6th February, 2024, FA Cup 4th Round Replay
A 600 mile round trip for many of our fans traveling down from Leeds – only 500 for me coming from the Midlands – was ultimately well rewarded with another sterling performance in difficult wet and windy conditions against a determined if not full-strength Plymouth outfit.
At one point in the second half, when Plymouth scored an equalizer, the ghosts of past FA Cup troubles haunted us for a few moments but these days we have a manager who clearly wants to win every game and, once we introduced our regular starters in Georginio and Bamford and then later Cree Summerville, the quality we possess these days began to tell.
Leeds should have been able to see the game out at one – nil after Willy Gnonto scored a fine goal in the 66th minute, but some sloppy defending from Leeds, allowing Ashley Phillips to ghost in at the back post to meet a left-wing free-kick and knock it across goal, meant Brendon Galloway had the simplest of tasks to chest the ball over the line. 1 – 1 and those ghosts were stirring.
But Daniel Farke twisted and went for glory and it paid off. Cree Summerville reprised his song again as he cut in from the left and curled a perfect shot inside the far post to restore the one-goal lead seven minutes into extra time. Then Patrick Bamford won the ball in midfield and sent Summerville away again and this time he poked the ball through to Georginio who scuffed his shot but saw it creep past Hazard in the home goal and go in off the right post.
Plymouth were done for by this stage and Leeds dominated the final moments scoring a 4th when Hardie could only head a Gruev right-wing corner past his own keeper to the delight of the Leeds fans shivering in the cold and damp night air of Britain’s Ocean City, as the signs described Plymouth.
In days of old this game would have got away from us when we gave up the soft equaliser, but these days we have real quality to call upon when our fringe players can’t quite get the job done and it must have broken Plymouth hearts and resolve to see the likes of Georginio and Summerville appear in time for the extra half hour. Between them they did the trick and ensured that Willy Gnonto’s superb opening goal was not for nothing. If I had to be picky, then I'd say there was still one aspect of our performance that isn't good enough - that old chestnut of our ability to finish clinically. We had a whopping 26 goal attempts but just six hit the target. It's an ongoing issue that we need to improve. Credit tho to Hazard in the home goal, he made a few terrific saves.
Leeds had the opportunity too of bringing Archie Gray on to pick up again in midfield, perhaps with a nod to the likely appearance of Conor Roberts at right-back sometime soon. Elsewhere, Mat Joseph and Joe Gelhardt both struck the woodwork and both looked useful, albeit in that ‘fringe’ category. Patrick Bamford had that rusty look about him again tonight when he came on and was too often caught offside (as was Mat Joseph before him) but Willy Gnonto was lively from the start and Ilia Gruev just gets better and better with each passing game. I though Jaidon Anthony wasn’t quite at the races and I wonder whether Illan Meslier might respond differently if he were to face that in-swinging free-kick again but, overall, it was a heart-warming performance from Leeds that just keeps the momentum rolling along nicely.
Back to league action on Saturday with the visit of Rotherham to Elland Road and, this time, we have to make sure we come out all guns blazing and put them to the sword. This season continues to build nicely and, who knows, it could yet end in glory!
Extra-time victory sends the Whites through!
Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay
Plymouth Argyle 1 (Galloway 78’)
Leeds United 4 (Gnonto 66’, Summerville 97’, Georginio 111’, Gruev 117’)
Plymouth: Hazard (GK), Mumba, Edwards (C) (Wayne 105’), Hardie, Whittaker, Wright (Issaka 72’) Gibson, Randell, Galloway (Scarr 105’), Phillips, Sorinola (Roberts 77’). Subs not used: Burton (GK), Matthews.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Firpo, Cooper (C), Piroe, Kamara (Gray 71’), Anthony (Georginio 81’), Rodon, Byram (Summerville 90’), Gnonto (Gelhardt 71’), Gruev, Joseph (Bamford 81’). Subs not used: Klaesson (GK), van den Heuvel (GK), Ampadu, Cresswell.
Referee: Rob Jones
Booked: Wright, Phillips, Galloway (Plymouth) Rodon (Leeds)
Venue: Home Park