Football: Leeds revived by Speed

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The Independent Online
Leeds United. .2

Southampton. . 1

HOWARD WILKINSON has likened his championship-winning side's fall from grace to a mystery illness whose symptoms are a lack of energy and drive. For much of this match that diagnosis looked spot on, and the second-half recovery that brought Leeds their first victory in a month did little to dispel the fear that it could yet prove terminal.

Those who believe Leeds' demise is as illusory as Norwich's success can take comfort from the result, but not from the manner of its achievement. Southampton's credentials as relegation strugglers are impeccable, yet they forced a string of early corners from one of which Matthew Le Tissier, the best player on view, hit the underside of the bar. Chris Fairclough scrambled the ball off the line, but in the 20th minute he failed to clear Francis Benali's punt into the area, and Le Tissier flicked the ball past John Lukic before squaring for Kerry Dixon, in the side for the suspended Iain Dowie, to tap in.

The Saints had the ball in the net again six minutes later, but a foul on Lukic nullified Ken Monkou's header.

Leeds, who won the title on the pace and vigour of their attacking play, displayed the lethargy and tentativeness of convalescents. Their forays had none of the inventiveness and variety of last season, breaking down in harmless crosses and hasty shots. Carl Shutt hit a volley straight into Tim Flowers' midriff and Rod Wallace and Lee Chapman both drove chances across the face of goal.

Gordon Strachan's replacement by David Rocastle at half- time produced Leeds' first real spell of pressure, yielding five corners and the equaliser. Fairclough met Gary McAllister's kick with a downward header which Chapman helped over the line.

Yet the goal did little for their confidence and before long the self-destruct button was in use again. Fairclough was caught in possession and Lukic had to save smartly at Dixon's feet.

A moment of skill by McAllister gave Leeds the points. His corner was returned to him and he headed neatly round his marker before setting up Speed for his 10th of the season. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Wilkinson said: 'It was the most disappointing first half we have had since I arrived here. We were wanting in character and responsibility, but now hopefully our confidence will improve.'

The Southampton manager, Ian Branfoot, said: 'This was our best performance away from home and we were unlucky not to win.'

Leeds United: J Lukic; M Sterland (J Newsome, 83 min), T Dorigo, Rod Wallace, C Fairclough, D Wetherall, G Strachan (D Rocastle, h/t), C Shutt, L Chapman, G McAllister, G Speed. Sub not used: M Day (g/k). Manager: H Wilkinson.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Kenna, M Adams, T Hurlock, R Hall, K Monkou, M Le Tissier, G Cockerill, K Dixon, N Maddison, F Benali (N Banger, 80 min). Subs not used: P Groves, I Andrews (g/k). Manager: I Branfoot.

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).

Goals: Dixon (0-1, 20 min); Chapman (1-1, 50 min); Speed (2-1, 72 min).