Martyn dents Leeds survival hopes

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The Independent Online

Former players can often return to haunt their old teams. That could be the case for the former Leeds' goalkeeper Nigel Martyn who might ultimately have a hand in the Elland Road club's relegation from the Premiership.

Martyn left Leeds under a cloud last summer in the wake of a disagreement with the former manager Terry Venables which resulted in the then England No 2 being dropped as first-choice keeper. He failed to regain his place from Paul Robinson - even when Venables was sacked - and left for Everton for a nominal fee at the start of this season.

However, he returned to Elland Road to thwart Leeds' hopes of a third successive League victory with an inspired display in the 1-1 draw which edged his new club closer to Premiership safety on Tuesday night. With Leicester City losing at Manchester United, Leeds could have pulled six points clear of Leicester and gone level with Portsmouth with a victory.

Wayne Rooney's 12th-minute shot from 20 yards surprised Robinson for the opening goal, but at the other end Martyn produced two top-class saves from James Milner and Alan Smith.

Martyn made a superb one-handed save to deny Milner, who had curled in a shot from wide on the left. In the 37th minute he turned over a long-range Smith shot which was destined for the top corner. However, the former England international could do nothing to keep out Milner's 50th-minute equaliser.

The Leeds' caretaker manager, Eddie Gray, looked on the result as two points dropped. But he was not surprised it was Martyn who had denied them: "Nigel made some good saves but that is what he is paid to do," said Gray. "You expected him to come here and, because of the circumstances [of his departure], put on a good display, but I was pleased with how we performed."

The Everton manager, David Moyes, was also full of praise for the 38-year-old goalkeeper. "There was no more fitting place to come back and have a blinder than Elland Road and he was terrific," said Moyes.

"I think he has been playing in that fashion all year. He is not only a good goalkeeper but a good man and we are pleased to have him."

Gray's job was not made any easier when it was discovered that the midfielder Seth Johnson will be out of action for the rest of the season after suffering knee ligament damage.

Leeds also have Eirik Bakke (thigh) and Stephen McPhail (ribs) requiring treatment and resources are running thin at a crucial stage of the season.

At the other end of the table Steve McClaren has the luxury of being in a relaxed mood knowing that a place in Europe has capped a fine season for his team. The Middlesbrough manager has delighted his chief executive Keith Lamb, as in three years he has transformed the Teessiders from a mid-table side into a genuine force.

Boro's season could yet pay further dividends with their best Premiership finish a possibility and Lamb is still looking forward: "Next year, our target has to be a very successful run in the Uefa Cup, another assault in the domestic cup competitions and to finish in the top six of the Premier League," Lamb told a meeting of the official Middlesbrough supporters club.

"We have some players who are out of contract or into the last year of their contract. We're having talks with those players and I hope we can retain all of them.

"Steve McClaren has also expressed his wish to keep Bolo Zenden and Danny Mills. Our job is to negotiate satisfactory terms with their clubs and the players to keep them here.

"Middlesbrough is the place to be next season, so we only want players who match our ambition and are committed to helping us achieve more.

"If we've got a full house, we've got the financial clout to compete in the transfer market in the summer and strengthen the team," he said.

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