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The BBC's Ian Brown
"They were equally adept at digging in deep"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 10:40 GMT
Leeds deny Southall fairytale return

Bridges has now scored 16 Premiership goals
Bradford 1-2 Leeds

Veteran goalkeeper Neville Southall conceded two goals in his surprise return to top flight football as Leeds inflicted a rare home defeat on Bradford City.

Southall's ageing defences were breached twice by Michael Bridges and though Peter Beagrie found the net with a late 25-yarder, Bradford were well beaten.

Match facts
12 mins: Bridges scrambles home the opening goal
63 mins: Bridges makes it 2-0
74 mins: Beagrie pulls one back for Bradford
They may be third from the bottom of the Premiership, but this was Bradford's first defeat at Valley Parade for five months.

Second-placed Leeds reduced the gap on leaders Manchester United to four points.

Southall was making his first appearance in the Premiership since his Everton career came to an end at Goodison Park on November 29 1997.

In the intervening two years the Welshman has played for Southend, Stoke and Torquay United as well as engaging in a brief flirtation with the job of Wales manager.

Now goalkeeping coach at Bradford, the 41-year-old stepped in to solve something of crisis at the club.


Southall: Now the third-oldest player to have appeared in the top flight
With goalkeeper Matt Clarke and Gary Walsh out injured, Bradford had taken Sheffield United's Aidan Davison on loan with a view to a permanent deal.

But the clubs failed to agree terms leaving Southall as the only option between the posts.

Two years may have passed - and several more pounds been gained by the burly Welshman - but he was not to blame when Leeds took the lead after 12 minutes.

Left-back Ian Harte sent a looping diagonal free-kick to the far post and it found Bridges who muscled David Wetherall out of the way to direct the ball in with his thigh.

There was less than 15 minutes played by the Yorkshire side were already well into the stride and more goals seemed a certainty.

But when Alan Smith, up front in place of the suspended Harry Kewell, squandered a delightful cross from the hard-working Stephen McPhail, they lost their poise.


Captain Lucas Radebe was as solid as ever
The chances dried up and as the half drew to a close, Bradford believed they should have had a penalty as Harte bundled down veteran striker Dean Saunders.

Saunders rarely had a sniff of goal but his good-running and positional awareness still tested Leeds centre-backs Lucas Radebe and Alfie Haaland.

Haaland's somewhat brutal containment policy saw him booked but by a large the pair were impassable at the back.

So though Leeds attack went off the boil, Bradford could muster little in response.

Leeds did not have Kewell to turn up the heat as he did so dramatically in midweek when their Uefa Cup clash against Roma entered a lull.

Golden oldies
Stanley Matthews
for Stoke in 1965, aged 50 yrs and 5 days
John Burridge
for Man City in 1995, aged 43 yrs and 5 months
Neville Southall
for Bradford in 2000, aged 41 yrs and 7 months
Steve Ogrizovic
for Coventry in 1999, aged 41 yrs and 3 months
Gordon Strachan
for Coventry in 1997, aged 40 yrs and 4 months


And had it not been for a rush of blood to the head of Southall, they might not have scored another.

Harte's cross seemed innocuous but when Smith dummied to shoot at the near post, it caused havoc.

Southall rushed out somewhat needlessly to the feet of Jason Wilcox and with the net unguarded save for two City defenders, Bridges walked in his 15th of the season.

Bradford rely on a growing contingent of veterans and it was one of the old timers who gave them hope with fifteen minutes remaining.

Picking the ball up a good 25 yards out, former Everton midfielder Peter Beagrie let loose a dipping drive which flew past Nigel Martyn.

Beagrie let rip with one of his trademark backflips but further celebrations were not forthcoming.

Dean Windass squandered the best chance of the game when he allowed his shot to be blocked by Harte.

And George Cadete wasted a chance when he opted to pass inside instead of having a crack at goal.

Martyn was lucky not to penalised when he kicked the Portugese striker in the head as he made a sliding attempt to win the ball.

Teams:

Bradford: Southall, McCall, Wetherall, Lawrence, Whalley, Beagrie, O'Brien, Windass, Halle, Jacobs, Saunders. Subs: Taylor, Blake, Sharpe, Dreyer, Cadete.

Leeds: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Haaland, Radebe, Bridges, Bowyer, McPhail, Wilcox, Smith, Bakke. Subs: Robinson, Hopkin, Huckerby, Duberry, Maybury.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset)
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See also:

12 Mar 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Gunners go down at The Riverside
12 Mar 00 | Scottish Premier
Rangers preserve double dream
03 Feb 00 | News
Time's up for Southall
Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.