Harte breaker for Bradford

Leeds rely on disputed penalty to upstage derby rivals
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The Independent Online

By the end of the season, victory over the upstart neighbours will hardly warrant a mention in dispatches for this vibrant young Leeds side. But as a masterclass in the art of winning badly, it could not be faulted. To the more telegenic qualities of Leeds' fledglings add the priceless commodities of persistence, patience and good fortune. A deflected shot by Alan Smith 10 minutes after half-time and a dubious penalty, converted by Ian Harte, 10 minutes from the end was enough to subdue spirited Bradford, but Leeds will play much better than this and come away with nothing. Relief was the predominant emotion at the final whistle.

By the end of the season, victory over the upstart neighbours will hardly warrant a mention in dispatches for this vibrant young Leeds side. But as a masterclass in the art of winning badly, it could not be faulted. To the more telegenic qualities of Leeds' fledglings add the priceless commodities of persistence, patience and good fortune. A deflected shot by Alan Smith 10 minutes after half-time and a dubious penalty, converted by Ian Harte, 10 minutes from the end was enough to subdue spirited Bradford, but Leeds will play much better than this and come away with nothing. Relief was the predominant emotion at the final whistle.

Anyone expecting a dollop of Yorkshire passion in the rarest of local derbies was sorely disappointed by a tepid first half. They know their place in these parts, understand the status quo and though the City fans enjoyed a gentle drive down the motorway to renew acquaintance with the aristocrats of Elland Road, they never fully dispelled the unspoken belief that this would be it for another couple of decades. Leeds reserve their hatred for big-city rivals like Manchester United. To waste effort on Bradford City, habitual residents of football's outback for most of the century, is a bit beneath their dignity.

With five stretched across the midfield and Lee Mills a lone striker, ambitions had not changed much in the nine years since these two last met in the league. The old second division it was then when Leeds were pushing for promotion and Bradford on familiar territory staving off relegation. But City earned a point that day and were clearly intent on snatching a similar reward. As early as the 10th minute, the referee Paul Durkin was gesturing furiously at the City goalkeeper, Matt Clarke, to stop time wasting.

For almost an hour, Bradford's industry proved more than a match for a Leeds side still mentally packing away the suntan lotion and the bathing trunks after a week's holiday. Had Nigel Martyn - England's number one, according to the man on the PA - not palmed over a point-blank header by Peter Beagrie midway through the first half, Bradford might even have sneaked a lead they scarcely deserved. At the other end, the action resembled a Leeds practice session from last season, with the Elland Road old boys David Wetherall, Gunnar Halle and Lee Sharpe all on duty for City.

By half-time Leeds had precious little to show for all their possession. A long-range shot by the quietly impressive Eirik Bakke, a Norwegian Under-21 international, was acrobatically saved by Clarke, who also parried Lucas Radebe's far-post header just before half-time. Otherwise, they never managed to find any sort of fluency in their passing or their movement. Smith, in particular, seemed out of sorts and once Sharpe had dropped back to reinforce the back line and cut out Michael Bridges' intelligent forays down the right, Leeds looked woefully short of imagination.

Smith was eventually replaced by Darren Huckerby 15 minutes from time, but not before he had deflected Bridges' shot over the advancing Clarke and into the City net in the 55th minute. Whether Smith or the unfortunate Andrew O'Brien had got the final touch was hard to judge, but neither Smith nor the Elland Road crowd was about to question the source of what would surely prove a decisive goal.

Bradford responded with some spirit, a ferocious drive from Beagrie forcing Martyn into a fine save and, not before time, a little local niggle began to surface, with David Batty and Lee Bowyer never far from the flying studs.

The majority of referees would have been reaching for the red card for Stuart McCall's crude lunge on Bowyer. To his credit, Durkin adjudged the tackle idiotic rather than malicious and the Bradford captain stayed. The arrival of Huckerby injected some pace into the Leeds attack, but there was more than a touch of good fortune about their second and conclusive goal, scored from the penalty spot by Ian Harte after Clarke had brought down Batty. The referee's assistant gave the decision, but Clarke's protests had some validity.

That, it seemed, would be that, except that Bradford refused to bow to the inevitable. Left with only the goalkeeper to beat after a mistake by Harte, Jamie Lawrence blasted his shot well over, burying his bottle-blond head in his hands at a gift spurned. The significance of the miss only hit home moments from the final whistle when Dean Windass sneaked in behind Radebe and Jonathon Woodgate, rounded Martyn and, to the ecstasy of the City supporters, snatched a smattering of pride from an otherwise forgettable afternoon. If they maintain the same sense of commitment and organisation to the rest of the season, who knows, they might even be back for another turn next year.

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