Football: Strachan vocal in stalemate

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The Independent Online
Leeds United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

LAST season's winners against the present League leaders promised substantial fare at Elland Road, but Leeds and Norwich were merely the ghosts of championships past and future.

Although both managers professed themselves happy with their sides' performances, a goalless draw was, like so much else received at this time of year, of little practical value to either.

It failed to dispel the rumour of an unthinkable slide from riches to relegation rags for Leeds; it did little to contradict the feeling that Norwich are Premier League leaders on borrowed time.

Both sides created enough chances for a far more satisfying result. If Lee Chapman and Mark Robins - scorers of so many significant goals between them in 1992 - had not been equally and dismally out of touch, several of those chances would surely have been taken.

The three most obvious opportunities fell to the Canaries, starting with the penalty awarded to them in the 10th minute. Mel Sterland, in his second match back after his ankle injury, looked built for hooking duties with Elland Road's other tenants, Hunslet rugby league side, rather than for chasing Ruel Fox down the wing.

The first race between them seemed a mis-match and Sterland brought Fox down by collapsing exhausted on to his leg rather than through any malicious intent. Those niceties were lost on the referee, Philip Don, but Mark Bowen returned the gift like a pullover of the wrong size and colour by blazing the spot-kick into a crowd that was already jeering by the time it arrived.

In the second half, Robins put a clear shot at goal weak and wide and Ian Crook saw Gary Speed clear his effort off the line.

What Leeds lacked in quality openings, they made up for in quantity. The long periods of pressure they applied tended to yield long-range shots from Gary McAllister, free-kicks rather too complex for their own good and centres aimed at the ineffective Chapman, whose main contribution was to be booked for a foul on John Polston.

Chapman headed an early centre from Imre Varadi wide of the post, and McAllister and Varadi were denied by Bryan Gunn's excellent double save.

A taped message from Howard Wilkinson which was played before the match reassured supporters that the players were 'giving 100 per cent and sometimes more'.

One who took that sort of demanding quota seriously was Gordon Strachan, who enjoyed one of the most vocal matches of his long and loquacious career. He was booked for one monologue, aimed at a linesman, which seemed long and interesting enough to come out in paperback early in the new year. His finest moment, however, was when he dashed over to where the injured Rob Newman was being treated to give him the benefit of a second opinion.

With Strachan in such good voice, 1993 might be disappointing for Leeds, but it will hardly be quiet.

Leeds United: Lukic; Sterland, Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Wetherall (Newsome, 81), Strachan, Varadi, Chapman, McAllister, Speed. Substitutes not used: Rod Wallace, Day (gk).

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Newman (Sutch, 68), Polston, Megson, Crook, Sutton, Robins, Fox, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Woodthorpe, Walton (gk).

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).

(Photograph omitted)