Leeds saved by mastery of McAllister

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Football

PHIL SHAW

Port Vale 1 Leeds United 2

An exquisitely placed free-kick by Gary McAllister, betraying the Leeds captain's origins as a schoolboy golf international, ended Port Vale's excellent adventure in this season's FA Cup with less than 90 seconds remaining in last night's fifth-round replay at Burslem.

Leeds, who now receive the winners of tonight's tie between Liverpool and Charlton on 10 March, could count themselves somewhat fortunate to reach the quarter-finals for only the second time in 19 years.

Outplayed in the first half, during which Tony Naylor fired Vale in front, they equalised through a McAllister header but were still living dangerously when the same player struck again with extra time looming.

The appearance of Tomas Brolin was central to Leeds' improvement after the interval. Howard Wilkinson, who said afterwards that he had berated his players at the break, seems loath to admit it, but there is no substitute for the kind of craft the Swede brought to his attack. Vale's catalyst, Naylor, was forced to depart the fray soon after Brolin's emergence, a development that also tipped the balance Leeds' way.

Barely 48 hours earlier they had disposed of a middling First Division side, Birmingham, to reach the Coca-Cola Cup final. Yet faced with the team lying 23rd in that section, they seemed strangely lacking confidence and cohesion. Vale's captain, Andy Porter, promised in the programme to follow McAllister everywhere - "to the toilet if necessary" - and with the Scot's service restricted, Leeds failed to test Paul Musselwhite for the first hour.

Vale's wingers, Jon McCarthy and Steve Guppy, had done much to undermine the Cup holders, Everton, in the previous round. The absence of Leeds' regular full-backs, Gary Kelly and Tony Dorigo, was all the incentive they needed, and with Ian Bogie prompting deftly, Vale deserved their interval lead.

Naylor, volleying over, and Guppy, shooting hastily when Leeds were caught by a counter-attack, wasted good opportunities. But in the 37th minute, McCarthy crossed low for Naylor, the diminutive striker's low shot passing through John Lukic's legs as the centre-backs converged too late.

Brolin's arrival signalled a more positive approach by Leeds. They immediately began to attack with greater guile, and were duly rewarded by a 64th-minute goal. Finding space on the left, the substitute delivered a hanging cross to which McAllister, who heads surprisingly few goals for a tall man, beat the 6ft 4in Gareth Griffiths.

A clever one-two with Tony Yeboah gave Brolin the chance for what might have been a significant winner in more ways than one. For once, his placement let him down, however, and the shot cannoned to safety off Musselwhite's legs. There would be no such respite for the Vale keeper after Porter fouled Carlton Palmer.

As if weighing up which club to select, and at which angle to strike the free-kick, McAllister stood over the ball for what seemed an eternity. Yeboah and Brolin made dummy runs, both of which he ignored. When finally he was satisfied with all his computations, McAllister stepped up and curled the ball into the top left corner of Musselwhite's net from 25 yards.

Leeds seem determined to make life hard for themselves, having also come from behind in recent ties at Derby and Birmingham. Now, though, they are a 25-1 shot to win both pots at Wembley.

Port Vale (4-5-1): Musselwhite; Hill (Talbot, 68), Aspin, Griffiths, Tankard; McCarthy, Porter, Bogie, Walker, Guppy; Naylor (Mills, 55). Substitute not used: Foyle.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Radebe, Wetherall, Beesley, Worthington; Wallace (Gray, 76) Palmer, McAllister, Deane; Masinga (Brolin, h/t), Yeboah. Substitute not used: Bowman.

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

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