LEEDS UNITED against Middlesbrough may not exactly assume the trappings of a fully-fledged derby, but try telling that to many in the North Riding and you might just get short shrift.
Towns such as Thirsk, Whitby and Northallerton all have their dyed-in-the-wool Whites and Boro enclaves - with the rivalry heightened in the mid-seventies when Jack Charlton’s Teessiders returned to the top-flight and locked horns with a Super Leeds side who were still a potent force, despite not quite being at the height of their powers under Don Revie.
The screening of the odd Boro game on Yorkshire Television when circumstances dictated ensured that Ayresome Park, culturally at least, was not a million miles away from West Yorkshire and some far-flung north-east outpost by the North Sea.
And for many in the north of God’s Own County still, the Leeds versus Boro games are the two fixtures which are the first that they look for when the fixtures are revealed in June.
For Boro supporters, in terms of spicy occasions for Teessiders to look forward to, Leeds is as good at it gets, with traditional rivals Newcastle United and Sunderland in the top-flight.
For Leeds too, while derbies with Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday have more pertinence, ditto Rotherham, games with Boro do genuinely have the ingredients of a big game. Certainly at Championship level.
Here’s a look at five memorable Leeds v Boro games in a fixture that has proved combustive over the years. More especially in the eighties.
1. November 16, 1974: Leeds United 2 (McKenzie 2) Middlesbrough 2 (Boam, M Smith).
A bumper crowd of 45,488 - boosted by a huge 10,000 plus travelling support from Teesside in a then season’s best attendance - saw Charlton’s promoted Boro claim a creditable point at Elland Road in a season when both finished in the top nine of the old Division One.
The game was noteworthy for a brace from Duncan McKenzie, who showed that he was not just proficient at throwing golf balls and jumping over Minis as the £240,000 signing scored his first two league goals for the Whites. Boro replied through captain Stuart Boam and Malcolm Smith, the latter firing home a majestic strike.
2. December 28, 1987: Leeds United 2 (Swan, Davison) Middlesbrough 0.
Leeds negotiated the first leg of a juicy festive home double header by beating Bruce Rioch’s high-flying Boro 2-0 in front of a big holiday crowd of 34,186 - with another large contingent from Teesside.
Goals were scored by Peter Swan and Bobby Davison as United inflicted a first defeat in 15 league games since early October upon the Teessiders, whose line-up included the likes of future England internationals Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper and Stuart Ripley.
Ripley was involved in a punch-up with Glyn Snodin by the touchline, with both players receiving their marching orders - with a Boro player dismissed for the sixth time in nine matches at Elland Road.
The game saw United up nicely for their West Yorkshire derby with another firm promotion contender in Terry Dolan’s Bradford City, beaten 2-0 two days later in front of 36,004 spectators as Billy Bremner’s side started to harbour hopes of a top-five tilt. Alas, it did not last.
3. August 23, 1989: Leeds United 2 (Davison, Parkinson og) Middlesbrough 1 (Comfort).
This was a game famous for two things, Vinnie Jones’s debut for the club and a crazy, never-to-be-forgotten own goal from Boro’s Gary Parkinson which helped Leeds take the spoils - amid much mirth.
Leeds, whose expensively-assembled side had started the season with a humbling 5-2 loss at Micky Quinn-inspired Newcastle United, were afforded the perfect start when Bobby Davison outpaced Boro captain Tony Mowbray before firing home a precision shot from an acute angle.
Boro were second best, but found a leveller on 75 minutes when Mervyn Day punched Parkinson’s free-kick straight to Alan Comfort, who struck a dipping shot from near the edge of the penalty area and into the net off the underside of the bar.
But there was one more twist to come for Leeds, who handed Jones a debut from the bench three minutes from time - and he made his impact felt.
Jones hit the ball into the Boro penalty area where Mowbray deflected it to full-back Parkinson. He in turn chipped it back to goalkeeper Kevin Poole, only to see it take an awkward bounce to completely deceive the keeper and roll into the net - to hand Leeds a madcap win.
4. January 30, 1993: Leeds United 3 (Strandli, Batty, Fairclough) Middlesbrough 0.
United crowned the opening on their triple-decker East Stand with comfortable win over the Teessiders, a game made remarkable for a rare goal from David Batty and a debut strike from Norweigan forward Frank Strandli.
A 69th-minute opener from Strandli, 11 minutes after entering the fray following his arrival from £350,000 from IK Start, proved the major talking point - and ultimately the one highlight in a turgid time at Leeds.
An unlikely source struck United’s second in the shape of David Batty, netting his first Leeds goal in almost a year, 363 days to be precise.
Gordon Strachan started the move deep in his own half before releasing Batty to fire the killer second past Stephen Pears nine minutes from time.
In the last minute, gloss was afforded for the hosts when Chris Fairclough volleyed in Strachan’s corner to lift Leeds above Boro in the table and ensure payback after a 4-1 loss at Ayresome Park at the start of the 1992-93 season.
5. May 11, 1997: Leeds United 1 (Deane) Middlesbrough 1 (Juninho).
The final denouement in a roller-coaster league campaign for Boro was cruelly played out at Elland Road as the Teessiders were afforded tears for souvenirs in a final-day 1-1 draw at Leeds - which wasn’t enough to retain their top-flight status.
Brian Deane, later to join Boro, put Leeds ahead in the second half, with only their third home goal since New Year’s Day - and the final one of his first spell at the club.
Juninho equalised with a 20-yard dipper, but try as they might, Boro couldn’t conjure a winner, with the enduring image of that game being the sight of their gifted Brazilian maestro sat disconsolate on his own just after the final whistle with a few fair tears screaming down his face in the middle of the pitch - while the likes of Emerson and Fabrizio Ravanelli had swiftly headed down the tunnel.