Football: Leeds still living in hope after tale of two substitutes

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The Independent Online
Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

AS THE players left the pitch, a loudspeaker announcement that Manchester United had been held to a draw raised one of the larger cheers of an eventful afternoon. Faint hope for Leeds, whose erratic victory thus cut United's Premiership lead to 12 points; faint consolation for City, whose recovery from a 2-0 half-time deficit was wiped out five minutes from time by Brian Deane.

'It's cruel at the moment for us,' said City's manager Brian Horton, who has been given the ambiguous message of a vote of confidence in a week which has seen the man who brought him to Maine Road this season, Peter Swales, resign his chairmanship.

Horton himself refused the offer of a chair after the match - he preferred to stand as he reflected distractedly upon the grievous defensive errors which had provided Leeds with their 2-0 lead, and the enormous absence of his centre-forward Niall Quinn, who is out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.

'Am I perturbed? Do I look perturbed? Of course I'm perturbed. It's a good word, that.' The news then offered to him that Swales had said on the radio that he would consider selling his shares once a new chairman was in place perturbed him still further, and he strode out to clarify the position.

Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, had a scarcely less perplexing day as the advantage established through opportunist goals by Rod Wallace and Gary Speed was cast to the blustering winds as confidence transferred mysteriously from one side to the other and the Quinnless became Wonders.

Carl Griffiths, City's recent pounds 450,000 signing from Shrewsbury Town, played a key part in the damage-limitation exercise. Having come on as a substitute at half-time - he has been suffering from flu this week - he exchanged passes on the edge of the box with Mike Sheron, who thudded home the first goal. Then Griffiths anticipated a naive back-header from Chris Fairclough and rounded the keeper before scoring the equaliser from an acute angle.

Leeds, as is their habit, left it late before earning the result which their overall performance deserved. It was another substitute who was to prove influential - Noel Whelan, one of last season's triumphant FA Youth Cup side, whose persistence provided a cross to the near post which Deane, who had looked unsettled throughout, headed home from a yard out.

After five draws in their previous seven games, Leeds needed the victory to maintain any hope of the title, but the nature of it was hardly reassuring for Wilkinson. 'I am not interested in Manchester United at this stage,' he said. It is an academic exercise at the moment.

Goals: Rod Wallace (11) 1-0; Speed (22) 2-0; Sheron (54) 2-1; Griffiths (60) 2-2; Deane (85) 3-2.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Beeney; Kelly, Fairclough, Wetherall, Dorigo; Sharp (Whelan, 79), Speed, McAllister, Strachan; Rod Wallace (Ray Wallace, 89), Deane. Substitute not used: Lukic (gk).

Manchester City (4-4-2): Coton; Phelan, Curle, Kernaghan (Ingebrigtsen, 89), Vonk; White, Lomas, McMahon, Simpson (Griffiths, 46); Sheron, Mike. Substitute not used: Dibble (gk).

Referee: R Gifford (Mid-Glamorgan).