This is a shoot-out. Surrounded and trapped, back against the wall, all expectation draining away. At the bottom of your personal Pandora’s Box, a glimmer, a slight stirring of hope and that is enough for that one last throw of the ice, that last “Hurrah.” Yes, that my friends, is a shoot-out.
Last night was a shoot-out too. At the end of a titanic struggle, after being seemingly on the ropes and reduced by injury to 30 minutes of 10-v-11, it was Leeds United who ended up storming out of their confines and gunning down a Norwich side who couldn’t malke their extra man advantage count.
Just like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (above), Leeds were subjected to a waiting game, a game where their opponents dictated the rules and, at times, toyed with them like a cat does with a mouse. But like Butch and Sundance, the Whites refused to be cowed and reacted bravely in the face of adversity.
Norwich came out blazing in the shoot-out, but their steel was tempered with a steely resoluteness from Leeds, typified by none other than ‘keeper Marco Silvestri. With Norwich guns blazing all around him, Silvestri stood strong and tall – at least for Alex Pritchard’s attempted ‘Panenka’ penalty. Where that took cojones the size of those dragged around dangling from the nether regions of Wooly Mammoths, his other two saves were majestic in their artistry, especially his swooping save of Robbie Brady’s effort – the last of Norwich’s penalties.
It took the sweety-struck coup de grace of young Ronaldo Vieira’s right foot to bring the match to an end – the shoot out over and to the victors, the spoils. Leeds are through to the Quarter-Final draw, guaranteed to face a ‘big side’ in the next round.
But the victory over Norwich is more than that, more than the sum of its parts so to speak. It is beyond a simple progression into the ‘next round’ of a cup competition and it is more than the result on the night.
This shoot-out gives Leeds fans a renewed sense of hope, hope that things are still on the turn. Because if you’ve been a Leeds fan for a decent enough amount of years, then the phrases ‘ups-and-downs’ and ‘peaks-and-troughs’ will mean something to you. I don’t go back as far as the Revie years, mid to late 80s for me.
I remember the 7-2 hammering meted out to the Whites by Stoke City just before Christmas 1986. I remember the relegation from the Premier League, the administration and relegation from the Championship to League one and the -15 point start. I remember too many of the days and thoughts like those.
But I also remember knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League at the group stage. I remember seeing Dominic Matteo rise like a salmon in the San Siro to score a f***ing great goal – although cheering it in a Spanish bar packed with football fans wasn’t a great idea. Mind, I convinced them I was happy as he was my cousin. I remember the League One promotion. I remember days like those from times gone by.
But most of all, like a lot of you reading this, I remember last night.
On the rollercoaster that is Leeds United, last night was about shooting bullets of hope, hope that we are heading towards that climb up the rollercoaster rather than being in freefall down a steep slope.
That, my fellow Leeds United brothers and sisters, THAT’S what a shoot-out is.