Football: Ekoku's freak goal provides suitable finale to last- day farce

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The Independent Online
Leeds 1 Wimbledon 1

GIVEN that Leeds had already qualified for Europe and Wimbledon had beaten relegation, there was not a lot at stake and it showed. In the event, it was almost settled by a freakish goal nine minutes from the end but Efan Ekoku, who had started on the bench, produced an equalising header in the 88th minute.

It was probably only fair since Leeds were never in control and Alf-Inge Haaland's goal was terribly bad luck on Brian McAllister, the Wimbledon centre-back, whose clearance in the six-yard box simply hit the Norwegian and rebounded past goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

But Joe Kinnear's team, who have survived again as a Premiership force despite an alarming fall down the table in the second half of the season, typically refused to throw in the towel and when Alan Kimble delivered a looping cross from the left, Ekoku used his strength to beat Nigel Martyn in the air and level matters.

That apart, the 90 minutes were as dull as the League will have witnessed anywhere this season, although at least a 38,000 crowd did their best to create a party atmosphere.

Before kick-off, their reserve team had been presented with a handsome piece of silverware for winning the Pontins League, which put them in good voice. Afterwards, Leeds trotted around the pitch on a lap of honour. It was just the bit in between that was a problem.

Leeds did try to be creative but too often were over-elaborate, much to the dismay of Jimmy Hasselbaink, who let out several howls of frustration when passes failed to reach him. Not until six minutes before half-time did the Dutchman even get a sniff of a chance.

When it came, he did well, ducking in front of Brian McAllister to send a low header narrowly wide. Earlier, Lee Bowyer and Rod Wallace had forced Sullivan to save, although neither effort looked likely to beat the Wimbledon goalkeeper. Just before half-time, Hasselbaink did likewise after Ian Harte's penetrating pass but his shot, similarly, lacked power. Wimbledon did not offer much in the way of response, although a drive from Andy Roberts early in the second half proved that Day was awake.

Before the exchange of goals lifted the atmosphere, Leeds supporters had said one farewell with the departure of Rod Wallace, who left the field probably for the last time18 minutes from the end. The striker, out of contract this summer, is reportedly a target for Benfica, although it is to be hoped for his sake that any scouts present were not judging him on yesterday alone.

Goals: Haaland (81) 0-1; Ekoku (88) 1-1. Leeds United (3-4-1-2): Martyn; Wetherall, Halle, Radebe (Jackson, 82); Kelly, Bowyer, Haaland, Harte; Kewell (Lilley 72); Hasselbaink, Wallace (Hopkin, 72). Substitutes not used: Robertson, Beeney (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Thatcher, Perry, McAllister, Kimble; Ardley, Fear, Roberts, Kennedy; Euell (Ekoko, 72), Leaburn. Substitutes not used: C Hughes, Heald (gk), Jupp, Francis.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Man of the match: Ardley.

Attendance: 38,172.