Football: Leeds aim to make history

Leeds United 3 Nottingham Forest 1
Click to follow
The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED are planning to celebrate their "glory years" on 18 April. By the time the guests turn up at Elland Road's banqueting suite, however, the Revie reunion dinner-dance could have one fewer glorious achievement to toast.

If David O'Leary's hungry young team polish off Liverpool on the Elland Road pitch a week today and do the same to Charlton at The Valley the following Saturday they will be undisputed holders of the record run of top-division victories in Leeds United's 80-year history.

In adding Nottingham Forest to their growing list of Premiership victims at Elland Road on Saturday, though not without difficulty, they equalled the seven-match winning sequence with which Revie's team launched their title-winning 1973-74 campaign.

Technically, however, stretching a pedantic point across a three-month summer break, O'Leary's likely lads remain one step behind the Leeds greats of '73. Revie's side won their final First Division game the previous season, a 6-1 thrashing of Arsenal in between defeats in the FA Cup final against Sunderland and in the Cup-Winners' Cup final against Milan.

O'Leary, for one, would not dispute the argument. "To be honest, the record means nothing to me," he said in the Elland Road press room on Saturday night. "I'm just delighted with the win and the three points.

"People are saying we're not in the same street yet as Don Revie's team. I'm simply flattered that comparisons are being made. If we can do half as well as Don Revie's team I'll be delighted."

One championship, one Uefa Cup and a composite domestic cup (consisting of an FA Cup and a League Cup) would indeed bear more than adequate testimony to another sparklingly successful era at Elland Road. But the latter-day Leeds have won nothing yet and Saturday's evidence suggests O'Leary may not be falsely modest in maintaining that they are still not quite trophy- winning material.

Perhaps weighed down by the burden of expectation, they were lacking their customary verve - and the "three or four quality players" O'Leary insists he needs to turn his young pretenders into heavyweight challengers to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. They are a long way from affording such luxuries as Solskjaer, Kanu and Flo as bench men.

Forest were cut down by three sharp strikes - Jimmy Hasselbaink's 18- yard drive, Ian Harte's thumping free-kick and Alan Smith's close-range hook shot - but otherwise Leeds were no more than persistent and a shade fortunate.

Indeed, Ron Atkinson's rock-bottom team deserved more than the small consolation of the game's best goal, Alan Rogers' left-footed thunderbolt. As the Forest manager put it, his players now need "to win every game and get a few snookers" to beat the looming drop.

They could certainly use some assistance from Steve Davis - the Leyton Orient director, that is, not the Burnley defender.

Goals: Hasselbaink (63) 1-0; Rogers (52) 1-1; Harte (59) 2-1; Smith (83) 3-1.

Leeds United (4-3-1-2): Martyn; Wetherall, Woodgate, Radebe, Harte; Bowyer, Hopkin, Ribeiro; Kewell (Jones, 89); Smith, Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Wijnhard, Halle, Granville.

Nottingham Forest (5-3-2): Crossley; Bonalair, Edwards, Gough, Chettle, Stensaas (Porfirio, 81); Johnson, Palmer, Rogers; Harewood, Freedman Shipperley, 66). Substitutes not used: Beasant (gk), Woan, Allou.

Referee: P Alcock (Halstead).

Sending off: Forest: Palmer. Bookings: Forest: Gough, Bonalair, Palmer.

Man of the match: Stensaas.

Attendance: 39,645.