Pennant shines but victory eludes Leeds

Leeds United 0 Southampton 0
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The Independent Football

Long on commitment but short on craft and confidence, Leeds and Southampton fought out a barren stalemate last night, leaving Elland Road's lowest League crowd for four years frustrated and both clubs still looking for their first Premiership victory after three matches.

Southampton, who are unbeaten after drawing all their games, almost stole the points in stoppage time. Paul Robinson, the Leeds goalkeeper, had to dash to the left angle of his area to prevent the substitute Brett Ormerod flicking the ball into an unguarded net.

While defeat would have been harsh on Leeds, they are increasingly desperate for a win after also being unable to secure one in six pre-season friendlies. Despite failing to score for the first time in Peter Reid's 11 games as manager, they were bright in the first half and had arguably the man of the match in the on-loan Jermaine Pennant.

Pennant, starting a club match for the first time since plundering a hat-trick for Arsenal against Southampton in May, gave Graeme Le Saux several uneasy moments. The England Under-21 winger capped a display full of pace and promise with a fine cross 17 minutes from time. Lamine Sakho had only to head the ball into the path of Alan Smith but contrived to put it behind the England striker, forcing him to turn back before volleying over.

Reid, having freed up some funds by allowing Saturday's opponents, Middlesbrough, to borrow Danny Mills, hopes to continue his overhaul of the Leeds squad by signing the Marseilles and Cameroon midfielder Salomon Olembe on loan today. Leeds are also being linked with a move for Roque Junior, Milan's Brazilian international centre-back, before the transfer window shuts. On the debit side, last season's leading scorer, Mark Viduka, was watched here by officials of Internazionale.

The Australian centre-forward was in one of his languid moods, his contribution being placed into sharp relief by the energy expended by Pennant, Sakho and Smith. Reid, highlighting the "threat" Leeds posed along the flanks, felt his side had looked "solid". He added: "We were very competitive, but we need to get a win as soon as we can."

Gordon Strachan, captain of Leeds' championship-winning team of 1992, was warmly received as he patrolled the technical area. The moment when Leeds' muscular midfielder Seth Johnson overran the touchline and seemed set to upend the besuited Scot brought light relief to a lacklustre second half.

Strachan echoed Reid in taking solace from an improvement on recent form. "We played at a higher tempo, and the fact that we kept a clean sheet is positive," the Southampton manager said. "We've just got to make ourselves hard to beat."

However, Southampton rode their luck when Leeds had the ball in the net in only the second minute. Sakho's run to head in a free-kick by Gary Kelly looked well-timed, but a linesman's flag deemed the Franco-Senegalese attacker to have been offside.

Pennant, taking a pass from Sakho which neatly cut out Le Saux, cut inside from the right to test Paul Jones with a powerful low shot. Jones also did well to claw away a cross-cum-shot from Ian Harte which threatened to creep in.

For their part, Southampton looked dangerous at set-pieces, while Robinson had to stretch to tip over a full-blooded drive by Jason Dodd from fully 35 yards and was relieved to see another long-range effort, from Matt Oakley, whistle past the woodwork.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Robinson 6; Kelly 6, Camara 7, Matteo 6, Harte 5 (Richardson, 82); Pennant 7 (Wilcox, 90), Morris 6 (Batty 5, 67), Seth Johnson 4, Sakho 4; Smith 6, Viduka 5. Substitutes not used: Lennon, Martyn (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones 6; Dodd 6, Lundekvam 6, M Svensson 7, Le Saux 4; Fernandes 4, Oakley 7, Prutton 6 (McCann, 78), Delap 5 (Telfer 6, 9); Beattie 6, Phillips 5 (Ormerod, 85). Substitutes not used: Higginbotham, Blayney (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset) 7.