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Football: Mighty Whites are difficult to oppose.

Byline: PAUL JOHNSON

NINIAN PARK is one of the more hostile grounds in the lower leagues but Leeds have served their time in legendary venues like the San Siro and the Bernabeu and are fully expected to beat Cardiff in

an interesting FA Cup tie

tomorrow.

It was hard not to be impressed by the way Leeds shrugged off an extended

casualty list to beat West Ham 3-0 at Elland Road on Tuesday, even allowing for the visitors' slack defending in the opening seven minutes.

The Whites were strong in all areas of the pitch but it was the burgeoning understanding between Robbie Fowler and Mark Viduka that caught the eye. Both found the net, with Fowler's chip a masterpiece of quick thinking and improvisation. The Toxteth Terror is beginning to look an England striker once more, while Viduka's aerial ability, strength and deftness of touch continues to wow the Italian scouts as well as the Leeds supporters.

Cardiff find keeping a clean sheet next to impossible in the Second Division and have squandered countless points with their sloppy defending. Only the bottom three clubs and Chesterfield have conceded more frequently at home so, short of boarding up the goals, it is hard to see how manager Alan Cork can keep out the United attackers.

Leeds have been particularly hard hit by injuries to their midfield, so enormous credit is also due for those who occupied the rather makeshift engine room that stopped West Ham performing too many of their party pieces.

Cardiff can counter in this area with Graham Kavanagh and Jason Bowen but

they will struggle to get the better of old sweats like David Batty and Gary Kelly.

Alan Cork and Sam Hammam were brought up on the long ball game at Wimbledon and it's no surprise the Bluebirds possess a pair of giant strikers in Gavin Gordon and Leo Fortune-West.

Cardiff are synonymous with goals. Last term they scored more than anyone in England and Scotland and, although they have found life tougher one rung higher up the ladder this season, they have been shut out just twice in 30 competitive matches.

Leeds will need to win their battles before making their superior class count. They have enough steel in their ranks but a word of warning is in order: they have made the quarter-finals of this competition only twice in the last ten years and have turned in some inglorious performances against lesser lights along the way.

Recommendations

Leeds to win 3-1

2pts 9-1 (general)

Leeds to win 4-1

1pt 18-1 (Stan James)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2002
Words:428
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