Deane's strike has Saints on the slide

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The Independent Online
GUY HODGSON

Leeds United 1 Southampton 0

Southampton's grip on their place in the Premiership loosened a little more last night when they surrendered one of the few things in their favour, a game in hand on their relegation rivals. They have now lost six of their last seven League matches, and the downward pull might well prove irresistible.

A 73rd-minute goal from Brian Deane, a close-range header after David Wetherall had knocked Gary McAllister's corner into the six-yard box, was enough for Leeds, who did little else to suggest their impoverished form of late is improving. Their goal apart, they created barely a chance.

Indeed, the most relevant comment of the night probably belonged to a waterpipe that suddenly burst into action on the touchline as the second half was in progress. This match was so mundane even the pitch appeared to be weeping.

Southampton, spurred by their perilous position, had an urgency, Leeds a quiet superiority, but proper chances were as rare as accurate passes. Instead, there were little cameos promising more than they delivered. Matthew Le Tissier flitted in and out occasionally, leaving Lucas Radebe dizzy with his skills, but when chances did come his way he was disappointing. A shot sent wide after eight minutes, a beautiful run that fizzled out after 67; a year ago these efforts were becoming goals for the Southampton man.

Instead the best opportunities fell not to the Saints' usual saviour but to youngsters who did not have the worldliness to avoid snatching at them. Just before half-time Paul Tisdale, 23, had the Leeds goal at his mercy after Neil Shipperley had headed into his path. His shot, wide and high, was as miserable as the moment had been promising.

Then, in the last minute, John Lukic made a horrible mess of a back-pass from Wetherall, kicking it straight to Christer Warren. The 21-year-old winger was only 15 yards out but still managed to find the Leeds goalkeeper's body with his attempt. Only time will sell how costly this miss will be.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, Radebe, Kewell (Deane, h-t); Gray, Blunt, Palmer, McAllister; Brolin (Wallace, 89), Speed. Substitute not used: Tinkler.

Southampton (5-3-2): Beasant; Neilson, Monkou (Robinson, h-t), Widdrington, Dodd, Charlton (Warren, 80); Tisdale, Benali, Venison; Le Tissier, Shipperley. Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe, Cornwall).

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