Leeds 3-0 Wednesday
21/01/06 - 15:00
Finishing was the difference in the Yorkshire derby as Leeds took all three points thanks to three goals in the final twenty minutes, which left the Owls feeling hard done by. Captain Paul Butler headed what proved to be the crucial first goal on 70 minutes, before ex-Owl Richard Cresswell wrapped up the victory with two more strikes.
Owls boss Paul Sturrock stuck with the same side that beat Leicester City last weekend. Patrick Collins won a place on the subs bench after his loan spell with Swindon Town, but there was no place for fit-again Steve Maclean and Drew Talbot, who are not being risked by Sturrock. Nicky Weaver played his final game in an Owls shirt as his loan spell from Manchester City ended after the match.
Leeds were missing key defender Matthew Kilgallon after the York-born defender picked up a knock against Wigan in midweek. Eddie Lewis and Liam Miller passed late fitness tests after also picking up knocks against the Latics. Former Owl Richard Cresswell partnered Robbie Blake in attack.
The hosts were desperate to a make amends for the league defeat at Brighton last weekend, and also for the reverse fixture at Hillsborough where Wednesday ran out 1-0 winners.
Just two minutes in to the game John Hills cleared a Sean Gregan effort off the line after an early Leeds corner, and was a sign of things to come in the next 88 minutes.
Leeds were forcing Wednesday back in to their own half but the back line was coping well with anything that was thrown at them. Much like the Hillsborough leg, they were having lots of possession but were creating very little in front of goal.
At the other end Wednesday did have some chances. Some neat interplay between Brunt and Tudgay saw Brunt launch a 25-yard shot straight in to Derry - who was getting a fair amount of stick from the 3300 travelling barmy army for wearing black tights throughout the match. Peter Gilbert also had a looping header cleared behind from Stephen Crainey.
Five minutes before the break Leeds nearly broke the deadlock through an unlikely source. Sean Gregan found himself unmarked in the Wednesday box but his shot was blazed over the crossbar and in to the Wednesday fans behind the goal.
As the second half commenced Wednesday were seeing more of the ball than they had done in the first half - but managed to do little with it. Signs were showing that the Leeds team were feeling the effects of the 120 minutes they played against Wigan in midweek.
Robbie Blake wasn't at his best, and was replaced just after the hour mark with Northern Ireland internation David Healy. If only Wednesday had similar resources to the Whites, then they might be further up the table.
Just after Healy's arrival though, Wednesday thought they'd broke the deadlock through Graham Coughlan. Brunt's corner met the head of Irishman, and Sullivan in the Leeds goal was unable to hold the ball. Coughlan and the travelling Wednesday fans all thought the ball had crossed the line, but the linesmas signalled that he didn't think it was over. Funnily enough, the large scoreboard which had been showing replays throughout the match failed to show one this time around, and the decision was to prove costly to the Owls.
Just seven minutes later the breakthrough came from a Paul Butler header. Kelly's cross found the head of Butler who headed it back accross goal, and it looked like Nicky Weaver was going to clear the danger. Instead Douglas whipped the ball back in and Butler made no mistake at the second time of asking.
Paul Sturrock tried two changes in a bid to turn the game back in to Wednesday's favour. Richie Partridge came on to replace the dissapointing Glenn Whelen. The Irish under-21 international has found it difficult in recent week's, and Sturrock needs to get an experienced head in the midfield if we are to stay in this division. Marcus Tudgay was also replaced by ex-Leeds youth Barry Corr.
The changes did nothing though, and Leeds made the game secure minutes later when former Owls player Richard Cresswell scored a bullet header from a Gary Kelly corner. The goal came after Cresswell's marker Richard Wood was being treated for an injury, and Cresswell made the most of his opportunity to the delight of the Leeds fans.
With Wednesday going all out in the final few minutes to try and salvage something from the game, the hosts hit Wednesday with an undeserved third in injury time, again through Cresswell.
Substitute Simon Walton broke forward and delivered a pin-point ball for Cresswell to smash home and make it 3-0 - a harsh scoreline on the Owls.
The 3-0 scoreline flattered Leeds, who didn't look like a team pushing for promotion back to the Premiership. The finishing - and a dodgy linesman - was the difference in this Yorkshire derby.
Paul Sturrock needs to forget about signing a defender or a striker and focus his mind on an experienced centre midfield player who can pull the team together. Glenn Whelen is definately a player for the future, but is not fit to lead the team in this relegation battle. His positioning - and in particular his passing skills - are not yet good enough for this level of football, and he plays in a key role. Dennis Wise has just moved to Coventry City and they have just thumped Derby County 6-1. Someone like Wise, or indeed Kevin Horlock who has been told he can leave Ipswich Town, would do wonders for the team, and would also help Whelen develop in to the kind of player we need.
With an experienced midfielder in place, and the return of Steve Maclean coming shortly, we would then have in place a quality spine - which every football team needs. It's good news then, that we have 10 days until our next vital match at home to Luton Town - so we'll hopefully see some new faces in the squad by then.
Despite the 3-0 scoreline the defence didn't play that badly - but they were facing a tough Leeds frontline - a frontline that boasts David Healy on the Leeds bench. It would have been easy to pick Graham Coughlan, but I've gone for John Hills this week, after many good performances along the midfield.
His energy and stamina levels were exceptional, and everyone needs to give 110% like Hills if we are to survive this season. Maybe Hils could play in midfield in place of O'Brien, and Richie Partridge could be given a chance on the wing - with Brunt playing in his most influential position on the left wing.
Paul Sturrock told the SWFC site:
''The first goal was key to the game. The corner that could, might, and should have been in would have put us 1-0 up and totally changed the complexion of the game.''
''It will be hard to swallow for the fans. They were fantastic again and 3-0 against one of your deadliest rivals is not nice. But I think anyone at the football game would accept that 3-0 is a bit harsh.''
Kevin Blackwell told BBC Sport:
'The three points were vital and I felt we looked a strong team and showed no signs of tiredness from the Wigan game.
'I thought 3-0 was fair and am pleased with the attitude of the players.'