Football: Masinga treble brings relief for laboured Leeds

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 5

Walsall 2

(aet; score at 90 mins 2-2)

A strange night indeed at Elland Road. Leeds, having laboured to break Walsall over 90 minutes of this FA Cup third-round replay, suddenly found they could score at will in the additional half-hour. Compounding the unreality - on an evening when the floodlights failed, David Wetherall scored for both sides, and the prospects of Anthony Yeboah's arrival receded - was the fact that another African striker scored an extra-time hat-trick to earn Leeds a home tie with Oldham.

Philomen Masinga, recruited last summer for £250,000 from the Soweto club Mamalodi Sundowns, appeared as a substitute from the 91st minute. Within 23 minutes, he had doubled his tally of goals for the season, putting an illusory gloss on another Leeds performance that was long on commitment but short on confidence and imagination.

Masinga's salvo, though harsh on the Third Division visitors, may have been particularly timely for the rangy South African. Leeds had anticipated that the Department of Employment would confirm a work permit for Yeboah, the Ghanaian they hoped to buy for £3.4m from Eintracht Frankfurt, but the signs were as the crowd came in from the wind and rain that the Professional Footballers Association's objections to the deal would hold sway.

As it turned out, Leeds needed extra power off the pitch as well. After only four minutes, one side of the ground was plunged into darkness, forcing the referee Jeff Winter, to do his Dickie Bird bit and bring the players off. Even before then, however, Walsall had exposed Leeds's lack of self-belief, with Kyle Lightbourne twice having chances to score.

Lightbourne was first to react when poor control by Carlton Palmer sent him through on John Lukic. But after rounding the goalkeeper, the Bermudan international angled his shot a foot wide of the far post. Leeds were still in shock when the tall striker turned sharply to send a 20-yard drive inches over.

The lack of illumination looked as if it might become a metaphor for Leeds's season. Yet when play resumed after a 16-minute delay, they scored within four minutes. It was Route One fare: Lukic's long kick was flicked on by Rod Wallace to Noel Whelan, whose shot broke off Charlie Palmer to leave Brian Deane a tap-in for his sixth goal of the season.

It was quickly evident that Walsall intended to keep Chris Nicholl's promise to take Leeds on with a passing game, and no great surprise when the equaliser arrived in the 29th minute. Lightbourne, pursuing Charlie Ntamark's pass, fell under John Pemberton's sliding tackle. On a linesman's advice, Mr Winter pointed to the spot, from which Martin O'Connor beat Lukic.

Within eight minutes, Leeds were back in front. Walsall are one of the League's more vertically challenged sides, and both Carlton Palmer and Deane had wasted free headers before Gary McAllister delivered another teasing cross. Wetherall, Leeds's late saviour at Bescot Stadium, rose to head past Trevor Wood.

With 19 minutes of normal time remaining, Kevin Wilson tried a hopeful shot from long range. Lukic appeared to have it covered, but was wrong-footed as Wetherall stuck his forehead in its path to send it into his own net.

Both teams had chances to settle the tie but it went to extra time.

Enter Masinga. His first goal, in the 105th minute, was swept home after an exchange between himself and Speed. The second was a glancing header after Speed had touched on a McAllister corner, and he saved the best for last. Racing free in the inside-left channel, he drew Wood before curling the ball delicately round the keeper from 15 yards. Leeds's joy was almost embarrassing to behold.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, Pemberton, Worthington; Wallace (Masinga, 91), Carlton Palmer (Radebe, 73), McAllister, Speed; Deane, Whelan. Substitute not used: Beeney (gk).

Walsall (4-4-2): Wood; Ryder, Charlie Palmer, Watkiss, Gibson; Marsh, Ntamark, O'Connor (Rogers, 98), Houghton; Lightbourne, Wilson (Mehew, 94). Substitute not used: Walker (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Photograph, more reports, results, page 39

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