Leeds grow in stature as Wolves feel loss of Ince

Leeds United 2 Wolves 0
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The Independent Football

The former England manager was indifferent anyway to the fact his side had set a club record in remaining undefeated since losing by the same score at Wigan Athletic in the first week of January, almost to the point of finding the acknowledgements tiresome.

But any thoughts that he and his players may regard this result as the releasing of a pressure-valve were dispelled by the new problems it raised.

As Leeds United became increasing comfortable with a two-goal lead in a game that might have run away from them in the first half, their opponents were left to reflect on what a big part Paul Ince still has to play for them.

Which makes it all the more worrying that the skipper is now looking at a minimum of two weeks - and possibly four or more - to shrug off the thigh strain that ruled him out here.

Hoddle was already well down the road towards the free-transfer capture of the Birmingham City midfielder Darren Anderton; now with in-form deputy captain Mark Kennedy also injured and Michael Oakes and Lee Naylor playing through the pain of shoulder and stomach muscle problems respectively, he might seek to recruit leadership quality because Wolves were tepid in their efforts to salvage something in the last half-hour.

Credit for that must go to Leeds, who grew stronger and stronger and can expect to have a tilt at promotion themselves with Rob Hulse back and Steve Stone soon to help with the supply-line duties.

Stone has yet to play for his new club but Hulse marked a surprise return to the starting line-up following a six-week ankle problem with a superbly taken seventh goal in 14 Leeds appearances.

His neat chest-down, turn and shot just before the hour proved the killer blow for a side watched by an alarmingly low crowd for the second home game running.

But those two matches have brought six points out of six and there was the irony at the end of a week of heated international debate of summer arrival Eddie Lewis scoring their first goal barely 24 hours after his return from United States World Cup duty in Connecticut. "It's the east coast but it was still a big trip and I was surprised I lasted 90 minutes here,'' he said.

"As the game went on, I probably wore down a little bit quicker than normal. I will do my best for club and country. Fortunately, they are both doing well.

"Our goal is promotion. This is a big club with good players, so anything else would be a disappointment. I could be conservative and say I'd like a top 10 finish but, in reality, that would mean we'd done something wrong.''

Goals: Lewis (7) 1-0; Hulse (58) 2-0.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Bennett; Kelly, Gregan, Butler, Harding; Richardson (Healy, 80), Derry, Einarsson, Lewis; Blake (Douglas, 58), Hulse (Ricketts, 75). Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Kilgallon.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-3-3): Oakes; McNamara, Edwards, Lescott, Naylor; Cameron (Clarke, 69), Olofinjana, Ricketts (Davies, 59); Seol (Ndah, 64), Cort, Miller. Substitutes not used: Ikeme (gk), Gyepes.

Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Wolverhampton Cameron.

Man of the match: Kelly.

Attendance: 21,229.