Football: Another blank night for Leeds

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 0 Blackburn Rovers 0

Elland Road's fifth goalless draw of the season enabled Blackburn to take another step towards Premiership survival last night. It can have done little, however, for the morale of more than 27,000 spectators, who saw Leeds perform with all the attacking verve one has come to expect from the division's lowest scorers.

Kevin Gallacher, on target twice in Scotland's World Cup win last week, came closest to ending the stalemate on the hour. His header shook the crossbar, but there was otherwise negligible opportunity for Nigel Martyn or Tim Flowers to demonstrate why either should take David Seaman's England jersey.

The evening might have been less soporific had George Graham not stubbornly delayed the introduction of his two deadline-week signings, Pierre Laurent and Derek Lilley, until seven minutes from the end. Crowd-pleasing has never held a high priority for Graham, alas, and by the time the new forwards appeared it would have been beyond the combined talents of Ronaldo, Zola and Weah to salvage the spectacle.

The Leeds manager will no doubt see vindication in his team's mid-table position. But the storm of booing which greeted the final whistle suggested that Graham is a long way from winning over the West Yorkshire public.

There had been scant evidence in the preceding 90 minutes to indicate that both these clubs have won the championship in the past five years. Blackburn could point in mitigation to the absence of Tim Sherwood and Garry Flitcroft from midfield, though that could not excuse their lack of enterprise for the first two-thirds of the contest.

In the visitors' case, a policy of containment and occasional counter- attack probably stem- med from a tactical decision by their caretaker manager, Tony Parkes. As far as Leeds were concerned, there was no shortage of willing running from Brian Deane and Rod Wallace, nor of busy prompting by Lee Bowyer. Unfortunately, the effort was bereft of initiative and invention.

The first half was past its midway point before either keeper had to break sweat. Graeme Le Saux then slipped, allowing Wallace to steal possession and drive the ball low across the six-yard box. Jeff Kenna diverted it for a corner just as Lee Sharpe arrived at the far post.

The contest quickly lapsed back into scurrying, scuffling shapelessness. Blackburn did not create anything resembling a chance until shortly before half-time, when Chris Sutton headed on Kenna's long throw. Le Saux, under pressure from Ian Rush, of all people, volleyed wildly over.

Gallacher's brush with the woodwork, following a centre by Billy McKinlay, was a belated sign that Blackburn realised that a single goal would almost certainly suffice. The same logic might have prompted the earlier introduction of Leeds' newcomers from France and Scotland, but Graham was probably distracted by the heady prospect of maintaining a record of not conceding a home goal in the League this year.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Kelly, Wetherall, Halle, Dorigo; Rush, Jackson, Bowyer, Sharpe (Laurent, 83); Wallace (Lilley, 83), Deane. Substitutes not used: Harte, Ford, Beeney (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (3-5-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Pearce; Kenna, Marker, McKinlay, Bohinen, Le Saux; Gallacher, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Wilcox, Pedersen, Donis, Warhurst, Given (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).