Football: Only defenders remember their lines

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The Independent Online
Arsenal . . . . .0

Leeds United. . .0

SEVEN central defenders finished this game, and they at least will have been satisfied with their night's work. Few others would have been anywhere near so content after a contest poor in quality, lacking in excitement and sadly unrecognisable from the FA Cup encounter between these teams at Highbury last month.

Leeds, in particular, will shed few tears for an entertainment factor that struggled to reach the half-way mark. Fallen champions, particularly those who have fallen so far so quickly, are grateful for small mercies. There were minor celebrations on the homeward journey for this, their first clean sheet away from Elland Road in any competition this season, and their first away point since 19 September.

They began with Chris Fairclough, Chris Whyte and David Wetherall and, for the second half, Jon Newsome made it a quartet of centre-backs when Gary McAllister suffered a hairline fracture of his left arm which will keep him out for six weeks.

Keeping it tight was the order of the day, with Fairclough, Tony Dorigo and Gary Speed all detailed to man-mark, and the end justified the means as Leeds stopped the rot and kept the relegation places at arm's length.

'In the circumstances it was probaly the right way for us to play, even though it was limiting,' the Leeds manager, Howard Wilkinson, said. 'Our confidence away from home has not been the highest, but perhaps we can get a lift off this result.'

The Arsenal manager, George Graham, said: 'It was a very poor game but there were 22 very tired players out there at the end.' His weary team have failed to win at home in the League since 7 November.

'We've now got four games in 10 days, and if we were involved in Europe it would just be impossible to cram everything in,' he added.

The spectators showed total respect in a minute's silence for Bobby Moore before the start, and then saw the players in the defensive positions he used to patrol with such superb effect maintain a dominating hand.

Both goalkeepers, though, found it impossible to share the spirit. In the ninth minute, David Seaman hit his attempted clearance straight at Rod Wallace but, typical for a striker out of luck and goals, he found Tony Adams ready and waiting on the goal-line to intercept.

The goalkeeper wobbles spread to John Lukic at the start of the second half, when he failed to take a routine catch from Ian Wright and dropped the ball at the feet of Alan Smith. The shot was instant, firm and on target - but there was Wetherall to rescue his embarrassed No 1.

Arsenal: Seaman; Keown, Winterburn, Hillier, Linighan, Adams, Selley, Wright, Smith, Merson, Limpar (Campbell, 81). Substitutes not used: Morrow, Will (gk).

Leeds United: Lukic; Fairclough, Dorigo, Batty, Wetherall, Whyte, Strachan (Chapman, 71), Rod Wallace, Strandli, McAllister (Newsome, h/t), Speed. Substitute not used: Day (gk).

Referee: K Redfearn (Whitley Bay).