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Jack Harrison sets Leeds on way to rare fifth-round place against Accrington

Jack Harrison sets Leeds on way to rare fifth-round place against Accrington

When your FA Cup record in recent years includes defeats at Sutton United and Histon, days like these feel like a case of win at any cost. That is exactly what Leeds were able to do as they booked their place in the fifth round for the first time in seven years. It is only the third time they have gone this far in 20 years.

They were given a real test in a thoroughly entertaining cup tie. Accrington Stanley more than played their part in an extremely watchable game but must now turn their attention back to avoiding relegation from League One. Leeds have their own survival battle to contend with in the months ahead but, with so many Premier League sides already out, they may start to fancy a rare cup run.

“I was pleased with the mentality because we knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said the Leeds manager, Jesse Marsch. “We knew there’d be a lot of hectic moments, but we handled it.”

Their top-flight quality came to the fore at crucial moments as goals from Jack Harrison, Junior Firpo and Luis Sinisterra were more than enough to ensure safe passage.

Marsch took no chances with his lineup despite almost 50 league places separating the sides, handing a debut to Leeds’s record signing, Georginio Rutter, who caught the eye. But it was Harrison who proved the catalyst for what turned out to be a comfortable victory on a day when transfer speculation continued to surround the 26-year-old, with reports Leeds have rejected a £20m bid from Leicester. The hug Marsch gave Harrison when he was substituted after a dominant display spoke volumes.

“We like him here and we want to keep him,” Marsch said. “I’m happy he was so sharp on the day. When things start circulating it’s never easy to focus on your job, but I’ve tried to have open dialogue and be very honest with him. He does like it here, it’s not like he’s itching to leave.”

It was a wonderful long-range strike from Harrison that broke the deadlock midway through the first half. Before that, Accrington had enjoyed their fair share of chances, with Illan Meslier required on several occasions to deny Sean McConville and Shaun Whalley.

The hosts, cheered on by a boisterous capacity crowd, did not let Harrison’s 25-yard finish past Toby Savin deter their spirit. They began the second half well and boyhood Leeds fan Harvey Rodgers spurned two glorious opportunities to level the tie, first firing over from close range before shooting wide after Meslier dropped a cross.

That proved costly as within five minutes, Leeds had doubled their lead when some expert hold-up play from Patrick Bamford, whose return to fitness continued, freed Firpo to score his first Leeds goal.

Leslie Adekoya celebrates scoring for Accrington Stanley.

Two minutes later, Leeds put the tie beyond doubt. Harrison broke down the left before delivering a pinpoint cross for Sinisterra to make it three. Savin then denied Bamford and the substitute Rodrigo to prevent the visitors from racking up a scoreline that, given Accrington’s effort and endeavour, would have been harsh.

Leeds were given a shock when the hosts claimed a deserved consolation with nine minutes remaining as substitute Leslie Adekoya converted, but Leeds rode out some late pressure to ensure they would be on the right side of an FA Cup headline for once.

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