Reid relieved after shaky start

Leeds United 3 Aston Villa 1
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The Independent Football

After Leeds' annus horribilis, the first day of the rest of their lives turned out to be a good one. But, though the victory over Arsenal which secured their Premiership status and the confirmation of Peter Reid's position as manager meant they were turning over a new leaf off the pitch, they could not start with the clean sheet on it that Reid believes is the key to happier days next season.

After Leeds' annus horribilis, the first day of the rest of their lives turned out to be a good one. But, though the victory over Arsenal which secured their Premiership status and the confirmation of Peter Reid's position as manager meant they were turning over a new leaf off the pitch, they could not start with the clean sheet on it that Reid believes is the key to happier days next season.

Indeed, but for a string of fine stops by their goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, who may not be around to do the same come the autumn, Villa might have grabbed more than the solitary goal with which their Icelandic midfielder, Joey Gudjonsson, cancelled out Ian Harte's first-half free-kick strike for Leeds. And, with striker Alan Smith suspended and Harry Kewell, who might otherwise have been making his swansong appearance at Elland Road, out with a calf injury, Leeds had to wait until the last 10 minutes to send their long-suffering supporters home on a high note.

They went ahead after just eight minutes when Mark Viduka was hauled down on the edge of the box by Jlloyd Samuel and Harte curled the free-kick high to the right of Villa's goalkeeper, Stefan Postma.

But the goal merely served to rouse Villa, with Gudjonsson, on loan from Real Betis but clearly seeking a permanent move. His philosophy was to shoot on sight, forcing Robinson to tip a 20-yard drive over the bar one-handed, before beating the wall with a free-kick which the unsighted goalkeeper did well to parry.

Then Robinson turned Samuel's corner-cum-shot over the bar and Harte cleared Marcus Allback's volley on the line with the goalkeeper beaten, before Gudjonsson reaped the reward his persistence deserved as his 30-yard angled drive flew into the far corner of the net.

"By half-time we should have been well ahead,'' the Villa manager, Graham Taylor, said. "We certainly should not have lost, but that has been the story of our season away.''

Leeds tightened up after the break, but Thomas Hitzlsperger twice went close for Villa before substitute Nick Barmby restored Leeds' lead with 10 minutes left, turning in Harte's corner at the far post after Dominic Matteo had flicked the ball on. Even so, the game was into injury time before Viduka ensured Leeds would leapfrog Villa into 15th place and pick up an extra half a million pounds to set against their £79m debt. "After 19 defeats this season we are at last looking hard to beat,'' Reid said.

Goals: Harte (8) 1-0, Gudjonsson (40) 1-1; Barmby (80) 2-1; Viduka (90) 3-1.

Leeds (4-4-2): Robinson 7; Mills 5, (Barmby 70, 5), Duberry 4, Radebe 6, Harte 6; Kelly 5, Wilcox 3, Bakke 4 (McPhail ht, 4), Matteo 4 (Killgallon 86); S Johnson 3, Viduka 6. Substitutes not used: Martyn (gk), Burns.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Postma 5; Samuel 5, Mellberg 5, R Johnson 5 (Dublin 88), Wittingham 4; Moore 4 (Cooke 74, 5), Hitzlsperger 7, Gudjonsson 6, Barry 6; Allback 4, Vassell 5, Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Taylor, Ridgewell.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Man of the match: Robinson.

Attendance: 40,205.

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