Football: Graham's Midas touch takes Leeds top

Leeds United 3 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR may or may not want to take George Graham to White Hart Lane, but if they do they have picked a time when the Leeds manager's stock is rising. There are worse things on your CV than having just taken your team to the top of the Premiership.

Leeds last headed the table when the 1995-96 season was in its infancy, but they got there last night by dismissing a disappointing Southampton side. Their manager, Dave Jones, probably had good reason for dropping Matt Le Tissier, Egil Ostenstad and Claus Lundekvam but they were not made apparent by the performance. Much more of this and even Southampton's legendary escapology will be tested to the full.

"I'm concerned and so is everyone in the club," Jones said. "We started badly last year and it was the last thing we wanted to happen again. We have to keep working and hope we can get out of it."

Leeds were helped on their way by an own goal but could have scored far more than the other two that Ian Harte and Clyde Wijnhard provided. They are not the prettiest side in the Premiership but they are pretty effective and will overpower better sides than Southampton. "It was a good performance but there's room for improvement," Graham said. "There's an art to winning when not at your best."

With Southampton one question recurs: is Le Tissier in the team? Mercurially talented, like the dead weight in a balloon Le God is the first thing to be jettisoned once the effects of gravity begin to pull.

Last night, with the team bottom of the table, Jones took the queasy option - at least in the eyes of his supporters - by leaving Le Tissier on the bench until the game had been lost. Paul Jones' suspension also led to 23-year-old Neil Moss making only his sixth appearance in goal for the first team. With a sprinkling of teenagers ahead of him a slaughter of the young looked a possibility even before a ball was kicked.

That impression was reinforced by a precarious opening, yet Southampton remained unbreached until the 23rd minute when Wijnhard shrugged off Scott Marshall and crashed a shot under Moss's dive. To general amazement, not only was the effort disallowed but the Dutch striker was booked.

The visitors' good fortune ran out after 37 minutes when Hasselbaink curled a shot from the right side of the area after a throw-in skimmed off Carlton Palmer's head. The effort was going wide but hit Marshall's backside and looped past Moss.

By then Saints had carved out only one chance, a Mark Hughes shot saved by Nigel Martyn, and Leeds went further ahead on 51 minutes. Hasselbaink was fouled on the edge of the area and while Elland Road anticipated a thunderbolt from the burly striker, it was Harte who arched a delightful left-foot shot beyond Moss's reach.

The visitors' James Beattie had a header cleared off the line but that was an isolated exception, and four minutes from time Wijnhard lashed the ball into the roof of the net after David Wetherall's nod down.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Hiden, Molenaar (Wetherall, 74), Radebe, Harte; Hopkin, Haaland, Bowyer, Kewell; Hasselbaink, Wijnhard (Ribeiro, 90). Substitutes not used: Sharpe, Halle, Beeney (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Moss; Warner; Dodd, Marshall, Hiley; Ripley, Howells (Gibbens, 85), Palmer, Bridge (Le Tissier, 74); Beattie (Ostendtad, 79), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Lundekvam, Bevan (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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