Leeds had a far from troubled passage into the third-round of the Coca- Cola Cup last night. After watching his new charges win for the first time, George Graham was happy that the problems were suffered before his Premiership side set foot on Feethams, the quaint dual sporting complex where W G Grace hit a six or two in his time.
Leeds enjoyed a comforatble enough ride on the pitch, courtesy of first- half goals by Rod Wallace and Ian Harte. The same could not be said of their trip to Darlington, which was completed in two taxis and two minicabs after their coach broke down.
Graham's nerves could hardly have been helped by the thought of the journey from Yorkshire. He was also obliged to send out a team lacking a target man. The ankle injury Ian Rush suffered against Newcastle on Saturday forced him on to the casualty list.
In the absence of height, Graham opted to attack with the pace of Lee Sharpe and Andy Gray supporting the diminutive Wallace and it was from a dead-ball situation, though, that Leeds came within an inch or two of gaining an early advantage.
There was less than a minute on Alan Wilkie's watch when, from a free- kick on the left edge of the Darlington box, Andy Couzens curled a shot against Paul Newell's bar.
Compact in midfield, solid at the back and mobile up front, Leeds took an early grip against their Third Division opponents.
They almost let it slip once Darlington settled. Nigel Martyn was at full stretch to keep out a Mark Oliver drive in the 11th minute. No sooner had hopes of an upset risen, however, than Wallace shot them down.
For the third time in the tie the former Saint put Leeds ahead. Gray headed down Sharpe's left wing cross and Wallace beat Newell with a scissors kick from the penalty spot.
Leeds took advantage of further hesitancy in the home rearguard after 29 minutes. Sean Gregan and his colleagues had more than one opportunity to clear the danger before Harte struck with an angled first time volley, though admittedly a deflection helped the Republic of Ireland defender's shot on its way past Newell.
Harte and his uncle, Gary Kelly, were dropped back from midfield to confront Darlington with a five-man defensive wall after the break and a miss-timed attempted clearance by Martyn presented the rare possibility of a breach, but Palmer came to the rescue, blocking Roberts' sweeping shot.
Darlington (4-4-2) Newell; Brumwell, Crosby, Gregan, Barnard; Twynham (R Kelly, 85), Atkinson, Oliver (Painter, 69), Carss; Blake, Roberts. Substitute not used: Brydon (gk)
Leeds United (3-4-2): Martyn; Jobson, Palmer, Wetherall; Kelly, Couzens, Ford, Harte; Sharpe, Wallace, Gray. Substitutes not used: Jackson, Boyle, Beeney (gk).
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).