POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Leeds

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Leeds

Sheffield Wednesday versus Leeds United at Hillsborough – perhaps the stand-out fixture many Wednesdayites were looking out for last summer.

It’s certainly a fixture with recent history: a 6-2 home win in 1995, a 1-6 reverse three years previously in Leeds’ title winning year, last year’s pulsating game and all the furore that surrounded it.

I was sure given the entertaining encounters both home and away since our second tier return that this tradition would continue.

Belting weather on the quick drive over further raised my mood despite the early kick-off.

And then, the quick one-two hit me.

Sky cameras.

The pre-match entertainment has proved a bit of a jinx at S6 this season

The pre-match entertainment has proved a bit of a jinx at S6 this season

The Sheffield Wednesday Community Dance Troupe.

Everyone on the North was muttering the usual ‘oh we don’t win when we’re on Sky.’

And before Saturday we’d seen three wins at Hillsborough this season – the three times the Dance Troupe have been absent. Alarm bells.

The line-up didn’t really help matters. I was worried about Leeds’ midfield and thought our 4-4-2 might give them too much space to work the ball in front of our back four.

Miguel Llera was at the heart of the Owls’ defence and again this had me worried; the big Spaniard is prone to the odd mistake…

Aside from that things looked promising: Chris Maguire has been superb since returning from Coventry; Liam Palmer has put in a series of assured performances at right-back; and Connor Wickham was back alongside Atdhe Nuhiu – now known on Row 5 of the North as ‘Dave’.

As for Leeds, new signings Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe went straight into their XI on the left and right flanks respectively.

THE MATCH

Despite the cock-up from Shaun the stadium announcer – sorry Shaun, you do a grand job – who politely informed us that the teams were entering the field just as the game kicked off (not quite) the atmosphere was bubbling nicely.

Paddy Kenny received his usual welcome as he took to the Leppings Lane goal, Leeds got their first rendition of that horrible, horrible ‘Marching on Together’ dirge out the way, ‘Hi Ho SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY!’ was belted out by three sides of Hillsborough and we were ready.

What was immediately apparent was just how disjointed and awkward Leeds looked.

Without possession they failed to get stuck into Wednesday who played some lovely triangles on the right, while Jacques Maghoma and REDA motored down the left.

With possession they played nicely into the Owls’ hands by lumping the ball forward aimlessly, giving Ross McCormack no chance.

Oh, hang on – McCormack’s just picked up the ball on the right, skinned Llera and gone clean through.

The headwear may have gone but Miguel Llera remains a liability in the Owls defence

The headwear may have gone but Miguel Llera remains a liability in the Owls defence

Llera takes a yellow card after pulling the Leeds man back. 80 minutes to play against one of the division’s top marksmen on a yellow card.

Top stuff from Big Mig.

Fortunately this gives rise to Leeds’ best and only chance – a Kebe free kick is met by the head of Alex Pearce who guides his attempt several yards wide.

And breathe.

It was now the turn of Wednesday to create the chances.

We were playing the ball about well and forcing Leeds to back-peddle: first Wickham sent Maghoma through one-on-one only for him to perform his best Paul Alcock impression, and then the roles were reversed as Maghoma turned provider, sliding a ball through only for Wickham to fire just wide.

The pressure was mounting and goal number one came soon after.

A Maguire free-kick was cleared straight to Kieran Lee who, instead of firing a shot in as he was encouraged to, chipped a delicious ball over to REDA who somewhat untidily found the back of the net as Leeds looked for an offside.

This was the first of many wonderful moments – the entire XI seemed to celebrate with Reda in front of the North Stand (Leeds’ defenders are still looking for that flag) and we’re going FOOKING BARMY!

Khal Drogo, on loan from Dothraki United, doubled Wednesday's lead

Khal Drogo, on loan from Dothraki United, doubled Wednesday’s lead

Atdhe Nuhiu ran straight in front of us on the way back to his mark and turned to give some more fist pumps and screams – the big lad certainly knows how to work the crowd and we were loving it… (For Game of Thrones viewers – he is Khal Drogo’s double, isn’t he?!)

If Leeds looked poor before the goal they looked woeful now; even more aimless stuff and Wednesday really began to grab the game by the nads.

Jose Semedo was everywhere, Rodolph Austin was absent like the rest of the Leeds midfield I was so worried about beforehand… How wrong I was!

More chances followed for the Owls, a Connor Wickham free-kick was spooned over and Chris Maguire was unlucky with a daisy cutter after good work from the aforementioned Sunderland loanee.

Wickham was to be involved too in Wednesday’s second.

Picking the ball up midway in Wednesday’s half after a wonderful interception from REDA (if you’ve cottoned on – I always capitalise REDA as anything less wouldn’t befit the stature of the man), Wickham drove forward and played a lovely little ball into Kieran Lee, who unselfishly squared for Dave to tap home.

Pandemonium.

Some of Nuhiu’s faces now simply weren’t human, I was all over the place too – somehow managing to perform a wonderful nonchalant chip of my discarded pie tray into the hood of the little girl sat in front of me (she didn’t notice, but if you’re reading now, I hope the chicken balti aroma didn’t linger too long).

2-0!

Wednesday fans may not have spotted Rodolph Austin as he spent all 90 minutes in Jose Semedo's pocket

Wednesday fans may not have spotted Rodolph Austin as he spent all 90 minutes in Jose Semedo’s pocket

Two-chuffing-nil, and we deserved too.

Even a third before half-time wouldn’t have flattered us as that man Lee (again) set Palmer through this time, but the impressive S6 graduate couldn’t quite find the right side of Kenny’s near post.

I’ve always liked Liam Palmer and I’m glad he’s had the chance this year, his quality on the ball has never been in doubt, but he’d recently taken some criticism for his defensive work.

Not today – he was superb and beat Cameron Stewart to everything.

After the Macclesfield debacle this first half performance was exactly the tonic required; lovely passing both on the deck and over the top, overlapping fullbacks, triangles around the Leeds midfield, chances, goals and a quiet away end.

HALF TIME – SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 2-0 LEEDS UNITED

Less than 90 seconds after the restart – Wednesday kickingtowards the Kop this time – the second half had its first talking point.

Matt Smith, on for Tom Lees, clatters into REDA straight in front of me, and everyone around is up, shouting obscenities at the Leeds forward.

Matt Smith, on loan from Time Lord Town, took the instructions to shoulder his responsibility far too literally

Matt Smith, on loan from Time Lord Town, took the instructions to shoulder his responsibility far too literally

I was watching the ball and only saw a coming together.

But that didn’t stop me from rising to my feet and perform my usual struggle to get words out:

“SMITH – YA…YA… (really struggling to think here) YA… TWONK!”

‘Twonk?’ Really?

The North Stand jury though were already sentencing the Leeds forward: Smith’s shoulder, elbow, knee, head and foot had all caught the Benin international, apparently.

And so too thought Mr Probert – to an extent – who gave Smith the earliest of early baths.

2-0 and playing 10 men, this really was uncharted territory for Wednesday this season.

Leeds looked even more flat now if that was possible, hardly chasing a game that was obviously beyond them.

More good football, and Wednesday added a third for only the second time this season.

Maghoma cut inside off the Wednesday right and fed Wickham, whose cheeky return back-heel became a pass to himself, allowing him to round two Leeds defenders and fire in off Paddy Kenny’s near post.

The Kop was truly bouncing now:

IF YOU DON’T…

OLE OLE, OLE OLE, ALL WEDNESDAY AREN’T WE, ALL WEDNESDAY AREN’T WE, OLE OLE…

The Leeds contingent, on the other hand, was somewhat muted:

AND IT’S ALL GONE QUIET OVER THERE…

Shortly followed by the most rousing rendition of ‘WHO ARE YA?’ I’ve seen for many-a-moon at S6.

This was now over as a contest and I, like every other Wednesdayite, was simply savouring the atmosphere.

Any win over a rival is one to savour – any win at all has been a joyous occasion this term – but 3-0! Chuff me!

The shellshocked Leeds players didn't know what had hit them...and there was still half an hour left!

The shellshocked Leeds players didn’t know what had hit them…and there was still half an hour left!

The next moment of note was the introduction of Caolan Lavery, or at the time, the removal of Dave.

As you can probably tell through my somewhat affectionate naming of the big man, Nuhiu is one I’ve taken to this season and was chuffed for him to receive a standing ovation.

Often heavily criticised by Wednesdayites, I think he’s a real handful for Championship defenders and creates lots of space for wingers and strike partners to work in.

If (a BIG if) he can add goals to his game, we’ve got a player on our hands, as far as I’m concerned.

I was looking forward to seeing Lavery too.

Having seen him impress for the under-21s a couple of times, and having heard glowing reports from Plymouth Argyle fans after his recent loan stint, I was hoping he might grab one to really cap off an excellent afternoon.

Meanwhile Leeds’ Jimmy Kebe was replaced by another promising young player in Sam Byram.

It had been a difficult debut for the Palace loanee, who had looked off the pace, lethargic and was outmuscled by REDA.

It may have taken a huge deflection but a delighted Chris Maguire didn't care one jot!

It may have taken a huge deflection but a delighted Chris Maguire didn’t care one jot!

Moments later – FOUR.

Jacques Maghoma had won a free-kick around twenty yards out after some nifty footwork outwitted the hapless Austin.

Chris Maguire struck one straight into the wall – it took a big deflection (off Austin) to wrong-foot Kenny who was on his backside watching the ball trickle over the line.

More pandemonium, more singing and bouncing and more taunting of the good natured Leeds fans, who sang:

4-0 AND YOU STILL DON’T SING, 4-0… (wasn’t really true)

The reply from the North Stand:

4-0, WE DON’T NEED TO SING, 4-0…

Then the usual from Leppings Lane: HOW SH*T MUST YOU BE? IT’S ONLY 4-0; and WE’RE GONNA WIN 5-4!

20-odd-thousand Wednesdayites were loving this and wanting more, baying for more Leeds blood, with 25 minutes still left on the clock.

Our football was absolutely outstanding (although it was against ten men, this didn’t really matter) and the cries of OLE, OLE started around three sides of Hillsborough.

Immense: Jose Semedo reminded us all why he became such a cult hero during the promotion campaign

Immense: Jose Semedo reminded us all why he became such a cult hero during the promotion campaign

Particularly impressive were Palmer and Lee, whose short passing kept Wednesday ticking over; Maguire and Maghoma, whose driving runs created problems for the Leeds defence all afternoon; and Semedo, who simply left everything on the turf.

He must have been absolutely ruined after that performance.

The Portuguese midfielder has recently reverted to the player that was so monumental in the 2011/12 promotion campaign: organising the entire midfield, playing a simple passing game well, and of course letting absolutely NOTHING get past him.

Soon, things began to get really funny.

Marius Žaliūkas, who’d been given the run-around all afternoon by Wickham, Nuhiu and Maghoma, was now being tormented by Caolan Lavery.

The diminutive Northern Irishman picked up the ball on half-way, turning the Leeds back line inside and out, a couple of step-overs and a cut inside before tucking the ball back across goal, off the post, and IN!

FIVE! FIVE! LEEDS! FIVE!

His celebration may need some work but Caolan Lavery announced himself on the Hillsborough stage with a quick-fire brace

His celebration may need some work but Caolan Lavery announced himself on the Hillsborough stage with a quick-fire brace

I was absolutely chuffed for the young forward, his first goal for the club to put us five up against Leeds, in front of the Kop.

It doesn’t really get much better, does it?

Hang on – it does!

10 minutes later and with just about the last kick of the game, Lavery doubles his tally after another mistake by Žaliūkas, moving the ball onto his right and curling a beauty into the bottom corner!

Shame about the celebration, Caolan.

More laughing, more singing, more bouncing, more Leeds taunting, more shouts of ‘HAVE IT!’ from yours truly (I don’t know either)!

FULL TIME: SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 6-0 LEEDS UNITED (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CLUB, DON’T YOU KNOW)

CUE THE SUPERLATIVES:

The best Owls performance for years.

Yes, Leeds were absolutely appalling for all but a small 10 minute spell between goals one and two.

Yes, they were down to ten men for half the game.

BUT STILL, the passing, movement, finishing, defensive work when necessary, wing play, GOALS made this a joy to watch, and twinned with the atmosphere of a bouncing Hillsborough: perhaps one of my top three days at Hillsborough in 15 years.

This is the reason why we put ourselves through 5-1 defeats to Stevenage, why we pump cash we could arguably spend better elsewhere into the club, for days like this: now it all seems worth it.

It could have been 10. Seriously.

Jermaine Johnson rattled post before Lavery’s second, Palmer skewed wide on 45’, Maghoma’s fall when clean through, Maguire and Maghoma both tested Kenny during the first half.

And breathe.

Kieran Lee was given the man of the match award and you really couldn’t fault this choice, the lad was everywhere.

Nipping and intercepting, forming those lovely triangles on the right, defending when necessary, and the two delicious passes for our first two goals.

A wonderful display.

Kieran Lee took the plaudits from teammates and fans alike for a majestic display

Kieran Lee took the plaudits from teammates and fans alike for a majestic display

Savour this Owls fans – it’s one to remember.

Give it to every Leeds fan you know, and then again.

And get yourselves down to Hillsborough in midweek to support the Owls as they attempt to book a place in Round Four of the FA Cup against Macclesfield.

Let’s all hope for a convincing display and a few more goals for Caolan Lavery to savour.

Up the Owls.

Hugh
Owls Alive
Twitter: @owlsalive @hugh_wragg
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com


4 Comments

  1. Yeah. Brilliant Owls. 6 out of 8 shots including a deflection went in against a counterattacking 10 men, who should have been 11. Shit, shit, shit. But luckilliy, what goes around comes around.

    • Yeh, what comes around, maybe Leeds should have played Becchio in the net as he got his hand to more shots last yeay than Paddy did on Saturday Just saying!

  2. Anyone smell sour grapes?

    Just asking.

    • I don’t know what Mark was expecting…

      It was the ‘Brilliant Owls’ I’m afraid Mark, by many Leeds fan’s own admission.

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