Football: Wallace maintains Leeds' momentum

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The Independent Online
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NEWS that some bookies had suspended betting on Manchester United for the Premiership drew a swift response from an indignant Leeds at Upton Park last night. But they left it late in cutting United's lead to 12 points, Rod Wallace scoring his seventh goal in as many games with six minutes remaining.

Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, conceded that United were 'cantering' but with the kind of form the Yorkshiremen are showing - 14 League games unbeaten now - it is difficult to see how anyone can deem it a one-horse race just yet. The bookies may have a rethink after this one.

There are not many teams who will win at Upton Park in the Hammers' present mood and it was with good reason that their manager felt a little hard done by. Certainly no one would argue with Billy Bonds's view that it looked a 'stone-banker 0-0 draw' when Tony Dorigo, who had an outstanding game, played Wallace in behind the opposition's back four. His finish had all the flourish of a man in form as he steered an angled shot beyond Ludek Miklosko.

It was a credit to the good football practised by both sides that the game all but lived up to expectations in the whirlwind conditions which had caused Chelsea's game at Stamford Bridge to be postponed. With Wimbledon as their visitors it is doubtful whether the ball would have touched earth anyway.

It demanded technique of Norwich-type proportions and in the opening exchanges Leeds gave the Hammers a lesson in their own academy in the matter of sharp, close- passing skill. At the end of one of his forays, after nine minutes, Dorigo threaded a ball of fine accuracy into the path of Kevin Sharp. The former Auxerre apprentice, who looks one for the not too distant future, found his way blocked by the big Czechoslovak in the West Ham goal, but when the ball returned to him he flashed a shot only fractionally wide.

It was not long, however, before West Ham got their own passing game together but a Leeds defence which has continued to leak goals even during these recent happier times stood firm. Consequently West Ham had to do their threatening from long range and Ian Bishop and David Burrows obliged with a couple of screamers in the first half that went desperately close.

It remained tit for tat throughout the second half with John Pemberton, who came on for the injured Gary Speed, striking a post for Leeds and Burrows replying with a close- range header that might have gone closer. A fifth consecutive away draw for Leeds looked on the cards until Wallace played his ace.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Gale, Burrows; Marsh, Bishop, Butler, Holmes; Chapman, Morley (Boere, 79). Substitutes not used: M Allen, Peyton (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Beeney; Kelly, Fairclough, Wetherall, Dorigo; Strachan, McAllister, Speed (Pemberton, 43), Sharp; Rod Wallace, Deane. Substitutes not used: Whelan, Lukic (gk).

Referee: I Borrett (Great Yarmouth).

(Photograph omitted)