Deane happy to see the end

 

THE CONCEPT of understating matters is one embraced by all but the most naive of football managers, something which made all the more refreshing Joe Royle's almost painful honesty.

"I have seen worse games but, yes, it was dour," he said commendably making no attempt at all to convince anyone that the sow's ear had resembled a silk purse.

The hardy souls who follow Leeds United have seen worse games, too - plenty of them of late, in fact. As George Graham hoovered up crumbs of comfort afterwards, the Yorkshire faithful headed home, feet frozen, wallets empty but, significantly, faith partially restored.

A sixth clean sheet in seven games had provided further proof that their team can, after all, defend with robust efficiency.

They score infrequently but until such time as Graham's side start to look forwards with optimism rather than gazing backwards in fear, that will remain something of an irrelevance.

Leeds would actually have won a dull game with something to spare had Bryan Deane not spent the entire afternoon trying to play himself out of a job.

As Deane missed a succession of relatively simple chances, Tony Yeboah sat just a few yards away, restored to full health and understandably bemused at his failure to win an immediate recall to a team which has managed just 15 goals in 18 League fixtures this season.

"To be honest, I was never tempted to put Tony on," said Graham. "We have been doing well and if a side is playing with confidence then the players stay in. It is then up to those others on the outside to try and force their way in."

It is possible that Yeboah will, in fact, force his way in against Coventry City on St Stephen's Day for even the unswervingly loyal Graham may find it rather difficult to stand by Deane after a late miss which would have made even a schoolboy-striker blush.

Barely two minutes remained when Unsworth's clumsy clearance landed at the feet of Rush inside the Everton penalty area.

Rush snatched at the chance but rarely has a mishit shot proved to be so fortuitous. It rolled straight in front of Deane who was arriving, fast and unannounced, at the back post.

Just one yard from goal he could not miss. But, he did, striking wood with a quite wretched finish.

Afterwards, Royle was no longer talking championships, just common sense. "All the stars were defenders today" he said. "It was a game we could definitely have lost but at least we got a point out of it. It looked like it was going to be tight from the first minute; it almost seemed destined to end goalless."