Pink 'un

Peterborough United 0-3 Leeds United: In history

Written by: Moxcowhite • Daniel Chapman
A view from behind Archie Gray as, up the field, the ball leaves Pat Bamford's foot — we see him from the back immediately apres volley — on its way to wondergoal status in Peterborough's top corner

Three things that have, for a long time, been going ahead and giving us nothing – the FA Cup, pink shirts and Patrick Bamford – combined in Peterborough and gave us something unforgettable.

Leeds United’s rhubarb and custard kit now has its reason, its moment, its place in history. And Pat Bamford has his memento. The best goal he’s ever scored? Probably, and a better goal than many other players have ever scored, too, something to show the grandkids one day when they’re bored of playing with his Championship winner’s medal and his England cap. ‘That was just the fashion at the time,’ he’ll tell the young ‘uns, when they ask about the clothes. But he’ll start a family argument that could ruin Christmas if he clips their lugs for asking about his dyed white hair. ‘That was just the, er, fashion at the time,’ he might say instead, trying to keep the peace, and hoping they don’t ask why none of the other players wanted to be as fashionable as he was.

After the game Bamford was playing the goal down, following the theme of his boss, Daniel Farke, who said with a smile that the goal was “alright” and went on to praise Patrick’s work rate, his movement off the ball. Bamford himself said the goal doesn’t count for more than a tap-in, resisting the urge to call up Joe Wilkinson and ask to record a special edition of their podcast straight away. Sod the resistance and sod the self-effacement, I say. Luke Ayling’s own moment of van Bastenness, against Huddersfield in 2020, was improved when he confessed to watching it on his phone every night before bed. We watch interviews with Tony Yeboah, reminiscing about smashing a volley off the crossbar against Liverpool, looking for the twinkle in his eye when he describes it. If Souleymane Doukara is out there this weekend, hearing all the kerfuffle and deciding to hit play on forest_thunderbastard_pope_comms.mp4, then it doesn’t make up for the time he refused to play but it helps.

Can video ever compare to actually being the person who did it? Not so far, although tape can mingle with memories in ways that make it important to cling to the original eyeball edition. Pat won’t want to replace how it felt to him with how it looked to us, even as he quietly requests a copy of the ‘All the Angles’ footage from LUTV. All the angles, except Pat’s. Maybe one day technology will share that viewpoint, some combination of virtual reality video with full-body ASMR triggers allowing us all to download what it was like to be Bamford in that moment. According to Pat, after the game, the event to him went like this: oh, that chest control has gone better than I expected, that defender is going to tackle me, I might as well just hit this, that was a sweet connection, bloody hell that’s flown in, ah the defender was on the floor anyway, so I didn’t need to bother.

I wonder if Farke had a subliminal influence on the moment, too. Bamford kept getting the ball in the penalty area in the first half but being too fussy with it, getting tackled or blocked before he could arrange his feet and have a shot. His goal came two minutes after half-time, an interval when I can imagine Farke grabbing Bamford by the bicep, pulling him close, and whispering to him, ‘One striker to another, Patrick, the fucking thing, second half, more or less sometimes just smash it.’ That’s what Pat did, first chance he got. The correct search terms for Farke’s reaction, as caught by the cameras, are ‘Jeremiah Johnson Nod of Approval’.

I’ve got this far without describing the goal from our perspective. You’ve probably seen it. From a free-kick on half-way, Leeds passed the ball about with goal-up assurance but not enough conviction to make it creative on a pitch that, the other week, Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson complained was ruining his own side’s passing game. Ethan Ampadu, a decisive player, ended the meandering by taking advantage of what Bamford’s return to the side offers – a target to aim at. Ampadu lumped it forward to avoid the increasing risk of being too near Leeds’ own goal. Bamford leapt into the air to control the ball with his chest, then twisted as ball and Bamford fell together, scurrying his legs to get his right foot planted, swinging his hips, swishing his left foot, and striking the ball, a new one from Mitre, specially made for the FA Cup. It sailed across the penalty area, beyond the keeper, into the top corner, too elegant to be a thunderbastard, too cool to be a netbuster, Pat had put just enough power on the shot to leave attention for the technique. After an initial whoop, Pat let his teammates’ faces show all the shock and delight, while he soaked it up looking like a guest standing off to the side at his own surprise birthday party. Maybe that’s what it feels like to score a goal like this: an out of body experience.

It was the second vital intervention by Bamford’s chest. Amid his cluttered finishing in the first half he got an assist, receiving Jaidon Anthony’s crossed free-kick and whether through upper body control or a lucky bounce the ball dropped from Bamford’s breast to Ampadu’s boot for a close range finish. The game was just over half-an-hour old and Leeds needed that goal without being desperate for it. Before the game, Darren Ferguson had claimed that Leeds and Peterborough play a similar way, while Farke warned that Posh look like a Championship team in waiting and should be treated as such. So Peterborough began by trying to play out from the back. It’s probably a good thing that this is happening and working so well for them in League One, following Ipswich Town’s success; with European Super Leagues looming again recently, I’m all for better football at all levels of the pyramid, for watching skilful players in the lower leagues becoming a viable, affordable option for anyone turned off or priced out by the Premier League. But Posh couldn’t get out of their own half. They should have been behind after four minutes, when young goalkeeper Fynn Talley played a very seen-it-on-the-telly pass from his six yard box straight to Archie Gray in the D, who let him off by hitting his first time shot back to him. Leeds kept letting them off for fifteen minutes, and Ampadu’s opener put a stop to what was happening in the next fifteen, when Peterborough looked ready to make a game of it.

Ampadu added a second, heading in a corner in the 89th minute, and Bamford’s glory aside, this match was as close to mundane as Leeds get in the FA Cup. They were nearly boring last season, when while travelling to Accrington Stanley in the fourth round they stepped around the giantkilling traps by taking a steady 3-0 lead; at which point Jesse Marsch brought on our most important and second most fragile goalscorer, Rodrigo, who then got injured and didn’t start another game for ten weeks, turning his season’s contribution from ‘vital to keeping us up’ to ‘crucial to sending us down’. Although Farke risked Dan James and Glen Kamara at the end here, he did so from a position of strength, after decent performances from their replacements. Wilf Gnonto was busy enough on the wing, should have been given a penalty, and still needs to learn to a) tackle and b) shut up; Archie Gray, moved into midfield, looked at home there but with extras: as if Farke had suggested he should try making up for the lack of goals from that area this season, he shot whenever he could, the irony being that even with that gifted chance at the start of the game, he scored none, while Ampadu, shifted to centre-back for a rest, according to Farke, scored two. Maybe we need to play Gray at centre-back to unlock his goalscoring potential.

Such questions can wait, for now. This game, like most FA Cup fixtures when you’re in the Championship, was not important until it became important, and its importance ended up being doubled. First of all, Leeds United did not do anything stupid. This is a good result, hopefully to be repeated in the fourth round – win or lose, just don’t be daft. Then there was Bamford’s goal. It’s unlikely that will ever be repeated, and that makes it even more important. Something to remember forever, to remember Pat by, to remember the kit by. To remember his hair by. It’s not every weekend you see a goal and know, instantly, that you’ll be seeing it again forever. ⬢

(Photograph by Kevin Hodgson/MI News, via Alamy)


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