Painter puts Leeds on the canvas

Leeds United 2 Darlington 2
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The Independent Online
A fresh start at Elland Road, but familiar failings for Leeds. Two goals by a revitalised Rod Wallace looked set to kick-start the George Graham era with a win in last night's Coca-Cola Cup second-round match, but they were twice pegged back by Darlington and face a fraught second leg on Third Division territory next Tuesday.

A small minority among the 16,000 crowd booed Leeds off, proving that their side's slapdash defending is not the only habit that dies hard. Graham must have been mortified by Darlington's first equaliser, when Darren Roberts profited from the kind of flawed offside trap he would never have tolerated at Arsenal.

The visitors' second, from Robbie Painter, had an air of inevitability about it. After all, Leeds' record in this competition is not a source of pride. Prior to their humiliating defeat by Aston Villa in the final last March, the likes of Oxford, Watford and Mansfield had all put them out in the previous five years.

Afterwards, Graham was asked whether a draw with a team 61 places below them indicated that rebuilding Leeds would be more difficult than he had anticipated on succeeding Howard Wilkinson last week. "Yes, I think it will be harder and it will take longer than I expected,'' he said. "It was an improvement on our defeat at Coventry, though we still looked vulnerable when the opposition had the ball.''

Graham added: "There's a lot of work to be done, on the training ground and in the treatment room, but believe me it will be done. It's always difficult when you're putting in a lot of young squad players. It's just a pity they're not coming into a nice, settled team. They're looking around and seeing lads as young as themselves rather than experienced senior players.''

With the on-loan Mark Hateley joining a long casualty list, Graham switched Wallace to the front line. He responded with a display full of running and invention, richly deserving of his first goals since February. But Ian Rush spurned several chances to claim the goal he needs to equal Geoff Hurst's League Cup record of 49.

Compared with their start at Coventry, when they were ahead in 51 seconds, Leeds were almost sluggish in capitalising on a bright start. Rush ballooned over from four yards after an Andy Couzens cross, and they had to wait until the 15th minute for the breakthrough.

Lee Sharpe, at 25 the old man of midfield, set up Wallace 15 yards out. A curling shot gave Paul Newell no chance. However, Darlington's brisk counter-attacking earned its reward five minutes from half time, even if Roberts looked offside when he converted Anthony Carss' pass.

Rush had an overhead kick cleared off the line by Brian Atkinson before Leeds regained the initiative early in the second half. Gary Kelly's pass was glanced on by Rush to Wallace, who beat Newell with an angled shot from eight yards.

Painter's introduction put the writing on the wall for Leeds. Gary Twynham sent the substitute clear with 17 minutes remaining, and he rounded Nigel Martyn before scoring. On Saturday, Graham's testing return continues at home to another useful outfit from the North-east, Newcastle. "It's not easy," he said with a smile, "but it beats being unemployed.''

Leeds United (4-4-2) Martyn; G Kelly, Wetherall, Jobson, Harte; Gray (Blunt, 82), Couzens, Ford, Sharpe; Wallace, Rush. Substitutes not used: Radebe, Beeney (gk).

Darlington (4-4-2): Newell; Brumwell, Crosby, Gregan, Barnard; Twynham (Brydon, 82), Atkinson, Oliver, Carss; Blake (Painter, 67), Roberts. Substitute not used: R Kelly.

Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt, Herts).

More reports, results, page 27

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