Leeds United . . . .2
OLDHAM ATHLETIC'S capacity for conjuring up the outrageous earned an unlikely point last night after Eric Cantona returned to the scene of his introduction to English football last spring and confirmed the rehabilitation of the enfant terrible.
He scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season to give Leeds what appeared to be a decisive lead with 14 minutes remaining. But Oldham summoned up a frantic finale and Ian Olney, on his home debut, reduced Leeds's advantage after 85 minutes. We were two minutes into added time when the striker equalised from Graeme Sharp's corner.
Leeds have rarely travelled well to these parts and but for Oldham's careless finishing, a third win in 64 years at Boundary Park might have been beyond reach within half an hour. For all Leeds's obvious pedigree, Oldham's honest artisans created the chances they more regularly accept.
The champions' early route was predictable yet promising, Lee Chapman meeting the lofted ball three times in two minutes with support arriving in numbers. Cantona, his fellow goal-scorer in chief, offered subtle variation, drifting down the left, Steve Redmond, though causing little danger with the eventual cross.
The openings appeared at the other end where Gunnar Halle shot carelessly wide. Ian Marshall was still better positioned from Neil Adams's free kick but, unchallenged, he put the header wide. Sharp turned neatly in the heart of the area, but he, too, was off target. Richard Jobson finally tested John Lukic and the keeper responded with a tip-over.
Gary McAllister, passed fit to continue his uninterrupted run with Leeds, helped restore some poise and purpose to his side's game. He combined with Cantona to release Rod Wallace, but he wanted too long on the ball and the dependable Marshall was unwilling to accommodate Halle.
Leeds's long-range shooting proved no more productive earlier in the second half, but the bombardment served to push Oldham deeper into their own territory. McAllister's in-swinging crosses intensified the pressure and Chris Fairclough jabbed a shot just wide of a near post with Oldham's defence in disarray.
In the 54th minute, Fairclough played his part in forcing down the barricades again and this time Leeds were not to be denied. Tony Dorigo instigated the move on the left and Fairclough won the ball in the air. Hallworth beat out his header, Jobson blocked Gary Speed's attempt from the rebound, but no one was able to cover Cantona's shot. Cantona next accepted McAllister's perfectly weighted through ball and guided the ball past Jon Hallworth.
Oldham Athletic: Hallworth; Redmond, Pointon, Bernard, Jobson, Marshall, Halle (Palmer, 76), Olney, Sharp, Milligan, Adams. Substitutes not used: Fleming, Gray (gk).
Leeds United: Lukic; Newsome, Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Cantona (Hodge, 89), Wallace, Chapman, McAllister, Speed. Substitutes not used: Strachan, Day (gk).
Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).Reuse content