Football: Yorke's Little comfort

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa 1

Yorke 67

Leeds United 0

Attendance: 39,027

Villa in general - and Stan Collymore in particular - still look out of sorts, but they at least have something in the points gained column after ending a run of four straight defeats by condemning George Graham's expensively reshaped Leeds to their third consecutive reverse.

Collymore, yet to deliver a performance in keeping with his pounds 7 million transfer fee, missed chances either side of half-time before his strike partner Dwight Yorke brought relief to the manager Brian Little with the decisive goal midway through the second half.

Victory was just about deserved, although defensively they looked no more sound than their opponents, as Graham emphasised afterwards, believing his side had wasted an opportunity in a match that "was there to be won".

Graham hates defensive inefficiency and was inclined to criticise his own team for being too "gung-ho" in their attacking play, much as they frequently looked as likely to score as did Villa in an open contest that made a mockery of these sides' reputations, which in both cases are based on meanness at the back.

The difference, Graham said, lay in the quality of Villa's strikers. "Our centre-backs did not do too badly, but Yorke is special, a very good player," he said.

Yorke struck at the end of Villa's best spell of sustained pressure, collecting the ball in the six-yard box after Collymore had helped on Alan Wright's left-flank free-kick, turning and drilling an angled shot past Nigel Martyn, who delivered yet another impressive performance in the Leeds goal.

"It was an important goal," Little said. "When I spoke to the players before the match I said if we could win 1-0 it would do. The result had to come before the performance and considering that the players were nervous beforehand I felt they did well."

The immediate beneficiary of Townsend's recent departure to Middlesbrough is Simon Grayson, Little's pounds 1.3m summer signing from Leicester, preferred in midfield to the transfer-listed Sasa Curcic, who was left on the bench.

Grayson took well to his responsibility and brought the first of three excellent saves from Martyn after a run that took a flat-footed Leeds defence by surprise. Martyn then defied Yorke just before half-time, although he should have been beaten moments later when Grayson's cross invited Collymore to score his first goal at home in a Villa shirt. Instead, the striker's header flew wide.

Early in the second half, Martyn rescued Leeds again when Collymore dived in at the near post to head Alan Wright's near-post cross towards goal. Leeds had their moments, often with the 18-year-old midfield player Harry Kewell involved in one way or another.

The Australian teenager caught the eye on the left flank, creating several chances in an even first half and missing one himself in the second, when he seemed sure to score but shot into the side-netting with Mark Bosnich's goal at his mercy. That opportunity, and another carved out for himself by the Portuguese forward, Bruno Ribeiro, could have been costly.