Leeds Utd 0 Stoke City 0: Leeds lose knack of hitting home runs

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The Independent Online

A drab display, a desperate game, and Leeds now trail Sheffield United in the second automatic promotion spot by six points. Worse than that, they have taken just three points in four games and there is a sense of a chance and momentum lost.

Johan Boskamp may be one of the more colourful figures in world football, but the legacy of his predecessor, Tony Pulis, lives on at Stoke, and they remain tedious. "Only the point is good," he said with characteristic pithiness. "How we played was not so impressive."

The fact that Stoke are well drilled and deploy eight men behind the ball most of the time, though, does not excuse the lack of imagination about Leeds' play yesterday. Other than the odd long-range effort, it was not until injury time that they created a genuine chance, but Rob Hulse's header from Gary Kelly's free-kick was easily repulsed by Steve Simonsen. For that the two centre-backs, Clint Hill and Michael Duberry, take credit, and they were implacable in the face of the predictable boos.

"We had enough possession," Kevin Blackwell, the Leeds manager, said. "But Stoke came here, sat deep and we weren't bright enough to unlock it. In the first half we dominated for long spells. Stoke couldn't get out of their box, never mind their half. Even in the second half we had a lot of ball, but that counts for nothing if you don't create chances."

Only Liam Miller shows flickers of creative fire - and he was quiet yesterday - but essentially this is a workaday side. That is perhaps only to be expected: as Blackwell has repeatedly pointed out, he has constructed this side from next to nothing in a little over 18 months. Little wonder that crowds still hover around the low 20,000s, despite the probability of the play-offs.

While always on the defensive, Stoke might have stolen a win, Darel Russell drawing Neil Sullivan into a diving save with a 25-yarder, and Hannes Sigurdsson sidefooting weakly at the keeper from 10 yards early in the second half. A goal, though, would have seemed out of place for either side in a grim game.

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