Football: Hectic start for Strandli

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The Independent Online
Leeds United . . .3

Middlesbrough. . .0

ALMOST a year ago to the day, Howard Wilkinson signed the Frenchman Eric Cantona, and he helped Leeds to the championship. This week, he paid pounds 350,000 for the Norwegian striker Frank Strandli, and the foreign reserves have paid off again. Strandli may not help Leeds to the title, but he has already dug them out of the mire.

For almost an hour the 20-year-old sat on the bench watching another stale performance from his new colleagues, and perhaps regarding his membership of the Norwegian branch of the Leeds supporters' club as a youthful aberration. But once on the pitch, it took him just eleven minutes to replace the departed Cantona in the pantheon of those supporters with his first goal. Gary Speed, always the liveliest of a lethargic Leeds side, skipped past two defenders on the left and Strandli, six yards out, met his cross with a solid left foot.

The goal deflated a Boro side who, until then, had provided the best of a scrappy contest. Their 4-1 victory at Ayresome Park in August had set the champions on the slide, and they might have done it again had not Paul Wilkinson been offside when he bundled the ball home in the first half.

The final score flattered Leeds. David Batty got the second - but at least this was vintage Leeds. Gordon Strachan started the move deep in his own half, and it flowed back for him to release Batty who beat Stephen Pears. In the last minute Chris Fairclough volleyed in Strachan's corner.

All the goals had come in Strandli's first 30 minutes of English football, but, said Wilkinson later, 'He found it hectic. He will have to adjust or go under.'

Leeds Utd: J Lukic, D Wetherall, T Dorigo, D Batty, C Fairclough, C Whyte, G Strachan, C Shutt (D Rocastle, 89 min), R Wallace (F Strandli, 58 min), G McAllister, G Speed. Sub not used: M Day (gk). Manager: H Wilkinson.

Middlesbrough: S Pears, C Fleming, J Phillips, C Morris, N Mohan, W Falconer, T Wright (C Hignett, 72 min) J Pollock, P Wilkinson, A Peake, J Hendrie. Subs not used: J Gittins, I Ironside (gk). Manager: L Lawrence.

Referee: J Martin (Alton, Hampshire)

Goals: Strandli (1-0, 69 min); Batty (2-0, 81 min); Fairclough (3-0, 90 min).