Football / FA Cup Fourth Round: Leeds rely on Speed

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Oxford United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Dyer 15, Elliott 36

Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Speed 43, Wetherall 64

Attendance: 11,029

MOST teams who win the FA Cup can point to a moment on the road to Wembley when they looked as if they had driven into a ditch. If Leeds go all the way this time they will surely look back on an enthralling fourth- round tie at the Manor Ground yesterday when they trailed 2-0 to Oxford United but recovered to force a replay at Elland Road on Wednesday week.

Leeds are long overdue a decent cup run. It is seven years since they last reached the fifth round, going on to lose in the semi-finals to 1987's eventual winners, Coventry City. Out of the Coca-Cola Cup, the pressure to do well in the FA Cup is all the greater for another avenue into Europe having been at least partially blocked off by Manchester United's dominance in the Premiership.

Oxford United's ambitions are less exalted. They would settle for a season in which they merely survived in the First Division. Third from the bottom of the table, they played so far above themselves as to be unrecognisable, and in Joey Beauchamp, a right-sided midfielder with a determination to run at defenders and a skill to equal it, had arguably the man of the match.

It did not stop Denis Smith, the Oxford manager, substituting him in the second half, explaining afterwards that 'you may be impressed with him, but I see him all the time and I know he can do more'. A hard man is Smith.

After 16 minutes of incisive Oxford play, Beauchamp started the move that gave his side a deserved lead. Leeds partly had themselves to blame, allowing Beauchamp to spring their offside trap with a ball forward to the overlapping Jim Magilton. Leeds defenders tore back to cover, and even though Magilton had a clear run to the by- line, there was really only one place to which he could cross the ball if the goal was to be on. He found it superbly, and there was Alex Dyer to turn the ball in.

A shaken Leeds had other worries, too. As soon as the goal went in, Rod Wallace, back in the team after missing four matches with a pulled hamstring, was in trouble with it again and had to be substituted by Steve Hodge.

Leeds were forced to reorganise, and Oxford exploited their predicament by continuing to drive forward and, in the 36th minute, going 2-0 up. A corner was half cleared, and when Mickey Lewis sent it back towards the edge of the area, a hesitant Leeds defence watched Matt Elliott's firmly struck low shot go in off a post.

As Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, said, his team simply had not set about the match as if it were a Cup tie. If they had a player who could be exempt from that criticism, it was the ever-eager Gary Speed, who, having twice gone close with headers, lashed a shot into the roof of the net after Hodge had headed the ball down from Tony Dorigo's cross two minutes from half-time.

Much hinged on that moment, even more four minutes into the second half when Mark Beeney in the Leeds goal made a point-blank stop from Nick Cusack without which Leeds would surely have been heading for defeat.

It turned out to be virtually Oxford's last throw, and Leeds, forced to scrap for so long, recovered their poise and equalised in the 64th minute. The goal really started when Elliott risked a red card with a foul on Gary McAllister as he burst through some 20 yards from goal. Elliott got away with yellow, but after Phil Whitehead tipped over McAllister's free- kick, Gordon Strachan's corner was headed in by the substitute David Wetherall with almost his first touch.

(Photograph omitted)

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