Football: Martyn rescues torpid Leeds

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 0

Everton 0

Attendance: 34,869

Everton came frustratingly close to their first League victory at Elland Road for four and a half decades, only a marvellous penalty save by Nigel Martyn denying their captain, Gary Speed, the decisive goal against his old club.

Martyn's heroics three minutes before half-time were the highlight of an uninspiring affair, at the end of which Everton had at least proved more stubborn opponents than anticipated and had deserved the point to take them off the foot of the table.

Their big chance to get away with something more came when Nick Barmby chased Gareth Farrelly's long ball into the Leeds area and was clearly brought down by David Wetherall's lunging challenge. There was not a great deal wrong with Speed's firm spot-kick, but Martyn, who had already made an equally creditable save from Dave Watson's header hurled himself towards his bottom left-hand corner to keep it out.

Inasmuch as this was a day for anyone, it was one for goalkeepers, with the Norwegian, Thomas Myhre, keeping Neville Southall on the bench and making an impressive senior debut for Everton after playing just one reserve game. He made excellent first-half saves to keep out Rod Wallace and Harry Kewell and drew a cautious tribute from Howard Kendall, who admitted that it had been a difficult decision to leave out Southall.

"You could say it was a gamble, but he lived up to what we believe is his potential and showed everyone that he has got a chance," he said.

Leeds, though, never subjected the newcomer to the sort of pressure that might have made his debut less comfortable. Graham played his "get out of jail" card by bringing on Jimmy Hasselbaink for the last 20 minutes and that almost worked the oracle for him.

The Leeds crowd had been becoming restive for Hasselbaink, in the way they used to do for Tony Yeboha, and as soon as he came on the Dutchman slid past the left flank of the Everton defence and squared the ball for Kewell. Well as Myhre had played, this was one occasion on which he should have been left helpless. Kewell, looking increasingly jaded after his commuting for Australia, hit it tamely into the goalkeeper's arms from five yards out.

"It was the best chance of the match and he should have scored," Graham said. "It was a poor game."

Hasselbaink had a couple of other forays that suggested Graham might have done well to bring him into the action earlier, but overall Leeds had done nothing like enough to live up to their top-five ambitions.

"We have been playing well and we were probably due for a poor performance," Graham said. This was it and if it had not been for Martyn their unbeaten run in the Premiership would have ended with it.

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