Football: Leeds strikers end their famine

Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

LEEDS and Villa began with an equal chance of claiming an Uefa Cup place via the League but the challenge apparently appeals more to the Yorkshire side than their

opponents, who have been accused of letting their minds stray since they booked a place in the Coca- Cola Cup final.

Manager Ron Atkinson, seldom one to couch his feelings in fancy phraseology condemned Villa's performance in defeat against Ipswich at home last Saturday as 'disgusting'. Last night's result was no

better but at least there was more conviction about the way they approached the job. 'We could not have played worse than last weekend,' Atkinson said.

However, goals by Rod Wallace and Brian Deane provided Leeds with just reward for almost complete domination of midfield, in which the industry of Gordon Strachan and Gary Speed was ceaseless and Gary McAllister's intelligent distribution always liable to undo the efforts of a Villa defence reinforced by the return of Paul McGrath to contain the threat of the front runners.

Heavy sleet showers, driven by an icy wind, meant conditions were less than pleasant but the pitch - made fit only by two hours work by the ground staff right up to kick-off - played surprisingly well and the football was of a higher quality than one had dared expect.

Villa might have taken an 11th minute lead when Dalian Atkinson met Garry Parker's free kick with a forceful header from seemingly

unstoppable range. John Lukic pulled off a brilliant instinctive save to deny the striker. It will be a serious blow to the Birmingham side's Wembley chances if Atkinson is

unfit to face Manchester United but a hamstring injury suffered in the second half has brought unwelcome doubt.

Leeds, who have kept in touch with the Premiership front runners despite winning only two of their last 11 games, went ahead when Speed's excellent pass allowed

Wallace to sprint between McGrath and Shaun Teale before shooting high to Mark Bosnich's left.

It was Wallace's first goal since 13 December, when a sequence of eight in as many games ended, and he turned provider in the second half with the cross from which Deane, who himself lifted a three- month famine only last Sunday, squeezed home a low header from the narrowest of angles.

Wallace might have added a third, rattling a post after McAllister's

diagonal pass gave him more time than he seemed to realise, but the Leeds manager, Howard Wilkinson, was more than satisfied. 'We have been deserving a result for a while but not getting them. It keeps the season alive for us.'

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, O'Leary (Newsome, 40), Dorigo; Strachan, McAllister, Fairclough, Speed; Deane, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Whelan, Beeney (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Barrett, McGrath, Teale, Small (Yorke, 56); Cox, Parker, Richardson, Froggatt; Saunders, Atkinson (Fenton, 72). Substitute not used: Spink (gk).

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).

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