Football: Martyn slip has Leeds lamenting lost points

Newcastle United 1 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Online
The alarm bells were ringing at St James' Park yesterday as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink pierced the home guard, cutting the ball back from the left byline for Rod Wallace to hook the goalscoring shot that looked to have snatched three Premiership points.

Just eight minutes remained but the officers of the Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade were still on the premises, responding to what transpired to be a false alarm off the pitch, when the one-man security system in the Leeds goal suffered a critical lapse.

For 88 minutes Nigel Martyn had been the saviour for George Graham's team, making a brilliant reflex save midway through the first half to deflect an odds-on Alan Shearer goal on to his crossbar and bettering it a minute before Wallace's goal with a diving save that kept out a Shearer header.

"England's No 1," the Leeds supporters in attendance chorused. They almost choked on the chant, however, when the Cornish custodian made an almighty hash of his simplest task of the afternoon.

Martyn merely had to stoop to gather the grass-cutter that Temur Ketsbaia sent trundling goalwards with two minutes left on the clock. To the astonishment of everyone in the place, not least the man himself, Martyn allowed the ball to slip under his body and into his net.

He cut a haunted figure as he made for the team bus with his colleagues, and just the single point in the collective bag. "I've no idea what happened," Martyn said. "It was just one of those things. The ball just went through my hands. I've cost the lads two points. I'm very disappointed with that."

So was George Graham. "If Nigel doesn't hold up his hands I'll hold them up for him," the Leeds manager said. "Yes, he made some great saves but you can blame him. He made a mistake. He doesn't make many."

It was not the first time, though, that Ketsbaia has performed the role of last-gasp saviour for Newcastle. He rose from the substitutes' bench against Bolton last month to score an injury-time winner - then launched into a frenzy, removing his No 14 shirt and kicking the advertising boards at the Gallowgate End.

The Georgian Geordie was more restrained yesterday in his celebration of a point salvaged from a match Newcastle looked like winning with ease in the opening quarter as their midfield - featuring two members of Leeds' championship-winning class of 1992, David Batty and Gary Speed - ran the show.

Martyn's goal led a charmed life as Shearer sought to embellish his career record of 12 goals in 13 games against Leeds. He could hardly have come closer in the 17th minute.

Andreas Andersson, his able new attacking accomplice, sprung the Leeds offside trap with an angled ball from deep on the left. Shearer struck his shot first-time but Martyn's reflexes were even quicker as he pushed the ball up on to his crossbar.

The tide started to turn before the break. Newcastle failed to maintain their momentum and Leeds attacked with increasing menace.

Had Shay Given, the Republic of Ireland's No 1, not been in such agile form Martyn's gaffe at the other end would not have mattered. The Newcastle goalkeeper made two stunning saves - the first to palm a Wallace drive on to the bar in the 68th minute, the second to push wide a curling shot by Bruno Ribeiro in injury time.

It would not have been entirely inappropriate if someone called Bruno had delivered the punch-line to what was a bruising contest throughout. "Every time we got a corner there was an assault on Jimmy Hasselbaink by Alan Shearer," Graham complained in the aftermath.

The pounds 15m man certainly seemed eager to get to grips with his opposite number. And to think that the grappled Hasselbaink arrived on Tyneside calling Shearer his "role model".

Goals: Wallace (82) 0-1; Ketsbaia (88) 1-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Hughes (Albert, 86), Howey, Pearce, Pistone; Gillespie (Ketsbaia, 86), Batty, Lee, Speed; Andersson, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Tomasson, Barnes, Hislop (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Maybury, Molenaar, Wetherall, Halle; Kelly, Haland, Ribeiro, Kewell; Wallace, Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Hopkin, Harte, Jones, McPhail, Beeney (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Bookings: Newcastle: Batty. Leeds: Haland, Kewell, Ribeiro, Kelly, Wallace.

Attendance: 36,571.

Man of the match: Ribeiro.

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