Date: Tuesday, 14th April 2004.

Venue: Elland Road, Leeds.

Competition: English Premier League.

Score: Leeds United 1 Everton 1

Scorers: Leeds United: Milner. Everton: Rooney.

Attendance: 39,835.

Teams:

Leeds United: Robinson; Kelly, Caldwell, Duberry, Harte; Pennant, Radebe, Matteo, Milner; Smith, Viduka. Unused Subs: Barmby, Olembe, Lennon, Simon Johnson, Carson.

Everton: Martyn; Pistone, Yobo, Unsworth, Naysmith; Watson (McFadden), Graveson (Carsley), Linderoth (Nyarko), Kilbane; Rooney, Radzinski.Unused Subs: Hibbert, Wright.

Referee: Mr P. Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

 

Leeds Unitedís battle against relegation hit a Nigel Martyn-inspired brick wall at Elland Road on this night. The former United goalkeeper turned in a blinder for Everton to deny the hosts another valuable win in their fight against the drop. Nigel Martyn, who was deemed surplus to requirements at Elland Road the previous August, returned to haunt his old mates by pulling off save after save to put the brakes on their battle for Premiership survival. It was an heroic performance from the thirty-seven-year-old stopper and his former United team-mates were left cursing their luck after battering away at the Everton door for a full seventy minutes. The fact that he was beaten once, by a rare left-footed effort from James Milner, was justice, but he could not be undone twice and Leeds had to be content with a 1-1 draw.

Had points been awarded for effort and endeavour alone then United would have packed up and gone home long before the final whistle, safe in the knowledge that parity had been restored with Blackburn, Portsmouth and Manchester City. But it was not to be and Leeds now trailed their closest rivals by two points and had just five games to save their Premiership skins. It was clear that someone had not read the script properly over the Easter period. The 'great escape' feature which kicked into life with so much euphoria at Blackburn on the previous Saturday ended amid mixed emotions on this night. There were few qualms about the overall performance, a poor opening aside, but with both Blackburn and Portsmouth enjoying Easter Monday victories the onus was on United to keep the pace against Everton.

Eddie Gray had handed his side the challenge of winning their remaining home games, but they will now needed to take something more on their travels to stand any real chance of extending their stay in the top-flight. Gray pointed to the level of United's performance last night and insisted if they could maintain that over the next five games they had every chance of staying up. But consistency had been a problem and one could only hope it had not all come too late in the day for Leeds.

On the night they started like frightened rabbits and were a goal down, they should have been two, before they got to grips with Everton and battered them for the remainder of the contest. There were times when the quality was lacking but overall it was a great workmanlike display and had United won by four or five goals there would have been no complaints. Gray's gamble to play Lucas Radebe in midfield alongside Dominic Matteo worked well after a nervy opening and the two dropped anchor and allowed the wide men to prosper. Jermaine Pennant was a constant menace while James Milner buzzed around causing problems all night. In the middle Alan Smith and Mark Viduka shirked nothing and no-one left Elland Road feeling cheated by the effort or guts on show.

Everton were ripped to shreds for the biggest part but Nigel Martyn, their last line of defence, stood firm under the barrage and the visitors left with a point tucked under their belts. It could have been very different had Wayne Rooney not given Leeds such an early alarm call. There was only twelve minutes on the clock when the home-grown striker's low shot beat Paul Robinson to give his side the lead. The goal came from a scuffed corner and summed up United's opening to the game, sloppy and untidy. For the first fifteen minutes it looked like Saturday's super-human effort at Blackburn had taken its toll and the visitors tore into Leeds with unerring ease.

Everton should have had a second goal when Tomasz Radzinski hit the inside of the post, but Michael Duberry somehow prevented Wayne Rooney from forcing home the rebound from two yards out. It was a vital tackle by Duberry and one which changed the course of the game, as from then on Leeds dominated. James Milner was the first to be denied by Nigel Martyn when the former Leeds stopper atoned for a shocking clearance by somehow clawing his goal-bound shot away. How Martyn managed to get back and pull off such a save is a mystery; it was as good a stop as you will ever see.

He followed that with two superb saves to deny Alan Smith, one was pushed over the bar, and even then it looked like being his day. "Nigel, Nigel, give us a goal," begged the Kop, but the old favourite was not in charitable mood. Martyn started the second half by denying Mark Viduka, although there was little he could do moments later when James Milner tucked the ball into the far corner after a great run across the edge of the box. It was a goal that relieved the tension and Leeds were well poised to go on and make it three league wins in a row for the first time since Christmas 2002. But they had not banked on the unbeatable Nigel Martyn turning in such a strong display.He pulled off a block from point-blank range to deny Alan Smith and on the two occasions Mark Viduka appeared to have beaten him the ball was deflected away to safety by a team-mate.

As the clock ticked down and tiredness started to creep in, United threw everyone forward in the hope of snatching the win, but it was not to be. Everton substitute Alex Nyarko had one token shot at the Leeds goal, a harmless effort from thirty yards that merely served to remind Paul Robinson not to clock off early, and it was telling that the visitors only managed two efforts on target all night. But for all Everton's lack of chances, Leeds were still left counting the cost of two points missed rather than one gained.

The plus was they could now overtake Blackburn, Portsmouth and Man City with another win. That night's draw clawed back the point wiped out by their poor goal difference, but the down-side was that it was another game gone in the battle for survival. There were just five remaining then and Leeds knew they must win three of those if they were to survive. That run-in started away to Arsenal on the following Friday. No-one had given Leeds a hope in hell when they went there at the same time the previous season, but they achieved the unthinkable and won. What Eddie Gray and his troops would have given for a similar outcome that time around.

 

 

Match Action:

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† James Milner scores Unitedís goal

 

and celebrates†††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††before being joined by Mark Viduka, Dominic Matteo and Ian Harte

 

Nigel Martyn broke the hearts of the Leeds team and fans with some unbelievable saves

 

†††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Alan Smith battles with Nigel Martyn

 

††††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Alan Smith battles with David Unsworth

 

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Alan Smith takes on the combined strength of††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Michael Duberry gets his shot in despite the attention of Thomas Gravesen

Thomas Graveson, Joseph Yobo and Gary Naysmith

 

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††††† Dominic Matteo and Thomas Gravesen clash in midfield††††††††††††††††††††† Everton goal-scorer Wayne Rooney tries to get away from

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Jermaine Pennant

 

Alan Smith tries to get round Tobias Linderoth

 

Players:

 

James Milner equalised for Leeds after Wayne Rooney†††††††††††††††† Eddie Gray gambled by playing Lucas Radebe and Dominic Matteo in midfield

had put Everton in front††

 

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Jermaine Pennant was a constant menace†††††††††††††††††††††††† Alan Smith and Mark Viduka shirked nothing††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

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Michael Duberry made vital tackle Paul Robinson was beaten by Wayne Rooney ††Richard Wright and Tony Hibbert were the unused substitutes

 

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In goal Nigel Martyn was almost unbeatable††††††††††††††††† Alessandro Pistone and Gary Naysmith were the full-backs

 

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Joseph Yobo and David Unsworth were the central defenders†††††††††††††††† Wayne Rooney and Tomasz Radzinski were the strikers

 

Steve Watson, Thomas Gravesen, Tobias Linderoth and Kevin Kilbane started in midfield

 

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James McFadden, Alex Nyarko and Lee Carsley were the used substitutes††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††