Leeds United. . . .1
BRIAN DEANE, who missed a penalty and four other excellent chances, hit a low cross-shot past John Lukic with four minutes remaining for a winning goal that might keep United in the Premier League. But both managers must have winced at this shoddy display of allegedly first-class professional football.
Each team had excuses: the Leeds side was experimental while United were still dusty from a hard-fought FA Cup semi-final. Yet if the strikers had not been as incompetent as most of the defenders then this Yorkshire derby could have finished 7-4.
But for the Blades the three points are priceless. United have now won their game in hand on their rivals (they have two more on Middlesbrough) and Dave Bassett will have drummed into them that salvation lies in their own feet: they still have to visit Oldham and Nottingham Forest.
Howard Wilkinson, without the injured Tony Dorigo and David Batty, dropped Lee Chapman, David Rocastle, Rodney Wallace and Jon Newsome and gave a League debut to Mark Tinkler, an 18-year-old England Youth midfielder. His new strike force of Frank Strandli and Jamie Forrester looked lively and often embarrassed a Wembley-weary Sheffield defence, but Leeds' overall formation looked rockier than ever.
On a perfect April evening, public disappointment in both clubs was reflected in an attendance of under 21,000. Only passing Wednesday supporters would have enjoyed the succession of mistakes.
Deane first fired wide in the 10th minute but was not fully into his stride until the second half when he pulled a shot wide from eight yards, fired a penalty straight into John Lukic's body and then headed wide from six yards. So when he was given a fifth opportunity in the closing minutes and actually scored, it was a good second before most of Bramall Lane actually believed it had happened.
The two earlier goals were good: in the 25th minute Carl Bradshaw, who with Dane Whitehouse ripped up Leeds' flanks, crossed for Whitehouse's back-header to drop into the path of the advancing and unmarked Paul Rogers; eight minutes later David Kerslake crept around Sheffield's left and sent over a teasing centre for Strandli to head a competent first League goal.
Sheffield United: Kelly; Gage, Whitehouse, Gannon, Gayle, Pemberton, Bradshaw, Beesley, Rogers, Deane, Hodges (Cork, 80). Substitutes not used: Hoyland, Leighton (gk).
Leeds United: Lukic; Kerslake, Kerr, Tinkler, Wetherall, Whyte, Strachan, Forrester, Strandli, McAllister (Hodge, 85), Speed. Substitutes not used: Shutt, Day (gk).
Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).
Ken Jones on Ryan Giggs, page 36