Leeds 4, Wolves 1 – Feb 10 2004
I’ll never forget the Yorkshire Evening Post headline on the night – “Will the loser please turn the lights off”. That really hammered home the mess we were in when we last played Wolves in the Premier League at Elland Road.
Not only had we lost our last seven games, we had scored only twice in the process, and were in deep, deep relegation trouble. Our promising form towards the end of 2003 was flushed down the pan when we lost at Wolves at Christmas in what was a massive game at the bottom of the league and by the time we played them again seven weeks later it really was a case of lose and face the prospect of a slow painful death. Eddie Gray said before the game that if we lost it wouldn’t be mission impossible for us to survive, but we were on our arse, and we all knew it. We were too easy to play against, we were giving poor goals away, and we couldn’t score.
If the YEP cranked it up, it was nothing compared to the atmosphere at Elland Road that night. I mean, those fans had got us round Europe just a couple of years earlier, and know they were backing us in exactly the same manner as we flapped around at the bottom of the Premier League. As relegation battles go they don’t get much bigger than this one. This wasn’t the time for finger pointing or for recriminations as to why we were down there, we just simply had to win.
Ultimately, we had the fans to thank for making Elland Road feel like a cauldron and for making us feel invincible. Believe me, when you’re on the floor and can’t win and can’t score, that takes some doing, and somehow we managed to get a result. Alan Smith scored early for us and when Wolves equalised soon after, it could have been a real case of ‘here we go again’ but our fans simply turned the volume up even more. You couldn’t hear each other the pitch, and I’m not sure I’d have fancied being in a Wolves shirt that night. It was 37,000 against 11. That’s some odds in your favour, especially when you’re on your arse..
Just before half-time, Smithy got up well for a header and Wolves keeper Paul Jones could only parry it…perfect for a goal poaching centre half (what do you mean who?). To score so close to half-time and to score such an important goal…the roof came off Elland Road, and we went in knowing we could finish the job. James Milner scored a third for us after half-time, and big Viduka made it four at the death. There was such a mixture of joy and relief, but the biggest feeling was that of renewed hope.
We went and drew with Man U and Liverpool in the two games after and only lost two of our next nine to keep us right in the battle. Without that win against Wolves, it would have gone the other way. The YEP had got it right on the night, and so had we. Sadly, it still didn’t prove enough come the end of the season, but that’s another story for another day.