LEEDS United’s heartening but ultimately unrewarding performance against Championship leaders Brighton & Hove Albion was the minimum everyone associated with the club should expect.
That is the opinion of one of their biggest fans and the Seagulls’ last line of defence, David Stockdale.
The goalkeeper is from nearby Armley but the biggest regret of a roller-coaster career is that he has never played for his boyhood heroes.
On Saturday, Stockdale got out of jail when he crashed a clearance into Alex Mowatt and was relieved to see it rebound narrowly wide of a post.
His good fortune helped Brighton maintain the only unbeaten run in the top four divisions and they would have been happy with a point but came away with three as substitute Bobby Zamora scored his first goal for the club in 12 years, the cult hero striker having returned on a free this season.
It was harsh on Leeds, whose club 96th birthday was marked by them establishing an unwanted home record of 11 games without a win at Elland Road, having matched the 10 of the 1981-82 season in their game prior to the international break.
No one wants to see Leeds challenging the likes of Brighton at the top more than Stockdale, who admitted Uwe Rosler’s side had caught them on an off day.
“That was one of our poorest performances. We had no intensity and looked as though we were lacking a bit of pace but all credit to Leeds for the way they went at us in the first half,” said Stockdale.
“We had to really regroup. We are fighting to go up so we need to win games like this. When you have quality players like Bobby Zamora on the bench it does make a difference. He comes on and people open their eyes and it gives us a different dimension up front. The defenders were used to facing one kind of attack but when he comes on we can hit them with another tactic.”
Tellingly, Stockdale continued: “I’m passionate about Leeds and I thought that was a good performance from them but, for me, that should be the minimum Leeds performance.
“I thought they played really well especially the way they came out of the blocks and when they scored their goal you could see the crowd were up. People don’t realise the affect the crowd have here on the players. Our manager said at half-time ‘don’t let the crowd push them on’ because I know myself that is what Leeds fans are about. They are the most passionate people I know and I’m one of them, although I don’t think any of my family are going to be talking to me tonight.”
Zamora’s winner came when he clipped the ball past Marco Silvestri after being played in down the left channel by Gaetan Bong in the 89th minute and after Leeds had been reduced to 10 men six minutes earlier.
Having used all three substitutes, goalscorer and central defender Liam Cooper limped off down the tunnel after damaging his left knee in a tackle on Beram Kayal.
Cooper had netted Leeds’s equaliser in the 22nd minute. Lewis Dunk fouled Wood 30 yards out and Mowatt swung in a free-kick which the defender flick-headed inside the far post for his first goal in over 11 months.
Brighton had struck from their first attack in the 14th minute, Solly March – who was to smack a second-half shot against the bar – drilling a low shot beyond Silvestri after being played in by Kayal.
Lone striker Chris Wood should have given Leeds the lead before the break but he sent wide a free-header from six yards after meeting a carbon-copy free-kick from Mowatt.
Wood also flicked the ball over the bar as it ricocheted into his path at a corner shortly before Stockdale enjoyed his moment of fortune in front of the Kop. “Yeah, that was one of my nine lives gone,” said the goalkeeper. “You need a bit of luck and that might have been mine. It was just one of those things and the ball could easily have gone in the net so it was fortunate for us and unfortunate for Leeds.”
Stockdale, 30, continued: “I played here last season but before that I had never done so. I used to sit at the top of the East Stand and have seen so many games here. All my family are Leeds fans and when I was asked how many tickets I needed I only required 10 for the Brighton end but I had around 100 friends and family in all other parts of the ground.
“Everyone I know supports Leeds and I picked my family out in the stand and we were waving to each other. Other Leeds fans were thinking ‘what’s he doing?’
“I also saw my nephews and gave them a little wave and then had a bit of banter with the Kop. They didn’t know I was from here and were giving me a bit of stick but when it went deadly silent I went ‘Look, I’m from Leeds’ and so they gave me a nice reception.
“I came through Leeds City Boys all the way through but I never got a chance here and that’s not a grudge it’s just one of those things. I then went to Huddersfield and then York City but I got released and I was working at New Farnley cricket club doing some ground work when Darlington picked me up.
“I spent two seasons there before I got bought by Fulham so it was a rags to riches kind of thing.
“I kind of bypassed Leeds on my way and have been in London/Brighton for eight years now.
“But it was nice to be back home.”
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Cooper, Berardi; Adeyemi; Dallas (Buckley 62), Cook, Mowatt (Antenucci 67), Botaka (Byram 78); Wood. Unused substitutes: Bellusci, , Murphy, Phillips, Horton.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Stockdale, Saltor, Greer (Hunemeier 40), Dunk, Bong; Rosenior (Crofts 60), Stephens, Kayal, March; Baldock, Hemed (Zamora 78). Unused substitutes: Maenpa, Calderon, Manu, Ince.
Referee: D Deadman (Cambs).
Man of the match: Liam Cooper.