Football: Speed's strike accelerates Leeds' campaign

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The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic . . .1

Leeds United. . . . . .3

HOLD fire for the time being on the obituary for a season which promised so much and which so far has produced only bitter disappointment. With their first domestic away win since clinching the League Championship at Bramall Lane in April, Leeds took another significant step forward - although next it is Arsenal in the FA Cup, which is all that remains for them this season.

It is not hard to imagine the scale of the recriminations, should Leeds' debilitating campaign have finally died a death at The Valley. A rapid strike from the lethal Gary Speed made the prospect unlikely, and provided the perfect base on which to work and restore more belief.

Early on their manager, Howard Wilkinson, was frequently heard bemoaning the luck which had deserted them. So their second goal, an own goal, might help to convince him that the corner has finally been turned. Nevertheless all is still not right with his defence. So concerned is he that for this third-round replay he opted for the 37-year-old Mervyn Day in place of John Lukic. Chris Fairclough dropped to substitute, allowing Chris Whyte to return.

Charlton's best hope was to drive a wedge through the new formation before it had a chance to settle. Only 40 seconds had gone when Garry Nelson and Peter Garland swapped passes to send in Colin Walsh, but with no time to have found his touch he sent his effort too high.

Briefly did the decibels rise around the ground staging its first FA Cup tie for eight years. However, within three minutes Leeds were ahead, and for all Charlton's subsequent endeavour Leeds did not look likely to miss their return with their predecessors as champions at Highbury on Monday week.

Two years ago it took three replays to divide the teams, and with this problem safely out of the way Wilkinson was able to joke afterwards: 'I got to know every bollard on the M1 during that time.' Bollards were in George Graham's thoughts as the Arsenal manager was delayed on his journey and missed the opening goal, Speed's hammer header from Gordon Strachan's corner. It was his third strike in the same number of games and, suitably bouyed, Speed then helped his team take command of midfield. Charlton's service to Carl Leaburn and Nelson came in fits and starts, their best hope lying at the cultured feet of Walsh or the trickery of John Robinson.

Charlton were warming to the task when they were stripped of realistic ambition just before the hour, when Garland deflected a Carl Shutt cross into his own net. The First Division side still came on and gained an 86th-minute penalty when Darren Pitcher was felled by Day and he put away the penalty himself. Yet still Leeds took home their two-goal margin as Gary McAllister took advantage of a late free-kick.

Charlton Athletic: Bolder; Pitcher, Gatting, Pardew (Grant, 43), Webster, Balmer, Robinson, Leaburn, Garland, Nelson, Walsh. Substitute not used: Sturgess.

Leeds United: Day; Sterland (Fairclough, 69), Dorigo, Rod Wallace (Rocastle, 69), Wetherall, Whyte, Strachan, Shutt, Chapman, McAllister, Speed.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

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