Match Report: Leeds United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Kamil Zayatte celebrates with Owls team mates after scoring at Leeds
Kamil Zayatte celebrates with Owls team mates after scoring at Leeds
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Dave Jones still regards, in a tongue-in-cheek way, the handball by Luciano Becchio at Hillsborough last season as one of the best saves he has seen.

The then Leeds striker dived full length to prevent a probable Wednesday goal.

Saturday brought another 1-1 draw between the teams, another handball controversy, and the Owls again were unlucky to be denied an extra goal.

Even if the handball by centre half Jason Pearce was unintentional and unworthy of punishment, it still may well have robbed Wednesday of a 2-1 win.

Until the ball struck him, it was going in the air and sideways towards Reda Johnson, who is deadly with headers from close range.

A block from left back Stephen Warnock had stopped Jacques Maghoma’s shot from going directly into the net; the ball then bounced up and hit Pearce.

Wednesday were unfairly denied two penalties at QPR, so Jones’ frustration at Elland Road was understandable.

I usually have sympathy with defenders when the ball flies straight at them and a penalty is given though they cannot get out of the way. But initially I thought it was a definite penalty on Saturday; Pearce was in front of goal with his arm in the air.

Even closer examination showed that he seemed to scoop the ball down with his arm, but that the contact may still have been unintentional. Jones’ immediate reaction: “He saved it. It doesn’t matter if it’s unintentional. If it’s going into the net and hits him, it’s a penalty. It’s not that it hit him on the arm: he dragged it down.

“The only good thing is that when we claimed for it, we didn’t get booked for simulation!”

Another point to make is that handball penalties are sometimes given even in cases where the defender can do little about it.

It was another battling display by Wednesday and another to suggest that there is a foundation on which they can build.

Lewis Buxton, though short of match practice and feeling drained at the end, brought his pace and defensive instincts to the right-back spot.

Johnson, during his 25-minute outing as a sub, sometimes seemed to be playing left wing or centre-forward! It was a reminder of what a threat he can be. He still almost forced the ball home in the split second after the ‘handball’ incident. When he went forward, Jeremy Helan covered at left back.

At centre half, Kamil Zayatte had his best game yet, showing pretty good pace, and strength in the air and on the deck, plus of course he steered home a nice header for his first goal for the club, after Michail Antonio had headed back Helan’s corner.

Jones felt that Zayatte was too easily beaten in Ross McCormack’s run for goal. But the striker’s movement was exceptional and would have outfoxed many a defender, and his finish was of the clinical sort that Wednesday need from their forwards.

The Owls boss judged that possession had been lost by “messing about” with the ball in midfield. In a tight corner, Giles Coke played a short, accurate pass to Atdhe Nuhiu, the striker’s lay-off to Antonio was slightly inaccurate, the No 7 had to stretch to play the ball and it went to Leeds.

An intense, sometimes scrappy contest was just about edged by Wednesday with a familiar blend of spirit, organisation and commitment, and they had some near misses.

At first sight it seemed like a clean header by Nuhiu that flew straight at Paddy Kenny from a corner by Chris Maguire in the 22nd minute. Replays suggested the forward did not quite make proper contact and the ball bounced goalwards off the head of right back Lee Peltier.

Four minutes after that, Liam Palmer, instead of shooting from a narrow angle, might have looked up and seen Maguire approaching the box to his left (and out of shot of the TV camera).

In first-half stoppage time, a Maguire corner made a free header at the far post for Antonio, who, perhaps distracted by two opponents right in front of him, mis-timed his effort wide.

A great ball by Johnson down the line made a second-half chance for Antonio, who cut in and forced a good save from Kenny; and Maghoma did well to spin and shoot in the ‘penalty’ incident.

Leeds had fewer chances but enjoyed spells of pressure and were a threat while they had McCormack, who played behind a front two: he tested Chris Kirkland with a classy chip from just outside the area.

Maguire, on only his second league start for the club, worked hard, as always, and delivered those chance-making corners yet came up against firm defending, as did Nuhiu, who did not get the crosses that Jones wants for him.

The manager - on his 57th birthday - showed a determination to win the game by sending on Johnson, pushing Helan forward to the left wing and replacing Maguire with Antonio up front, then putting Maghoma on as striker in an all-pace partnership, with Nuhiu taken off.

David Prutton made a midfield impact throughout with his tenacity and work-rate.

Jones said: “It was a hard-fought point, and an important one. We defended stoutly, were strong, caused them problems, certainly when the game opened up and we changed it round a bit. With a bit more luck, and more care, we might have won.”