Leeds United had every reason to be distracted coming into the match on Saturday. The #TimeToGoMassimo march beforehand was something special, and we'll write more about that over the next week here on Through It All Together. Brian McDermott was making his return to Elland Road as the manager of Reading FC. Massimo Cellino and his cohort were in the papers for all the wrong reasons with the Lucy Ward story (amongst many others). And Steve Evans was seemingly on the hot seat, even after Stuart Dallas scored two midweek to push Leeds past Birmingham.
Didn't matter. The second half was one of the best of the season, and Chris Wood answered a questionable Reading equalizer with a match-winner that I won't soon forget.
Here's how it played out.
The first ten minutes were all Leeds United, as the Whites bossed the pale pink Royals around the pitch early on. In the 8th minute, Mirco Antenucci nearly had an opening goal, as Reading keeper Ali Al-Habsi mishandled it and Jake Cooper saved the day by clearing it off the line. Reading answered with chances of their own, but nothing went in for either side until a 39th minute Reading free kick found unmarked Chelsea loanee Michael Hector, who coolly slotted it past Marco Silvestri for the game's opening goal and then taunted the home fans like the classy Chelsea man he is.
Down 0-1 after 45, Evans wasn't impressed with the first half. "It wasn’t full of the things we’re good at. But at half-time we spoke about putting that behind us and having a real go."
And go they did.
Leeds came out firing on all cylinders. Toumani Diagouraga got on the end of a beautiful cross from Gaetano Berardi to make things level in the 48th minute, and in the 69th, an unmarked Chris Wood headed in a cross from Charlie Taylor (barely crossing the line, but a goal is a goal). Down 2-1 now, Reading pressed hard over 10 minutes to find their equalizer, and after a Leeds free kick was somehow changed into a Reading throw-in, Reading played pinball in the box and found their 2nd goal in the 81st minute off the foot of Deniss Rakels.
Leeds was furious, surrounding the ref and voicing their displeasure, but quickly, their concerns were made irrelevant as the beautiful, wonderful Christopher Grant Wood scored this beautiful, wonderful goal...
The hustle on this play, running past the Reading defense, and the cool finish... this is everything Leeds has needed this season. Why Stuart Dallas, who scored a brace on Tuesday, and Chris Wood, who put two in Saturday, couldn't produce this sort of play earlier on is another question for another time, but it's great to see now. Wood's second goal silenced the controversy of Reading's second, and Leeds held on for the 3-2 win at Elland Road.
Now Leeds sits in 12th place in the Championship. Should they hold on to that spot, Steve Evans would give the United fanbase their highest finish since 2010/11 under Simon Grayson, when the team finished 7th. Evans' goal has always been the top ten (well, when it wasn't simply "staying up"), and that mark looks to be in striking distance, as Leeds sits behind Preston North End (57 points) and Queens Park Rangers (56 points) with 54 points out of 42 games. This win officially secured the Whites' spot in the Championship next season, so Steve probably enjoyed a few bottles of wine on Saturday night as well.
How much wine is Steve Evans drinking tonight? pic.twitter.com/ey0hceVM7C— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) April 16, 2016
Now, there's no rest for the 12th-place Whites, as Wolverhampton comes to Elland Road on Tuesday night. We'll have a preview of that game for you tomorrow. What did you think of Saturday's match? Were you thrilled with the three points? Have you given up caring now that hope for promotion is gone? Did you march before the game? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading, see you back here soon for coverage of Leeds vs. Wolverhampton. #MOT.