Sullivan keeps out Wolves assault

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - Leeds United 0
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The Independent Online

Kevin Blackwell promised this match would be a Premier League encounter in all but name. The Leeds manager is new to the game and so maybe he can be forgiven for getting carried away, but there was nothing Premiership about this clash apart from the fact it was between two teams relegated from the top flight last season. The two clubs have enough fans to feel they can support playing at a higher level than this, but only Wolves have anything like enough on the pitch to feel like big fish in a small pond.

And how Wolves did not win their first match of the season remains a mystery. They dominated from start to finish and Kenny Miller had an 85th-minute penalty saved by Neil Sullivan after he had been tripped in the area by Michael Duberry. The red card shown to the Leeds defender by the referee Graham Laws was the only justice seen to be done yesterday.

Wolves had eight potential first-team players out through injury and the manager Dave Jones said that a fair few more were playing with injuries. "I asked the players to give me everything and they did that and more," Jones said. "We deserved to win that game, but Leeds are a big side, a giant side and they get the ball forward very quickly and made it difficult for us at times."

In fairness to Leeds, Blackwell has come into a club which has sold 23 players in the past two seasons simply to stay alive. He gave a debut to their first cash signing in two years - £200,000 defender Steve Crainey, from Southampton.

Blackwell has pieced together a side on free transfers and kids, and yesterday bid a sad farewell to a loyal servant in Lucas Radebe, who ruptured an Achilles tendon attempting to kick a clearance in the 18th minute.

"It's a big shame because he has gone to hospital and that looks like being the last game he will ever play for Leeds if it is as bad as it appears to be," Blackwell said. "I'm having to bring on players who are just 16 years of age so it is a massive learning curve for us. That was the third game for nine players out there. But we were still well organised - the first thing you do when you come to Molineux is make sure you get a point and we've done that." Only just. Sullivan was clearly the man of the match for Leeds as he made good saves from Miller and the impressive teenage Wolves striker Leon Clarke at the start of both halves.

Leeds, with only two survivors from their line-up when they lost here last season, looked understandably disjointed. Indeed, they were time-wasting with 15 minutes to go. That is how desperate they were to hang on for a point yesterday. Then came the late penalty drama and Sullivan made a decent save to his right at a comfortable height, and the travelling Leeds fans went wild.

Without Sullivan - a free transfer from Chelsea this month - Leeds would have a teenager, Scott Carson, in goal. "He's a very important acquisition for the club," said Blackwell. "The goalkeeping coach, Martin Hodge, had done his homework with Sully. And Martin told me, 'Don't worry, he knows which way to dive'."

Wolves have a few half-decent players returning from injury and could yet bounce back into the Premiership, but Leeds have a long, long way to go. In a season or two, they will be a Premier League team in nothing but memory.

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