Graham's pragmatism achieves success of a sort

Everton 0 Leeds United 0
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The Independent Online
Taking noise levels as an indicator, the best moment for Leeds fans seemed to be when Tony Yeboah came off the bench and ran along the touchline midway through the second half. "Yeboa-ah! Yeboa-ah!" they chanted. But this was as much as they saw of last season's cult hero.

There was never a thought in George Graham's mind of sending on the Ghanaian striker, the Leeds manager said afterwards, which suggested that allowing him to warm up was merely an act of compassion on a day when at risk of succumbing to permafrost. In any case, Graham was far too busy admiring his defence, unbreached in five consecutive matches.

This is a club record for clean sheets in the top flight, a run not matched even in the Revie years. It also encompassed a third goalless draw off the reel. Next Leeds face Coventry, whose attack is the least productive in the Premier League, with a goals tally worse even than their own. These are thin times at Elland Road, days of meagre rewards for loyal support. Graham and his new public are, as yet, uneasy allies.

It is, perhaps, difficult for Graham, the pragmatist, to appreciate exactly how they feel. Nor can they fully understand why that row of zeros in the goals against column is such a source of pleasure to him. The object of the exercise, they all concur, is to win. In Graham's logic, however, in order to win it is necessary first not to lose.

In fact, Leeds could have won; perhaps should have. Everton had more of the ball but made fewer chances, bringing Nigel Martyn into serious action only once. Neville Southall, on the other hand, made several vital saves. Joe Royle, delivering his verdict, needing no prompting to declare the result to be just. Having seen Brian Deane fluff the game's best chance in the final minute, he was grateful for a point.

Deane had squandered another opening at the beginning of the second half, chipping his shot a fraction too high with Southall beaten. His finishing apart, however, he was always a danger to Everton's defence. When he hit the post from a yard at the death, he was actually trying to redeem a poor attempt by Ian Rush.

Had that one gone in, Everton could not have complained. For a side bucking for Europe, they were less than convincing, unable to find the wit to dismantle the barriers erected by their opponents, for whom seven players were deployed in primarily defensive functions, with Lucas Radebe (and, when he withdrew through injury, Mark Jackson) detailed to track his former colleague, Gary Speed. Only Andrei Kanchelskis, close to scoring once in each half, looked a potential match-winner.

At least George Graham is not one for self-delusion. He knows that Deane is no Ian Wright; and that Rush is not the marksman he once was. Yet there may be no swift return for Yeboah. "I always say that if players are working hard and winning, they will stay in the side," Graham said. For "winning", of course, he meant "not losing."

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Short (Unsworth, 43), Hinchcliffe (Branch, 62); Kanchelskis, Grant, Parkinson, Speed; Barmby, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Rideout, Stuart, Gerrard (gk).

Leeds United (5-3-2): Martyn; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall, Beesley, Halle; Radebe (Jackson, 36), Bowyer, Sharpe; Rush, Deane. Substitutes not used: Wallace, Yeboah, Ford, Beeney (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester.)

Bookings: Everton: Unsworth. Leeds: Palmer, Halle, Kelly.

Man of the match: Beesley. Attendance: 36,954.

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