A game ruined by a cloying air of anxiety, or an inevitable conspiracy of tedium brought on by the collision of two ordinary sides who prioritise solidity over imagination? Having failed to win any of their last four games, Leeds favoured the former explanation.
"We're very disappointed [to get] three points out of four games at this stage of the season," the Leeds forward Robbie Blake admitted. "There will always be nerves when it's so close like this. We didn't create that many chances. We've got six games and we need all six of them to have any hope of going straight up now we're six points adrift of Sheffield United. Our game there next month is mammoth. We have to believe we can sneak in at the last minute, but we're not playing well enough to worry about the other teams at the moment."
Leeds were uninspired on Saturday, creating next to nothing until injury time when a Rob Hulse header was deflected to safety by Steve Simonsen and the post. On a thoroughly drab afternoon, even the booing of Michael Duberry - still unpopular in these parts for having testified against Jonathan Woodgate - seeming muted. The centre-back was impeccable in partnership with Clint Hill.
"Duberry seemed to have a magnet on his head for the ball," said Leeds' Eddie Lewis. "He's immense in the air and played out of his skin on his return here. Stoke never looked too worried about scoring but give them credit for making it hard.
"Stoke could do us a favour against Sheffield United next week," Lewis went on, although he acknowledged that that result is only relevant if Leeds beat Hull. "It's only natural to want to know how the other teams around us are doing, but there's no point until we get our boat in order. We have to win our games and try not to worry about anyone else."
Leeds United (4-4-2): Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Miller, Douglas (Blake, 68), Derry, Lewis (Griffiths, 74); Hulse, Healy (Beckford, 63). Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Kilgallon.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Hoefkens, Duberry, Hill, Buxton; Mbuyi (Brammer, 61), Russell, Paterson, Gallagher (Sweeney, 74); Sidibe, Bangoura (Sigurdsson, 46) Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Broomes.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Booked: Leeds Gregan, Butler; Stoke Russell.
Man of the match: Hill.
Attendance: 21,452.Reuse content