Sheffield Wednesday captain Tom Lees makes his long-awaited return as Jordan Rhodes scores in Owls Under-23s draw with Burnley
Club captain Tom Lees has moved a step closer to a first-team return with a run-out for Sheffield Wednesday's Under-23s today.
The centre-half, fit-again following a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, played 61 minutes of the Owls' development squad's 1-1 draw with Burnley at Curzon Ashton.
Lees produced an assured display in his first outing since August 24. The 28-year-old has missed Wednesday's last 12 fixtures in all competitions.
Record-signing Jordan Rhodes, who has been frozen out in recent weeks, gave the Owls a first half lead with a typical poacher's strike. The £8m man completed the full match and will be hoping he did enough to force his way into manager Garry Monk's plans.
But they were denied a morale-boosting win after a 44th minute strike by Ali Koiki.
The hosts could have taken the lead in the second minute when Scott Wilson rose highest to meet Josh Benson's corner but the defender planted his bullet header over the top.
Shortly after Owls goalkeeper Josh Render was forced into action, making a routine save from Rob Harker after a peach of a delivery from the left by captain Anthony Glennon.
It took Wednesday until midway through the first half to have a sight at goal, Liam Waldock dragging a right foot drive from just outside the penalty area well wide of George McMahon's right hand upright.
Clarets defender Glennon became the first player to be yellow carded after a rash challenge on Jordan O'Brien.
Jordan Thorniley tried his luck just after the half hour mark with an audacious 35-yard half volley which was turned away by McMahon.
After Ali Koiki fired narrowly wide for the Clarets, the Owls came within a whisker of taking the lead. Liam Waldock sprayed the ball out wide to Conor Grant and he drove towards the byline before pulling the ball back for Liam Shaw, whose close range strike was cleared off the line by Wilson.
But their good spell of pressure duly paid off in the 36th minute when Rhodes fired home after lovely build up play involving Thorniley and Shaw.
However, Wednesday switched off before the interval and Burnley capitalised. Thorniley was caught in possession deep inside his own half by Tunde Bayode and the winger fizzed in a cross towards the back post and Koiki slid in to level things up.
The visitors made a change a half-time alteration, taking off full-back Ash Baker for Ben Hughes. Baker put in a tireless shift at right-back and was neat and tidy on the ball.
After O'Brien was forced off with a knock, Burnley should have taken the lead following a superb run and cross by Bayode but Harker blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
Lees' final act before being withdrawn was to expertly block Koiki's shot after the lively winger raced on to Ne-Jai's defence-splitting pass.
Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium for Wednesday in the second half but Waldock was denied by the agility of McMahon in the 70th minute as the contest petered out.
Owls: Render; Baker (Hughest HT), Lees (Lee 61), Thorniley, Uroghide; Hunt, Waldock, O'Brien, O'Brien (Preston 49), Shaw; Rhodes. Substitutes: Jackson, Borukov.