of their league
fixtures including a 2-0 triumph at Elland Road some six months earlier. Almost
30,000 crammed into Elland Road for that play-off
Semi-Final first leg and, as nerves jangled, super-sub Keith Edwards popped up
to give Leeds the advantage in the tie.
didn't believe that was enough, particularly with Oldham being the proud owners of a plastic
surface at their Boundary Park home. A near impeccable home record
spoke volumes and with a team packed full of ex-Leeds players, Andy Linighan, Denis Irwin and Tommy Wright, Oldham remained firm favourites
Reports: (Courtesy Mark Ledgard)
desperate diving header from substitute Keith Edwards gave Leeds a vital last-gasp advantage in a
frenzied first leg of this promotion play-off Semi-Final. Elland Road exploded with relief in the last
minute as Keith Edwards flung himself at John Sheridan’s free kick to the near
post. Nerves had jangled as loudly as the fiercely partisan crowd and it was
twenty-six minutes before either side managed an attempt on goal. The opening
sparring was edgy, scrappy and littered with fouls. Mark Aizlewood
was booked for bringing down Gary Williams in the twelfth minute. Seconds later
Mike Milligan was cautioned for following through on Neil Aspin.
In a ferocious match, Referee George Tyson kept control with common sense, and
in an ugly flare-up before half-time he allowed Oldham’s Tommy Wright to escape punishment
for an off-the-ball incident which saw Leeds’ Ian Baird booked. But the football was almost
non-existent, with Leeds
frustrated by Oldham’s off-side trap and the fear of
being caught on the break. Those fears were almost realized in the sixty-fifth
minute when Denis Irwin dribbled into the box but his shot went across the face
of goal. Four minutes later, Ian Baird headed just wide for Leeds, before the all-important
seventy-second minute substitution of Andy Ritchie for Keith Edwards.
YEP: Just when it seemed that Leeds United would have it all to do at Oldham on
the Sunday lunchtime, Keith Edwards nipped in with what could have been their
passport to the Final of the Second Division promotion play-offs. His eighty-ninth minute winner in this first
leg of the semi-finals came after a tension-packed game which had looked
destined to be goalless for a long time. Even if Edwards had found it hard to
repay Leeds’ £120,000 investment with goals
during the season, this game’s dramatic header made up for much. He surged in
on the near angle of the six-yard box to skim a header fiercely past Andy Goram from John Sheridan’s inch-perfect free-kick from the
right wing. It was the eighth goal by Edwards and the second successive match
he had jumped from the substitutes’ bench to win the game for Leeds, and the sigh of relief from most
of the 29,472 crowd could probably have been heard in the centre of the City,
three miles away. But through the anxious minutes that led up to what could now
be a vital breakthrough in this contest, it was a game in which very few of the
combatants reached their full potential. The two right backs, Neil Aspin and the formerly Leeds player Denis Irwin, often showed up well, but
no one could really impose themselves on the action for long.
side of the clash was illustrated by the confrontations between players with Sunderland referee George Tyson often
lecturing them. Once when John Sheridan and Mike Milligan clashed there was a
long talk for both the midfield men before Milligan nipped to the touchline to
get a new shirt, as his had been torn beyond repair across the chest. There
were three bookings; Mark Aizlewood was cautioned in
the fifteenth minute after conceding two rapid free-kicks; Mike Milligan
followed him in the next minute after a late tackle which brought an angry
response from Neil Aspin and more words from the
referee for both players; and seven minutes before the interval Ian Baird
became the third player to be cautioned after a flying tackle on Denis Irwin,
which saw complaints from Tommy Wright, another former Leeds player, who also
earned a lecture from the referee. The game was twenty-seven minutes old before
there was a telling shot on target and Andy Goram
fingered away John Sheridan’s bending twenty-five yard free kick away
confidently. Just after the hour Denis Irwin produced Oldham’s best attacking
moment when he wriggled past three challenges down the inside right slot only
to steer his low shot from twelve yards wide of the far post. But the closest
the game came to a goal until Edwards struck was an eighty-sixth minute volley
from eighteen yards by Jack Ashurst, again masterly
saved by Andy Goram. It looked as though Oldham’s well organized defence, which had caught Leeds in offside positions fifteen times,
had put them in a strong position for the second leg and Oldham’s manager Joe Royle
said his side were upset by the final outcome.
Andy Ritchie goes close
Bobby McDonald heads clear
Courtesy Mark Ledgard)
Substitute Keith Edwards heads the vital
match-winning goal for Leeds in the final minute at Elland Road
Leeds United 1986-87:
Row: Andy Ritchie, Neil Aspin,
Ronnie Robinson, Mervyn Day, Ronnie Sinclair, Peter
Peter Haddock, David Rennie.
Row: Geoff Ladley (Physio), David Bentley (Coach), Jack Ashurst,
Bob Taylor, Brian Caswell,
Ian Baird, Peter Gunby (Coach), Billy Bremner (Manager).
Row: Nigel Thompson, John Stiles, John Sheridan,
Ian Snodin, Tommy Wright, Russell Doig,
Keith Edwards got the only goal of the
match. John Sheridan supplied
Oldham had three former Eddie Gray discoveries in their team. Tommy Wright, Andy Linighan and Denis Irwin