Football: Sharpe cleans up for Leeds

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An Untidy goal decided an equally untidy match as West Ham, who finished with 10 men, slipped into the Premiership's bottom three.

A game that lived down to all expectations, this was one of nature's 0-0 draws, saved from its appropriate fate only by an atrocious defensive mix-up that allowed Lee Sharpe to score at the start of the second half.

Conditions were partly to blame for the dismal quality. A swirling wind blew a tide of litter into eddies up and down one touchline. It was often more absorbing to watch that than the football, because for all but a handful of isolated moments the carrier bags, crisp packets and discarded hamburger cartons were not the only rubbish on the pitch.

Those few exceptions were largely attributable to Tony Yeboah, starting a home league match for the first time in a year. His left-footed volley after Lee Bowyer chipped the ball over the West Ham defence was Leeds' only worthwhile effort of the first half.

The visitors matched them with just one attempt on goal, a header by Iain Dowie from Slaven Bilic's free-kick that bounced down off the crossbar. Within two minutes of the restart things looked up, at least statistically. Ian Harte's routine ball into the penalty area should have been dealt with easily by either Julian Dicks or Ludek Miklosko, but they hesitated long enough to let Brian Deane get in between them.

All three finished on the floor, and by the time they extricated themselves from the litter, Sharpe had rolled the ball into the empty net. If the game deserved a goal at all, this was the one.

That, apart from a couple of further flashes from Yeboah that promised rather more excitement at Elland Road once he is fully match fit once more, was that, until the dismissal of Michael Hughes 13 minutes from time.

The match had inevitably had its share of untidy challenges and when Hughes appeared to kick out at Lucas Radebe after the ball had gone, he was shown the red card to round off a miserable afternoon for West Ham.

Without the suspended John Hartson to lead their attack, they looked so toothless that they deserved little better. Their only sustained pressure came in the last couple of minutes and even that ended tamely when John Moncur shot high and wide.

It would have been too much to expect to find two goals amidst the detritus of this affair.

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