Football: Royle rewarded for gamble as Beckford bags a point: Latics miss penalty but late goal earns them a point

Click to follow
Oldham Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Leeds United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

LEEDS do not have a bad record at Boundary Park; it is appalling. Fifty-nine years separated their last two wins here, so victory always seemed unlikely even when they led for 83 minutes last night. Just as they thought they had cracked it, however, Darren Beckford stole the prize from them.

The Oldham striker, introduced as a substitute after 62 minutes, headed an equaliser from Rick Holden's corner with four minutes remaining to give the home side a point towards their latest attempt at escapology from the foot of the Premiership. He might have won it, too, but he inexplicably missed with a header from no more than a yard.

Oldham also squandered a penalty when Gary Kelly handled another Holden corner after 35 minutes. Howard Wilkinson, his manager, described it as 'crazy inexperience', which still did not fully explain why the full-back chose to use his arms when the ball was heading for safety. Fortunately for him, John Lukic saved Graeme Sharp's rather lame spot kick.

Which might imply that Oldham had the better of this match, but far from it. Leeds, who still harbour ambitions of gaining a Uefa Cup place by dint of their League position, should have won with something to spare. They were ahead after three minutes thanks to a Gary McAllister free-kick and had a far greater share of the possession. But their final passes often let them down and led to a frustrating conclusion, and the belittling fact that their last two victories here were in 1928 and 1987.

'You need a bit of luck,' Joe Royle, the Oldham manager, said, 'and we got it. One point is important because it puts us within a touch of getting out of the bottom three. It wasn't pretty but there's a long way to go. It keeps the momentum going.'

That momentum means Oldham are unbeaten in seven matches, something that seemed far beyond them in the opening 20 minutes when they wobbled so much you expected their defence to cave in.

With two minutes gone Gary Speed made a potentially exciting run through midfield and was upended by Chris Makin. If a neutral spectator felt robbed by that foul, he was rewarded seconds later when McAllister chipped the free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the net. The precision would have satisfied a scientist studying parabolas.

That it was worthy of a winning goal did not exonerate Leeds' wastefulness afterwards. 'Things have a way of going against us at Oldham,' Wilkinson said. On this occasion they made their own luck.

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Hallworth; Pedersen, Fleming (Redmond, 83), Jobson, Makin (Beckford, 62); Bernard, Milligan, Henry, Holden; McCarthy, Sharp. Substitute not used: Gerrard (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, Newsome, Dorigo; Strachan, McAllister, Fairclough, Speed; Deane, Wallace. Substitutes not used: White, Pemberton, Beeney (gk).

Referee: B Hill (Kettering).