Football: Rejuvenated Jones sets up enterprise zone

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The Independent Online
Liverpool . . . .2

Leeds United. . .0

LEEDS UNITED, stricken by an affliction familiar to England followers, have been through so many right- backs since they won the title (eight last season alone) that when the name G Kelly appeared in the line-up cynics half-expected the FA's chief executive to plod out. But while Leeds' full-back problem remains unsolved, despite a brave display by Gary Kelly, a 19-year- old Irish winger, England's troubles appear over, thanks to Kelly's lively Liverpool counterpart, Rob Jones.

Anyone born on Fireworks Day who experiences League football at 16 and international acclaim at 20 can expect 'rocket man' headlines, but Jones' ascent since his promising England launch against France 18 months ago has been stymied by an insistent shin splint disorder.

Jones is now ready to resume his national service. 'It means everything to me, playing for my country,' Jones said of his possible inclusion in Graham Taylor's squad to play Poland, announced today. 'I know Lee Dixon and Dave Bardsley are having injury problems and I must have a chance. But I'm taking nothing for granted.'

He managed 30 League games last season but was clearly not in overdrive. This term, Graeme Souness has at his disposal a rejuvenated Jones, who represents a rarity among modern domestic full-backs: good going forward and redoubtable at the back.

Rod Wallace used every trick in the winger's manual to deceive his marker, but Jones held his ground and eventually the Leeds player was withdrawn. Jones' grasp of when to jockey and when to commit himself to the tackle is impressive for a 21-year-old. Clearly the four years working with Dario Gradi at Crewe Alexandra proved an invaluable education.

Souness' pursuit and purchase of Jones was listed by one Liverpool fanzine as a mitigating factor when certain parties were trying to force a change of management. For what the Kop loves about Jones is his attacking enterprise; Phil Neal, watching for England, would have approved. Jones was involved in Liverpool's best moves, two of which brought the goals that had the away support momentarily questioning Howard Wilkinson's tactics. (Poor Wilkinson, no joy on the road for 16 months and another tough away-day at the FA tomorrow).

After Gary McAllister had gone close, Jones quelled fears of a repeat of the Spurs defeat in midweek. His galloping run took him deep into John Lukic's box and a well-angled cut-back found Rush, the Welshman denied only by Lukic's brilliance.

Jones' next foray began the breakthrough. Don Hutchison and Ronnie Whelan combined to release Jones on the right and his ball inside arrowed unerringly to Hutchison. The young midfielder's flick was forced home by Rush using a rare combination of shoulder and nose. Leeds could not believe this nasal knock-out blow, Wilkinson lamenting: 'If I call heads at the moment it drops tails.'

And Liverpool's tails were up. Jones promptly dribbled past Gary Speed and McAllister before executing a neat one-two with Molby. The full-back raced into the area to gather the Dane's through pass and fell under a legitimate-looking challenge by Lukic, Molby converting with ease.

Liverpool and England sustained a late scare when Jones was poleaxed by Noel Whelan but Souness reported that everything was 'fine'.

Goals: Rush (24) 1-0; Molby pen (39) 2-0.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Burrows; Hutchison (Marsh, 64), R Whelan, Molby, McManaman; Clough, Rush. Substitutes not used: Walters, Hooper (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Newsome, Fairclough, Dorigo; Batty, Strachan, McAllister, Speed; Deane, Rod Wallace (N Whelan, 71). Substitutes not used: Beeney (gk), Tinkler.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

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