Football: Learning grit from Graham

Leeds United 4 Wallace 37, Kewell 40, Hasselbaink pen 82 Bowyer 90 Derby County 3 Sturridge 4, 11, Asanovic pen 33 Attendance: 33,572
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The Independent Online
Even In his days as a schoolboy boxer, Jim Smith cannot have suffered a knock-out blow quite like the mighty one Leeds United delivered to his Derby County side at Elland Road yesterday. Even without the inimitable clout of Paulo Wanchope, away on national World Cup service for Costa Rica, they had their hosts on the floor with three goals in the first 32 minutes. But Leeds, under George Graham, are no push-overs these days. They hauled themselves off the canvas with two goals before half-time and struck another two in the last 10 minutes to emerge the winner on points, the three which take them to fourth place in the Premiership.

Smith, who began his managerial career with Boston United in June 1969, the month before Neil Armstrong's small step for man, was not metaphorically over the moon. "I've never experienced anything like it as a manager,'' he said. "None of my teams have been 3-0 up and lost 4-3.''

It was little wonder the Bald Eagle was suffering from parrot sickness. For half-an-hour it seemed he had out-flanked Graham, in the absence of Wanchope ordering Dean Sturridge and Aljosa Asanovic to stretch Leeds by attacking with width.

The ploy bore fruit in the fourth minute when David Robertson headed a left-wing cross back towards his goal, Nigel Martyn flapped as the ball bounced up against the bar and the lurking Sturridge applied a side-footed finish. Six minutes later, the Leeds defence dithered again as Sturridge raced to meet Mart Poom's upfield punt and fire over the hopelessly stranded Martyn from the right edge of the area. With Ray Clemence, Glenn Hoddle's goalkeeping coach, present, it was an unfortunate afternoon for the Cornishman to be all at sea but Martyn could not be faulted for Derby's third.

Sturridge was crudely felled from behind by Robertson and, as Asanovic's penalty kick hit the back of the net, someone ignited a banger in the Kop, presumably in frustration. For the remaining 58 minutes, though, it was the Leeds players who provided the fireworks.

In the 36th minute, Rod Wallace deflected a Bruno Ribeiro shot past the helpless Poom. Then, three minutes later, Harry Kewell crashed in a stunning left-foot volley. Such was the ferocity of the Leeds fight-back Derby could have been behind by half-time. Smith has been known to have has sent the odd set of tea-cups clattering around dressing rooms in his time and it would have hardly been suprising if there was a bit of shattering behind closed doors at the interval yesterday. Whatever psychology Smith chose to deploy, it failed to have the desired effect.

His charges reverted to siege mentality when they returned to the pitch. It was an achievement of sorts that they held out until the 80th minute, when Christian Dailly handled and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink equalised from the penalty spot. In stoppage timeHasselbaink cut the ball back from the right and his fellow substitute, Lee Bowyer, struck the winning blow with a left-foot shot that drove straight to the heart of Jim Smith.