Match report: Leeds United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1

One up for Wednesday as in-form Jermaine Johnson  lobs home his fourth goal in three starts
One up for Wednesday as in-form Jermaine Johnson lobs home his fourth goal in three starts
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Now is not the time for Wednesday to be lapsing into defensive bad old ways.

They go to Blackpool tomorrow with a chance to show that the slip-ups at Leeds were not a sign they are reverting to the habits that were a key element in their early-season troubles.

Dave Jones, displeased with the way Luke Varney was allowed two free headers, would prefer to think that defeat in Saturday’s Yorkshire derby was a mere blip in the club’s extensive revival.

“We have to make sure at Blackpool that we eradicate the mistakes that we made,” he says.

“We can’t afford to go back to the old ways that we we showed at the start of the season. The players worked so hard to stop that over the the last few months, but this time, in a 15-minute spell that probably cost us the game, one or two of them switched off.”

Although he was in contact with the dug-out via a microphone, he admits that he was a frustrated figure in the stand, beginning his two-match touchline ban, as the Owls faltered in that vital second-half period.

Jones said: “I got more and more agitated. One, we should stop the cross; two, we shouldn’t allow someone two free headers.

“He’s not the biggest player on the pitch, either. We also had chances that we should have put away.”

There had been little warning of the calamity that was to come.

The Owls led from the 27th minute with a sweetly taken goal by Jermaine Johnson, who ran on to an assist from Jeremy Helan and lobbed home his fourth in three starts.

In a fairly even and typically derby-style first half the Owls gave away too many free kicks in their own half, which allowed Leeds to get balls into their box, albeit to little effect. Yet there was one chance when centre half Jason Pearce was permitted a free header from a free kick, which he glanced wide.

When a good run and pass from JJ set up a half-chance for Leroy Lita just before half time which brought a simple save from Paddy Kenny, it was to be Johnson’s last notable contribution.

He had to go off with a knee problem in the 53rd minute: enter Steve Howard, a sturdy competitor who could have ended up a hero. but the loss of JJ’s pace and capacity to run in behind the defence was a blow.

The Owls also had to reorganise at half time, with Giles Coke injured, Stuart Holden moving into the centre and Kieran Lee coming on to the right flank.

But there was no simple explanation for the way the team lost their grip from the start of the second half. “We stopped playing, really; we stopped hurting them,” admitted Jones.

Leeds threw men forward, played with spirit and tempo, and there was one great save from Chris Kirkland followed by goal-saving challenges from Anthony Gardner and Reda Johnson.

It was no real surprise when the equaliser came. Varney’s header came down off the bar and bounced out but to the unaided eye there was little doubt that it had crossed the line.

The former Owls loan striker ran in between Lewis Buxton and Miguel Llera to connect with the cross. For the second goal six minutes later, he got in front of Llera to make the most of a similar ball from the right.

Brian McDermott also made changes from half time and there was some useful inter-changing between his forwards, Varney among them.

Wednesday conceded in the wins against Blackburn and Millwall but this time could not find the finishing to serve as adequate compensation. They also missed the imposing presence in central midfield of Seyi Olofinjana, who is seeing a specialist about a knee problem - not good news, with only four games left.

Jones indicated that it was not yet known how long Olofinjana, Johnson and Coke would be out.

He also said: “JJ took a bang on the knee fairly early. When we came out (for the second half) he was struggling with it. We said ‘see how far you can go’. Unfortunately he couldn’t carry on.

“We were going to give Cokey an injection, but then thought we’d get as many fit players as possible out there.”

After they had gone a goal behind, Wednesday roused themselves.

In pressure during the last 20 minutes, sub Chris Maguire, the match-winner at Millwall, made an effort by Buxton that was scrambled away, and set up a powerfully struck volley by Howard: it looked from my viewpoint as if it was going in but it bounced away off the outside of a post. The striker was THAT close to headlines and his first goal for Wednesday, in the 81st minute.

Jones thrust Reda Johnson up front in the dying stages, with Helan dropping to left back, and the extra centre forward went close to a goal in a goalmouth scramble.

When Leroy Lita dragged an opportunity wide from the edge of the box in the 83rd minute, it seemed that it was just not the Owls’ day.

At least it seemed a trouble-free occasion inside the stadium, though predictably there were some abusive chants about Jones from those who ignored appeals from their own club for decency.

The Owls’ 3,000 followers were kept behind afterwards until long after home areas had cleared, no doubt to reduce the potential for confrontation, regardless of who the instigators might be.

“We want to go home,” sang Wednesday fans as they waited to leave. But it’s back on the road tomorrow as the Owls look to bounce back.