‘HAVE you ever seen a better goal?’ is a line of commentary that most Leeds United supporters of a certain vintage will know by heart.
John Helm, the doyen of Yorkshire’s football broadcasters, uttered those seven words after Gordon Strachan had rifled in a dramatic late winner against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the 1989-90 campaign.
‘And have you ever seen one better timed?’ is how Helm then finished a phrase that neatly summed up what Strachan’s goal meant in terms of ensuring United’s promotion push remained firmly on track.
Timing was also on the minds of the United fans fortunate enough to be inside Elland Road on Wednesday night. As in the sweet timing of the spectacular volleyed finish from Souleymane Doukara that capped United’s 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.
No goal in recent times has left the United faithful so excited, as was underlined by the number of mobile ‘phone clips from all manner of angles that soon began appearing on social media.
It was a genuine ‘I was there’ moment and one that, just like Helm all those years ago, had supporters debating long into the night whether they really had seen a better goal by a Leeds player.
Tony Yeboah’s name, inevitably, was at the forefront of those discussions thanks to ‘that’ volley against Liverpool at the same end of Elland Road in 1995.
For this correspondent, Yeboah’s iconic wonder goal – and his subsequent, even more impressive, strike at Wimbledon a few weeks later – still trumps Doukara but that should not take away from the sheer audacity of what was witnessed by the 24,838 crowd first-hand on Wednesday night. The man himself is understandably proud.
“I have a few goals I have enjoyed in my career,” said the 25-year-old striker to The Yorkshire Post. “There was one against Norwich two years ago, I liked that one. But this one was better.”
Few will argue with that sentiment. The technique and execution of his Forest strike was such that the ball was heading for the top corner of Stephen Henderson’s net from the moment it left Doukara’s right boot.
“My position at the corner was to stay at the edge of the box,” explained the France-born striker. “As the ball came to me, I could either shoot or cross the ball back in.
“But the ball was just too good and I decided to shoot. I have not hit a ball as sweet as that shot.”
Doukara’s fifth goal of the season capped what has been a quite remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the forward.
Signed during the first summer of Massimo Cellino’s reign, his first 18 months could be filed away under the heading ‘underwhelming’.
Injury, less than convincing form and that sorry afternoon when he and five team-mates pulled out of the trip to Charlton Athletic combined to give the impression Doukara’s signing had been another folly of a maverick owner who seemed to think players from Italy’s Serie B could take the Championship by storm.
Last season began with Doukara firmly out of favour at Elland Road. Then, even after being brought back into the fold by Steve Evans, he managed to incur an eight-game ban for biting Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta.
Garry Monk’s arrival in the summer suggested Doukara’s time was up but, to his credit, the forward persevered and his reward came with a first league start of the season in early November. Since then, he has started every match.
“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t fit,” said Doukara when asked about his revival in fortunes under Monk.
“I had come late for pre-season and the first thing the manager said to me was, ‘Get back fit because we need you in this team, you can help us to achieve something’. That was good to hear. And it is what I did. I went training every day and worked very hard on my own. I wanted to get back in the team.”
Five goals in 13 league starts has made all that hard work worthwhile and Doukara admits to relishing the club’s long overdue push for promotion.
“We had a good team in the first two years,” he added. “There is not much difference this year, apart from we now know each other and play together. We are all agreed we can do something this year. That is the big difference. But, we have to do that game after game. Stay focused. Do not look too far ahead. The manager tells us that every week and he is right.
“We cannot think about April and how many points we want. We just look at the next game. And that is Sutton in the FA Cup.
“If you think about promotion, you start to get frustrated if you lose a game like Barnsley. It can affect you. That is why we have to stay focused.”
An admirable sentiment and one that very much chimes with the mindset of Monk, who was fulsome in his praise for Doukara’s strike after Wednesday night’s match. So, with that in mind, where does the volley against Forest stand in the pantheon of great Leeds goals?
“Yeboah against Liverpool was maybe better than mine,” admitted Doukara. “But mine was a good goal. It is the best goal I have scored – for the moment! I hope I can score more like that in the future.”
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