Leeds United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
BRIAN GAYLE, whose own goal clinched the championship for Leeds at Bramall Lane two years ago, redressed the balance slightly yesterday when his desperately late goal at the right end salvaged a point Sheffield United scarcely deserved.
Leeds had led 2-0 - with Brian Deane scoring his first Premiership goal since 4 December - before Jostein Flo broke a duck dating back even further 15 minutes from time. It looked no more than a consolation for an outclassed home side, but 90 seconds into injury time the Sheffield captain bundled in an equaliser which may yet prove priceless.
Should Sheffield continue to enjoy the fortune that favoured them here, they may again beat the drop. Twice in a one-sided opening they were saved by the woodwork, and later saw a shot which appeared to be over their line cleared by a defender. In between, Leeds had a goal dubiously disallowed, and claimed with some justification that Flo was off-side when he netted.
Having said that, Leeds have a bad habit of conceding crucial goals in the final moments. A similar fate befell them at Newcastle, Blackburn and Oldham, so perhaps they should look to their own failings rather than those of the match officials when they come to assess how they let two more points slip away.
Yet it had all started so promisingly for Howard Wilkinson's team. Rod Wallace had a shot touched on to the bar by Alan Kelly after only five minutes, and Gary Speed struck the base of a post five minutes later. With Gary McAllister dominating midfield despite the bumpy pitch and swirling winds, it was no surprise when Leeds took a 28th-minute lead.
Deane, back at the club who sold him for pounds 2.7m last summer, held off two challenges before slipping Speed clear. The Welshman, whom Wilkinson only half-jokingly describes as being better than David Platt at breaking from midfield, beat Kelly with a low drive from 12 yards to make himself Leeds' leading scorer with 11 goals.
Sheffield's response was strangely subdued for a Dave Bassett side, and they were grateful to see another Speed effort ruled out for offside before falling further behind in the 58th minute. Speed headed the ball down for Deane to fire left-footed beyond Kelly - his eighth goal of the season and the prelude to a celebratory run which would have taken him to Hillsborough had colleagues not swamped him.
A double substitution enlivened Sheffield. But even after Flo had collected his first domestic goal since 2 October with a spectacular falling volley from a suspiciously isolated position, Wallace's shot appeared to have been at least six inches over Kelly's line before Roger Nilsen hacked the ball away.
Sheffield know a reprieve when they see one, and Nathan Blake and John Gannon both went close from long range before Leeds' previously resolute defence succumbed to Route One at the death. Kelly's long free-kick was flicked on by Flo, whereupon Gayle emerged in a crowded penalty area to send the ball first against the post and finally over the line.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): A Kelly; Bradshaw, Tuttle, Gayle, Nilsen; Carr (Blake, 64), Kamara, Gannon, Hodges (Beesley, 64); Flo, Davison. Substitute not used: Tracey (gk).
Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; G Kelly, O'Leary, Wetherall, Dorigo; Strachan, Fairclough, McAllister, Speed; Wallace, Deane. Substitutes not used: Newsome, Whelan, Beeney (gk).
Referee: L Dilkes (Mossley).Reuse content