By Andrew Butterwick
The early kick off meant a dash from London for yours truly but thanks to East Coast mainline I arrived in LS11 just in time for latest Yorkshire derby with Sheff Wed. Once again Darko's team selection raised a few eyebrows amongst the home fans in a crowd of 24,000. Berardi in for Cooper at left back and Austin in for Cook were the changes from Wednesday's starting eleven. Warnock must have really pissed Cellino off if the right footed red card liability Berardi is in front of him in the current pecking order for the left back berth. Sharp remained on the bench.
Tom Lees had recovered from his injury to start for the visitors as the game got underway in front of an expectant and boisterous crowd if not a rather disappointing number of away fans. I suppose Sheffield is a long way away though?
The new central midfield pairing of Mowatt and Austin were soon to the fore as Leeds looked to take an early advantage. Crisp passing through the middle released Antenuci who was too illusive for the the Wednesday back four as they resorted to a body check to stop him. Mowatt hit the free kick over Westwood's bar. This was a more positive Leeds team than the one that stuttered against Reading as first Mowatt and then Doukara broke the visitors back line with diagonal runs into the box but neither could finish. Austin who was revelling his central role then stunned Westwood with a rasping 30 yard shot that the agile keeper acrobatically tipped over the bar. This was the type of attacking play the home fans were yearning for as the decibel level rose another notch. Silvetsri was relatively quiet but was pleased to see a header from Nuhiu miss when the Wednesday player should have hit the target.
Chances continued to come Leeds way with the excellent Bianchi at the heart of most of the good moves but a combination of Antenucci being offside and the impressive Westwood in the Wednesday goal kept the score goalless as the game approached half time. Steve May so nearly made Leeds pay for their generosity in front of goal when he rose to steer a superb cross inches wide of Silvestri's post. Antenucci did have the ball in the net before the half finished but inevitably he was flagged for offside. HT 0.0.
The urinal philosophers were a happy bunch at half time. "We're looking good" "It's only a matter of time before we score" were a couple of the positive comments emanating from the Gents mixed with one fan who was clearly frustrated with Antenucci's numerous runs into offside territory, "I bet that Antenuci is offside when he's having a shower" he moaned. All in all lots of positives from the half with Bellusci and Bianchi oozing confidence on the ball. Just a pity Westwood was in such good form.
Leeds started the 2nd half with a bang as Antenucci latched onto a poor pass back to lob Westwood only to see his goalbound shot cleared off the line. Minutes later he was denied again by Westwood as he smothered a searching through ball from Murphy, who had replaced Sloth at half time. I could feel a goal coming but whilst my premonition was correct it was at the wrong end of the pitch. Leeds lost the ball in midfield and suddenly were exposed at the back. Maghoma broke onto a through ball before turning back to Maguire on the edge of the box who drilled a perfect shot past Silvetsri into the bottom corner of the net. Leeds didn't deserve to be behind but they were. 1.0 Wednesday.
The Leeds response was swift though. Antenuci breached the Wednesday back four only to see Westwood pull off another brilliant save to deny the equaliser. Next the Leeds centre forward was wriggling into the box and shooting inches wide. It felt like it just wasn't going to be Antenuci's day. The home crowd stayed with the team though and urged them on for the equaliser. The big pairing of Madine and May nearly carved out a fatal 2nd goal for the South Yorkshire outfit but the shot crept inches wide. The game started to become very niggily as Wednesday fought literally to defend their lead which produced a flurry of yellow cards from the referee. Berardi and Bellusci typically responded in kind giving rise to lot's of predictions for a third red for our Swiss right cum left back.
Just when it looked as if Wednesday were going to complete the classic smash and grab victory the peerless Bellusci came to the West Yorkshire team's rescue. First he won yet another free kick as he glided forward and then expertly side footed the ball into the net through a melee of players from the free kick. Get innnnnnnnnnn! 1.1. Leeds were now surging forward. Morison joined Sharp in place of Doukara and Antenuci respectively as Darko's men looked for the winner. Despite 5 minutes of added time the game ended all square at 1.1. A cracking game though with Westwood gaining all the plaudits for an impressive display between the Wednesday sticks. For Leeds Bellusci was nothing short of brilliant as he gave an accomplished display of ball playing defending as you are likely to see this season. With a bit more luck in front of goal Leeds would have won comfortably but all credit to Westwood in the Wednesday goal.
Darko will have been pleased more with the performance than the result as he tries to mould the team into his style of play. The majority of fans streaming down Elland Road were pleased with what they'd seen. Alright we should have finished better in front of goal and there was the usual clamour for Adryan to have a run but there certainly weren't any complaints from this fan with the passing game that we are currently executing. Last year's hoof and hope strategy is a distant memory. If we carry on like this things can only get better on Planet Leeds.
The international break will give Darko a bit more time to work with the team before yet another derby this time against Rotherham United. A certain Leeds fan was today predicting that it won't be long before we give somebody a "reet good spanking" Be afraid Rotherham be very afraid it could be you!