Fernandes goal sums up Venables' season of anguish

Leeds United 1 Southampton 1

Even when you are pushing 60, as Terry Venables is, some years just have to be packed away and returned to sender – by express mail and with no regrets.

Any doubt that 2002 was locked irretrievably into this category surely dissolved when the Leeds manager saw his defence, which had lived perilously for much of the afternoon, react to a late free-kick with about as much sang-froid as a panicky herd of wildebeest.

Paul Robinson, who had confirmed his status as the likeliest lad in the queue behind the time-expired England goalkeeper, David Seaman with several world-class saves, was bewildered and unsighted as the dead ball struck by Fabrice Fernandes sailed into the back of the net. How it left Venables, who was travelling to London on the first available train for a family re-union, had to be a matter of bleak speculation. His assistant, Eddie Gray, did confirm that the manager was "disappointed" – perhaps to the point where he would not be the heart and soul of a knees-up,

However, if the 89th-minute denial of a first home victory since the defeat of Manchester United in 14 September was in perfect sync with an eviscerating trend, Venables could reflect reasonably enough that the week which might have brought a devastating end to the most draining ordeal of his career had in fact delivered something quite different: a stirring of life and, just perhaps, a first sense that a section of the Elland Road crowd was threatening an outbreak of tolerance. There were no boos on this occasion, just a stunned re-acquaintance with a savage fate and, who knows, perhaps even a dawning sense that Venables did not, as some reports have suggested, inherit the football world when he took over the club two weeks before the start of the season.

There was certainly no shortage of evidence pointing in that direction as Southampton announced a clear edge in the vital area of midfield. Fernandes compounded Venables' discomfort with his tormenting of Ian Harte and Teddy Lucic. On the other flank, Danny Mills too often found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and Gary Kelly's speed was rarely accompanied by a proper amount of guile in his makeshift midfield role.

Still, Leeds did find a spark and it was the one that was supposed to ignite belief in a title run rather than a fight against relegation. Harry Kewell provided it with his cleanly drilled goal. An earlier touch of brilliance was denied when Southampton's Matt Oakley stuck out a foot and sent Kewell's shot against a post. Kewell's surge of relevance was inspired by, of all things, the appearance of Mark Viduka early in the second half in place of a listless Robbie Fowler.

Kewell and Viduka are notoriously non-communicative off the field, but on it they performed on this occasion with an impressive empathy. Viduka held up the ball with strength and a fine touch and at one point the Aussie combination threatened to overrun the Saints.

However, under Gordon Strachan, who in the final stages of his thankless stint at Coventry received the kind of ritual thrashing which is currently the fate of Venables, Southampton have developed an impressive resilience – and balance. "I believe in these lads," the former Elland Road hero said. "There's a glow about them. We respect teams – but we also know we can beat them."

It may be some time before Venables can make such a declaration, assuming he survives his annus sick-as-a-parrotus, but at least his team is showing evidence of a pulse. Said Gray: "It was a sickener to let the points slip like that... the defence lost concentration, were too deep for the free-kick which made it difficult for Paul. But if this week's results had come in reverse, if we'd won a point at Bolton and three here we would be saying it wasn't too bad a week."

The new imperative is some year-end profit from games at Sunderland and at home to Claudio Ranieri's upwardly mobile Chelsea. The re-discovered snap of Kewell and Viduka's hugely influential cameo give a little basis for hope. So does the impressive resolution of Jonathan Woodgate, the young player whose misadventure in the streets of the city was such a catalyst for decline.

Woodgate is working for redemption with some resolve. It is something on which Venables may just be able to build. Three new defenders and a midfielder of substance would also be a huge help.

Goals: Kewell (74) 1-0; Fernandes (89) 1-1.

Leeds United (4-4-2) : Robinson 6; Mills 3, Woodgate 6, Lucic 3, Harte 3; Kelly 4, Smith 5, Okon 4, Wilcox 4; Fowler 4 (Viduka 7, 52), Kewell 8. Substitutes not used: Martyn (gk), Johnson, Duberry, Milner.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi 6; Telfer 5, Lundekvam 6, M Svensson 5, Bridge 6; Fernandes 7, Delap 5, Oakley 6, Marsen 5 (A Svensson, 83); Beattie 6, Ormerod 5 (Tessem 5, 62). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Williams, Davies.

Referee: C Foy (St Helens) 5.

Man of the match: Kewell.

Attendance: 36,687.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015