Gregory matches Graham grind
Leeds United 0 Aston Villa 0 Attendance: 33,446
Sunday 20 September 1998
He could not, however, inspire his players to break the deadlock and the deadening tedium at Elland Road yesterday. Gregory's boys remain top of the Premiership pile, though they hardly played like champions-elect against the team which started the afternoon in third position. Not until the 86th minute did they seriously threaten to collect three points and when Julian Joachim, left in the clear by the bungling Robert Molenaar, pulled his right-foot shot wide of the Leeds goal, Gregory slammed his drinks bottle to the ground in frustration.
Not that Villa lost their bottle. In keeping their hosts off the scoresheet, they matched Leeds' mean record of just one goal conceded in six Premiership matches this season. They also maintained the impressive run of league results Gregory has gathered since he succeeded Brian Little in February: 15 wins, two draws and two defeats. "I think it's fair to say we won a point today," the Villa manager said. "We know we've got a hell of a long way to go. There's still a lot of room for improvement in the side, particularly offensively."
That Gregory's Villans remain far from the finished article was evident on Tuesday night when they gave the butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers of Stromsgodset a 2-0 lead before playing catch-up with a vengeance. They ultimately overtook the Norwegian part-timers thanks to the face-saving grace of Darius Vassell's late goals. The 18-year-old Brummie was restricted to bench duty yesterday, with Paul Merson free to rejoin Joachim in attack.
It needed to be a striking partnership in every sense against a Leeds defence unaccustomed to giving away leads. Not since last season have Graham's grinders fallen behind in a match and, Joachim's late miscue apart, they were never in great danger of trailing yesterday. Leeds enjoyed an early spell of attacking endeavour, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink flashing a header wide and shooting into the side-netting, but they were found increasingly wanting in the creative department. Mark Bosnich did get his knickers in a twist in the final minute of the opening half but Ian Harte's low drive struck the Australian's left-hand post and Lee Bowyer's follow-up header hit the cross-bar.
The simple enough act of keeping possession proved beyond both teams for much of the soporific second-half as play meandered around the midfield area. The few openings that materialised were no more than half-chances, Ian Taylor glancing a header wide and Harte hoofing a long-range effort an inch or two over Bosnich's bar. The exception came with four minutes remaining. In attempting to control Gareth Southgate's hit-and-hope ball, Molenaar merely succeeded in giving Joachim his sitter.
It was difficult, on yesterday's evidence, to argue with Graham's post- match appraisal that both teams are "top six material" rather than heavyweight championship contenders. "Villa have made a good start," he said. "They're a nice little side, just like we are. But I don't think either of us are as good as the big boys."
Both have yet to even play with the big boys. The true vintage of Gregory's clarets may not become clear until Liverpool come calling in November.
Latest in Sport
Jose Mourinho-Arsene Wenger feud is not sporting, but keeps alive raw spirit of competition - Sam Wallace
Cristiano Ronaldo buys agent Jorge Mendes a whole Greek island as a wedding present
Premier League 2015/16 preview: Club-by-club guide to the new season
Pedro to Manchester United: Louis van Gaal says £22m winger can turn Manchester United into champions
Can Arsenal win the Premier League? Is Raheem Sterling the answer to Man City's problems? Can anything stop Chelsea?
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's leading CV writing com...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist personal injury...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...