Wilkinson's style counsel

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 1 Wimbledon 1

A wry smile crossed the face of Howard Wilkinson when someone asked if he considered this to be a transitional season for Leeds United. It has become a bit of a euphemism, you see, like saying that your right- back is uncompromising when you really mean that he is a thug. A transitional season is one that starts out with big objectives but ends up going nowhere.

Leeds were never daft enough to think they would win the championship, but an extended run in the Uefa Cup and a League place high enough to qualify again were not regarded exactly as pie in the sky. Instead, having seen one ambition demolished by PSV Eindhoven, they approach the season's half-way point worryingly close to mid-table nothingness.

"We are trying to bring about a change at this place," the Leeds manager said, "but I've always been a realist: you've still got to win football matches... If you'd been here all of this season, you would have noticed the crowd's reaction when we make more than two passes, especially if those two are not towards the opponents' goal. They get a bit impatient."

There lies the problem that undermines Wilkinson's team: they are caught between two stools. In Tony Yeboah they have a striker to rank with the best in the country; in Tomas Brolin, once he has become fully acclimatised, a world-class foil; and, in Gary McAllister, a midfielder with the precious gift of vision. Yet still they are inclined to whack the ball forward and hope to pick up scraps.

On Saturday, enjoying the greater share of possession, they showed scarcely more imagination than their opponents, who rejoice in showing almost none at all. Leeds had more than 20 strikes at goal, but after Wimbledon had claimed a fourth-minute lead through Oyvind Leonhardsen and contented themselves thereafter with merely manning the barricades, who would not have done?

Yeboah brought a good stop from Paul Heald and flashed another shot narrowly wide, Gary Speed had a header kept out by a stunning reaction save and Rod Wallace had an injury-time header booted off the line; but only one chance went in, from Richard Jobson's instinctive shot with 14 minutes to go.

Wimbledon were more than happy. After draws against Middlesbrough and Newcastle this was "another magnificent performance" in the estimation of Joe Kinnear, their manager.

n Sam Hammam, the Wimbledon owner, has confirmed an approach by two businessmen who want to take the club to Cardiff. This follows speculation linking the club with a move to Dublin.

Goals: Leonhardsen (3) 1-0; Jobson (75) 1-1.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Pemberton, Wetherall, Jobson, Dorigo; Deane (Wallace, 69), Palmer, McAllister, Speed; Yeboah, Brolin. Substitutes not used: Couzens, Beeney (gk).

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Heald; Cunningham, Perry, Reeves, Kimble; Goodman, Earle, Leonhardsen; Harford (Gayle, 65), Holdsworth, Ekoku (Jones, 90). Substitute not used: Thorn.

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Leeds: Wetherall. Wimbledon: Ekoku, Holdsworth.

Man of the match: Heald.

Attendance: 27, 984.

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