Football: Derby almost break tedium

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 0 Derby County 0

When Leeds and Derby tangled at the Baseball Ground in the August sunshine, their 3-3 draw was littered with defensive errors. There were few such mistakes in last night's stalemate, but alas almost no excitement either.

Injury-hit Derby, who had won just once in 25 visits to Elland Road stretching back half a century, nearly added to that meagre tally four minutes from time. Yet when one substitute, Darryl Powell, volleyed against the crossbar following a cross by another, Paul Simpson, it was their first and only attempt on goal.

Since Leeds themselves were largely unproductive in an attacking sense, it would have been a travesty if either team had taken all three points. But the Premiership table shows both clubs edging towards safety, and that consideration clearly takes precedence above all others.

Jim Smith, the Derby manager and an advocate of open football, encapsulated the prevailing attitude neatly. "We were the away team and as such, much as we like to entertain, we were there to get a result,'' he said afterwards.

His opposite number, George Graham, admitted that the performances of both sides were "instantly forgettable''. Living up to his image, however, Graham considered that the respective defences had been "outstanding''.

Leeds have kept 10 clean sheets in the last 15 games, but also average less than a goal per match in the League. The booing which greeted the final whistle indicated that the crowd's priorities may not correspond exactly with those of the manager.

So efficient were the Leeds back three that Mark Beeney, making his first appearance since April after Nigel Martyn strained his back in training, had scant opportunity to demonstrate his worth. Russell Hoult was the busier goalkeeper, though with Brian Deane tightly marked after a bright opening and Rod Wallace subdued, he hardly needed to exert himself.

Not surprisingly Lee Bowyer's free-kicks and corners looked the most likely source of a goal. Lucas Radebe and the impressive Dutchman, Robert Molenaar, both sent headers wide from such opportunities in the second half. Carlton Palmer, donning the captain's armband following Ian Rush's relegation to a late cameo role, was crowded out as he attempted to turn and shoot from six yards in the closing stages.

Leeds United (3-5-2): Beeney; Molenaar, Halle, Radebe; Kelly, Palmer, Jackson, Bowyer, Dorigo; Deane, Wallace (Rush, 81). Substitutes not used: Harte, Ford, Beesley, Evans (gk).

Derby County (3-5-2): Hoult; Laursen, McGrath, Dailly; Carsley, Van der Laan, Asanovic, Trollope, C Powell; Willems (D Powell, 77), Gabbiadini (Simpson, 84). Substitutes not used: Rahmberg, Wright, Taylor (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Mid-Glamorgan).

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