Speed delivers decisive strike

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The Independent Online

Notts County 2 Leeds United 3 (Leeds win 3-2 on aggregate)

Gary Speed's third goal of the season, a raking drive from 25 yards as the scoreboard reached the 90-minute mark, spared Leeds the indignity of being taken to extra time by a 10-man Second Division side at Meadow Lane last night.

Notts County, depleted on the hour by the dismissal of their captain, Gary Strodder, fell behind for the second time with 15 minutes remaining. Devon White equalised almost immediately, as he had done after Gary McAllister's early goal, and it was rough justice when Speed struck.

Strodder was not alone in relinquishing the armband. McAllister, hurt shortly before his goal in a strong challenge with Richard Walker, failed to appear for the second half. An ankle injury makes him doubtful for Scotland's friendly in Sweden next week.

Watched by Dick Advocaat, the manager of Leeds' next Uefa Cup opponents, PSV Eindhoven, McAllister had broken the deadlock after 19 minutes. Brian Deane glanced on Speed's throw-in, releasing the playmaker to advance and beat Darren Ward from 15 yards.

Ward's presence was a reminder of Leeds' wretched recent record in the competition. A year ago he kept two clean sheets as Mansfield put them out, and the spectre of a repeat loomed when County were awarded a 26th- minute penalty. David Wetherall impeded White, allowing the striker to score from the spot.

Strodder's second bookable offence, a foul on Tony Yeboah, handed the initiative to Leeds. When, after 73 minutes, Ward was beaten by a splendid half-volley from Andy Couzens - the 20-year-old's first senior goal - the game seemed to be up for County. White had other ideas. His bustling had already made a chance for Vinny Arkins, which John Lukic blocked desperately. Within 80 seconds of Couzens' goal, he exploited an error by Paul Beesley to drill his 13th goal of the season.

Inspite of Speed's face saver, Howard Wilkinson complained that Leeds had "defended like clowns". Advocaat, meanwhile, will have flown home entertained if not unduly worried.

Notts County (5-3-2): Ward; Short, Strodder, Murphy, Walker, Legg; Gallagher, Galloway, Agana; Arkins (Jemson, 71) White. Substitutes not used: Hunt, Hoyle.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Couzens, Kelly, Wetherall, Beesley; Palmer, Tinkler, McAllister (Wallace, h-t) Speed; Yeboah, Deane. Substitutes not used: Worthington, Masinga.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).