Bygones: The night Gray lost his cool as Lukic clanger enabled Rix and Gunners to grab an undeserved FA Cup lifeline at Elland Road

IN HIS position as one of football's nice guys, a true gentleman of the game, it is hard to imagine Eddie Gray ever losing his temper.

Little seems to rile the affable Leeds legend but his self-control was put to the test after the club's dramatic FA Cup replay with Arsenal 27 years ago.

It was no real surprise given the strained circumstances of their result on February 2, 1983.

Leeds – recovering after a shock relegation from Division One the previous season – had forced the fourth round replay after securing a brave 1-1 draw against the star-studded Gunners at Highbury.

In the replay – the first FA Cup tie between the sides at Elland Road – the spirited hosts matched their more illustrious rivals once more and the scoreless game dragged on into extra-time.

Just as a second replay seemed certain, with less than a minute remaining, Terry Connor skipped past his marker and skid in a perfect cross for young United striker Aiden Butterworth, who coolly stabbed past Northern Ireland star Pat Jennings.

Elland Road understandably erupted, the Yorkshire side having brought the talented Londoners, with England internationals Kenny Sansom, Tony Woodcock and Graham Rix, to their knees and a famous victory to within touching distance.

However, there was a painful twist in the tale.

No sooner had they taken the lead when goalkeeper John Lukic – who handed in a transfer request the following month after concerns Leeds' relegation would hamper his England aspirations and who left for Arsenal in the summer – was left looking on in horror as Rix's 30-yard free-kick slid past him at his near post for the equaliser.

There was hardly time for the game to re-start before the final whistle blew, fortunate Arsenal escaping with another draw.

They then won the toss to stage the second replay, a third game between the sides in just 11 days, and finally emerged as 2-1 victors, Leeds' big chance having gone.

United right-back Neil Aspin was just a callow youngster starting out when those events unfolded but he remembers them vividly and the unexpected reaction of player-manager Gray.

"John (Lukic) knew he should have saved that free-kick," he told the Yorkshire Post.

"He was so frustrated afterwards as we all were.

"Eddie Gray was never one to give out too many ear-bashings but he did give one to John that night. He was really frustrated too – it would have been a big win for him as manager – but I'm sure John didn't take any offence.

"He went on to have a fantastic career."

Aspin, who played nearly 250 times for Leeds and is now AFC Halifax Town manager, continued: "We knew the chance to beat Arsenal was at Elland Road and having taken the lead so late we thought we'd won it.

"It was a total kick in the teeth to concede right at the death and left me with mixed emotions.

"I was only 17 at the time and it had been great to play in two such big games – I remember standing in the tunnel at Highbury and turning to see all these huge household names – but we came in afterwards and were all gutted.

"I felt robbed and drained as well because of that extra-time.

"It was an opportunity missed but then again, Arsenal were renowned for digging out results and whatever happened it had been a fantastic atmosphere at Elland Road that evening."

Having endured their own last-minute heartache in an exhilarating third round 1-1 draw at The Emirates a little over a week ago, Leeds will be hoping for a fairytale ending against Arsenal on Wednesday night in this next Elland Road replay.

Meanwhile, the Leeds goalscorer back in 1983 – Butterworth – was, like Aspin, another emerging talent.

Aged 21, the local lad seemed set for a fine career but the following year he announced being disillusioned with professional football and wanted to instead go to college.

The former Tadcaster Grammar School pupil enjoyed his best season in 1982-83, scoring 11 goals in 38 league games as well as this famous FA Cup strike on a night when he was marked by Eire international David O'Leary.

He moved to Doncaster Rovers in 1984 and Guiseley three years later.