Gray guides his Leeds towards the escape hatch

In the conspicuous absence of a goal on the pitch at Elland Road on Friday afternoon, a flurry of classic finishes from the good old days flashed on to the giant screens at either end of the ground at the final whistle. Among them was the Allan Clarke diving header that won Leeds United the FA Cup for the one and only time in their history. It is likely to become a familiar sight this week in the build-up to another confrontation with Arsenal in the grand old knockout competition, in this season's third round at Elland Road a week today.

First for Leeds, though, comes this afternoon's trip to Molineux, where the memories from 1972 are not quite so happy. Two days after that Wembley win Don Revie's men were forced to face Wolves, with their Double hopes on the line. A draw would have earned them the title but they lost 2-1. The championship went instead to Brian Clough's Derby team, who were already on holiday in Mallorca. It left a bitter taste in Leeds and beyond. Revie blamed the Football League for refusing to allow his players more time to recover from the Cup final, and the referee for denying his team three penalties. The Leeds manager himself was accused of attempting to bribe the Wolves players, allegations that were never substantiated.

"No, we don't have good memories of going there," Eddie Gray mused, when Molineux was mentioned in the aftermath of Friday's goalless draw against Aston Villa. Back in 1972, Gray spent the Sunday after the FA Cup final on the treatment table at The Hawthorns before being patched up and sent out to face Wolves the following night; Leeds had so many Wembley wounded, Billy Bremner was obliged to play up front alongside Clarke.

"No, I don't still feel badly done to," Gray added. "That's away in the past. The only thing that concerns me is trying to pick up three points there on Sunday. It would be nice to go there and win."

It would indeed. It would leave Leeds with a nine-point cushion above Wolves and the foot of the Premiership going into the new year - more than they could have dreamed of when goal number six chimed in for Pompey at Fratton Park on 8 November.

The 6-1 slaughter that brought an end to Peter Reid's time at Elland Road was followed by a 2-0 defeat at home to Bolton, but since then the astute caretakership of Gray has swept nine points the way of Leeds. They line up at Molineux on an unbeaten run of five matches, and with an escape route beckoning above them. Middlesbrough, in 11th place, are only four points away.

"We are on a bit of a run," Gray said. "You would really like to win matches, especially at home, but if you're picking up points at least you still have that belief that you're going to be difficult to beat. Against Villa, we didn't play particularly well from an attacking point of view, but the good thing was that we didn't lose.

"I'm just pleased with the way the players have responded. I said when I took over that it's going to be a battle right to the end of the season. In our position, every match is crucial. The Wolves game is no different. We'll be going there to try and win, but if we pick up a point away from home we'd have to be happy."

It is certainly more of a must-win game for Wolves. A draw would be no disaster for Leeds, who have acquired a vital obduracy under the guidance of their legendary left-winger. Today, they are likely to be without their two midfield hatch-battoners. David Batty is suspended and Dominic Matteo has a thigh injury. Eirik Bakke, though, made an instant impression on his return as a substitute against Villa and Alan Smith showed his worth in his new, deeper, role, not least with a crucial covering tackle on Juan Pablo Angel.

For all the clout and cohesion that Gray has instilled on the pitch, Leeds are still in danger of being thrown to the wolves. They have until 17 January to show they can manage their £82m debt. Otherwise, they will go into administration. David O'Leary returned on Friday welcoming the prospect of an inquiry into where all the money went - apart from the £97m he spent on players, presumably, and the £3.7m he is still accumulating in compensation . "I got on with the football side of it," he said. "There was one man there overseeing it all."

It is money coming in that happens to be Leeds United's most pressing concern. Perhaps the video on offer in the post-Christmas sale in the club shop will help raise some revenue. Not that there were many takers on Boxing Day for "Peter Ridsdale: My Leeds United", even at £5.99.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz