Smith bids farewell amid hope

Leeds United 3 Charlton Athletic 3
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The Independent Online

An afternoon which could have been hostile, could have been recriminatory, considering what purgatory the faithful had been through at the hands of both players and administrators in recent years, was imbued instead with the spirit of a new beginning.

An afternoon which could have been hostile, could have been recriminatory, considering what purgatory the faithful had been through at the hands of both players and administrators in recent years, was imbued instead with the spirit of a new beginning.

Relegated Leeds began to address the future with two youngsters, Matthew Kilgallon and Frazer Richardson, in their side - not to mention James Milner, now almost a seasoned veteran - but this was an occasion to honour a character whose positive contribution has been very much at odds with much of Leeds' recent past.

Alan Smith, for so many years the patron saint of dedicated one-club men, was captain on his valedictory appearance here in a Leeds shirt and duly provided the near 40,000 crowd with what they craved - a goal, Leeds' third, albeit from a spot-kick.

At the final whistle, he was mobbed by hundreds of supporters and required a police escort to enable him to reach the dressing room.

"Alan's a local hero," Eddie Gray, his manager, said afterwards. "It's a sad day for him because he's a local boy and has been here since he was a kid. He's a smashing lad and a great footballer. The only disappointing thing for him will be that we haven't won.''

But what of those who remain? Smith believes it may require a season in the First Division before Leeds can launch a sustained promotion assault in order to allow their young homegrown players to develop. As the chairman Gerald Krasner said: "There's five Under-21 internationals here at the moment. If we can find one or two more seasoned players who know what it's about, we can mix them in with the academy players and will have a team capable of doing well.''

Of the academy graduates, it was Kilgallon who scored an equaliser from close range at the far post just before the half-hour after Charlton had failed to clear Stephen McPhail's free-kick. That cancelled out Matt Holland's opener, a venomous effort from 30 yards, after 11 minutes.

Leeds were without the "injured'' Mark Viduka, but prospered in his absence. Four minutes before the break Milner and Smith combined cleverly to set up an opening for Jermaine Pennant to nudge Leeds into a merited lead.

Smith completed his side's scoring in the 69th minute when he converted a spot-kick after Jonathan Fortune had fouled Michael Duberry in the penalty area. However, there was still time for Jason Euell to dispatch a penalty himself seven minutes later and then force his way through a pedestrian rearguard for the equaliser 11 minutes from time.

Last week at Bolton, an 11-year-old named Ricky Altman stood stripped to the waist, his chest bearing the legend "Leeds 'til I die''. It was an evocative image as he sang defiantly through his tears. Yesterday there will have been a smile on his face - and hope in his heart, too.

Leeds United 3
Kilgallon 29, Pennant 41, Smith pen 69

Charlton Athletic 3
Holland 11, Euell pen 76, 79

Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 38,986

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