Football: VID ELBOW'S A TEL BLOW!; Gillingham 1leeds 1

The People (London, England), January 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

Football: VID ELBOW'S A TEL BLOW!; Gillingham 1leeds 1


Byline: Paul McCARTHY

FROM THE moment he sat down, the message couldn't have been spelt out any clearer to Terry Venables.

There, just 70 yards away, the writing was on the wall. Well, not quite the wall but the advertising hoardings directly opposite the away dug-out.

One for the Samaritans, another for vasectomies on the internet.

The fact he avoided the need for a telephone call to the first and escaped from the Priestfield Stadium with everything intact, including his reputation, will offer at least some comfort in this most miserable of weeks.

Then again, when Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale reflects on how well Lucas Radebe and Dominic Matteo coped against the kind of up-and-at-'em style with which Gillingham tried to rattle their illustrious visitors, it will surely set the seal on Jonathan Woodgate's inevitable departure.

Nobody saw Ridsdale's reaction when Gillingham equalised, but no doubt a smile of satisfaction played at the corners of his mouth as he reflected on the extra revenue an FA Cup replay brings in. At least that should keep the wolves from the door for another couple of weeks.

That's all there was to smile about from a match which threatened to spark into any kind of life only when Mark Viduka smashed his elbow into Andy Hessenthaler's face.

Suddenly Gillingham, from feeling sorry for themselves after Alan Smith's beautifully struck free-kick looked like sending them out, woke up and realised there were 10 minutes to give it the gun.

Within a minute of Viduka disappearing down the tunnel, Paul Shaw swung a ball in from the left, and a touch took it through to Mamady 'Big Mama' Sidibe who found his footing for the first time to beat Paul Robinson and set up a replay which they only just deserved.

It was tough on the central defensive pairing of Radebe and Matteo and the magnificent Smith who reigned supreme while too many of their team-mates tip-toed around.

The vivid red mark over Hessenthaler's right eye was about the only impact Viduka made on the game. His Aussie colleague, Harry Kewell, was guilty of something equally grotesque when he squandered the chance to put this game well beyond Gillingham's reach.

Reading the bounce ahead of Barry Ashby, Kewell latched onto Robinson's booming clearance, danced round the Gills defender and put keeper Jason Brown on his backside before lazily lashing the ball high into the crowd.

If Gillingham escaped with their lives, they didn't capitalise on it or even show the kind of frenzied desire needed to really rattle upper-class opponents.

Sure, they worked hard enough in the first 10 minutes, with Sidibe and Guy Ipoua all muscular aggression and determination.

Yet once Radebe and Matteo got the measure of them, realising they had no idea other than the straightforward, this should have been bread-and-butter stuff even for a side suffering from the kind of fragility that too often plagues Leeds.

Hessenthaler did his best to inspire and cajole, even indulging in a bout of amateur dramatics when he and Viduka clashed, but Gillingham never rose above the mundane. Much the same could be said about Leeds. Smith apart, there was nothing approaching inspiration from anybody and it said everything about their performance that Smith's goal was a single-handed effort. …

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