Date: Monday, 25th March 1989.
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds.
United 1 Portsmouth 0
United: Baird. Portsmouth: Nil.
Leeds United: Day; Aspin,
G. Snodin; Aizlewood, Blake, Fairclough; Strachan, Sheridan (A. Williams), Baird, Davison (Pearson),
Neill, Whitehead (Beresford); Kuhl,
Hogg, Maguire; Chamberlain (Fillery), Moncur, Quinn, Aspinall, Wigley.
Referee: Mr E.J.
to Elland Road
for a Second Division game in March 1989 might not appear to be a fixture that
would arouse any particular or notable memories. At first glance it certainly
doesn’t. On closer inspection it can be marked down as an important milestone for
Leeds United as Howard Wilkinson laid the foundation for what was to be the
start of United’s long awaited rise from Second
Division obscurity. There is nothing remarkable about the score-line, though
United won by a single goal scored by Ian Baird.
What does set it aside from other fixtures was that it
marked the debut for United of Gordon Strachan and
Chris Fairclough, who had both been signed in advance
of the transfer deadline for the 1988-89 season. Strachan had been enticed from Old Trafford for £300,000,
and given the mission of “get us out of the Second Division inside two years”.
It was a feat which the then thirty-two-year-old carried out to the letter.
Central defender Chris Fairclough was signed from Nottingham
Forest, initially on loan until the
end of the season, when it was agreed that Leeds could
make the move permanent by paying £500,000. This they did and it is now history
that the pair went on to not only gain promotion the following season in
1989-90 but were still an integral part to the Championship winning side of two
years later in 1991-92.
The capture of the aging Scottish international and the much
younger England Under twenty-one international had an immediate effect on the
attendance which jumped to 27,000 rather than the usual 18,000. The extra 9,000
meant that £30,000 was injected into the Elland Road coffers and while
the game never reached any great heights, Strachan
did not disappoint the fans who made him welcome. As early as the first minute Strachan surged forward into the Portsmouth
penalty area, where he was brought down for what looked like a penalty. The
referee waived play on but in the twelfth minute he pointed to the spot after
Ian Baird had been fouled. Unfortunately John Sheridan’s weak effort was saved.
United did not open the scoring until twenty minutes before
the end, when Ian Baird got his thirteenth goal of the season with a powerful
far post header after some smart work by Strachan.
The little midfield man had been sent sprawling and with Pompey slow to regroup
he quickly got the ball placed and hit a precise pass to Sheridan
whose centre found the unmarked Baird and that was game, set and match.
Alternate Reports: (Courtesy Mark Ledgard)
YEP: The touch of class that could still have lifted Leeds
into a promotion play-off place was just enough to beat a competitive Portsmouth
at Elland Road
in this game. It came from Gordon Strachan just when Leeds
needed it most with Portsmouth
looking as though they would spoil the welcome party for the experienced Scot and
Chris Fairclough from Spurs. Howard Wilkinson the
Leeds Manager had warned his men that Portsmouth could feed off the rarified atmosphere which had built up following the
£800,000 imports and which was backed up by a big crowd just as well as they
could. And true enough, Portsmouth
were firing on all cylinders But they could not match the agile mind of Gordon Strachan in the sixty-ninth minute. He was sent flying by an heavy tackle from Mike Fillery
on the right wing touchline and while others were catching their breath Strachan was bouncing to his feet demanding the loose ball
from the ball-boy twenty yards away. The former Manchester United winger lifted
the free-kick into John Sheridan’s path and though he had hitherto had a
wretched afternoon, the Eire International took the ball coolly on his chest
before lobbing the ball to the far post in one sweet movement. The rest was
easy for the unmarked Ian Baird ten yards out, the striker heading his
thirteenth goal of the campaign with a strong dive to match the effort he threw
at his old team all the game.
Baird was at the centre of all the really important events
of an incident packed and often bad tempered game which culminated with a punch
up at one end of the field and then a clash between Baird and Graeme Hogg at
the other which got Baird a booking and Hogg his marching orders for
retaliating. The punch up could have been costly for Leeds had they lost their
goalkeeper for somehow Mervyn Day got involved with Gavin Maguire after Mick
Quinn and Noel Blake, also a former Portsmouth player, had clashed. It was hard
to see how the referee could not take some action, but then it was hard to see
how he could ignore the claims of Leeds for a penalty, first when Gordon Strachan went down heavily in the opening minute then when
Bobby Davison went sprawling over Andy Gosney after
the Leeds striker pushed the ball beyond the goalkeeper in a clean breakaway in
the fifty-eighth minute. There were bookings regularly though. John Sheridan
was cautioned in the opening minute and Clive Whitehead
and Mark Aizlewood were booked before Portsmouth
were reduced to ten men. There was even a twelfth
minute penalty with Strachan and Baird again taking
centre stage. Strachan’s cross not reaching the
centre forward when he was knocked away by Gavin Maguire. John Sheridan’s side
footed effort never had enough venom in it to give Andy Gosney
much trouble and after what was his third miss from the spot that season the
time may have arrived to let Strachan take over as
penalty taker. Certainly Leeds could have settled into
their task with more comfort with the help of an early breakthrough. Instead
they had their work cut out in what became a frenzied contest. The calm
assurance that Fairclough added to the Leeds
defence was invaluable, while the width and ideas that Strachan
provided, together with the speed of Davison and Baird, looked as though it
could be decisive. Yet Mervyn Day had to save well from Mick Quinn, John Moncur and Mike Fillery and Quinn
had the ball in the net once but from an offside position before Baird struck.
It was clear, then, that the euphoria of the week could have backfired on Leeds.
“I am pleased to have got that one out of the way. I hope we can settle down
and start running normally again now,” said a relieved, yet very pleased
New signings shine: Leeds United got
an instant dividend from their £800,000 investment when the First Division boys
arrived at Elland Road
for this game. The smooth and calm authority Chris Fairclough
added to the defence insisted that he had been a part of the Leeds
side all season and not a £500,000 import just added from Spurs just
forty-eight hours earlier. But it was the alert and bright Gordon Strachan who sent most of the 27,000 crowd home singing. “I
am as pleased as he will be about his debut,” preened the Leeds Manager Howard
Wilkinson. “It was brilliant how he created the winner. He saw the situation so
early.” Fairclough, before flying back to London
for twenty-four hours to be with his wife Mandy, who is expecting their first
child this week, revealed that the signing of Strachan
on the Wednesday before he signed had a very big bearing on his move to Leeds.
“It showed they have ambition,” he said. “It’s home from home for me with this
crowd,” said Strachan. “But there is one big
difference from Manchester United, there is no Alex Ferguson shouting at me
from the touchline, in fact I thought I had gone deaf for a while today.”
Graeme Hogg, formerly Strachan’s team-mate at Old
Trafford, who admitted he had lost his temper before he was sent off after an
incident with Ian Baird said. “Strachan will do great
things for Leeds. It was his First Division thinking
that brought the goal.” John Gregory, Portsmouth’s
Manager agreed. “He’ll be a great asset for Leeds. We
paid the penalty for not being awake when he set up the goal.” He said that
Hogg was punished in the way he should have been. “He got what he deserved and
he will be disciplined by the club,” said Gregory.
items of Match Action Courtesy Mark Ledgard)
Ian Baird got the only goal of the game Gordon Strachan
made his debut for Leeds, as did Chris Fairclough
Bobby Davison was replaced by John Pearson Andy Gosney was in
goal Graeme Hogg and Martin Kuhl
were the central defenders
Warren Neill and Clive Whitehead were the
Beresford made his debut as a substitute with Mike Fillery
Mark Chamberlain, John Moncur, Gavin Maguire and Steve Wigley were in the midfield
Jimmy Quinn and Warren Aspinall
were the front-runners