By Andrew Butterwick
Hillsborough was the destination for our last away game of another hugely frustrating season. Dark clouds hung over South Yorkshire as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly headed down the M1 for the lunchtime kick off. There were no last minute withdrawals from the squad this week although none of the "sick note 6" were available for the clash with Sheff Wed but I don't think any of the 4,000 away fans heading for the Leppings Lane end could give a flying f***. They only want to see players who want to play for Leeds. The one's that don't know where the door is.
The minutes silence before the game for the 56 Bradford City fans who lost their lives in the Valley Parade fire 30 years ago took on a more poignant meaning as I stood in the very stand where 96 Liverpool fans also perished in tragic circumstances. Such sad memories of so many lives wasted unnecessarily.
Redfearn had switched back to the 4-5-1 formation with Billy Sharp making way for Barardi. The atmosphere inside the stadium was nicely warming up as our latest Yorkshire derby got under way. Leeds went oh so near in the first minute as Byram hassled the hesitant defence and slipped a sublime ball through to Mowatt as he strode into the box but Westwood spread himself to deny the young midfielder the opening goal and me £90 in winnings for the first goal scorer. Bastard! Leeds took inspiration from the early chance and took the game to the Owls. Murphy tried a shot which Westwood easily held whilst Lavery jinked into the Leeds box before curling his shot high into the Leeds fans behind Stuart Taylor's goal.
The frenetic start was littered with free kicks as you expect in a derby and Helan got the first yellow for the home side as he scythed down Byram 20 yards out. Right in Mowatt territory. Mowatt stepped up and struck his shot just the wrong side of Westwood's post as once again I sniffed the possibility of a successful bet. Leeds continued to have the better of a scrappy game as the away fans sang Neil Redfearn's name. Then just when everything was going well for Leeds we once again fell to the curse of the penalty. Byram tussled with Isgove in what seemed to be a good yard outside the area but the referee calmly pointed to the spot to outrage of the travelling fans. The fans outrage was nothing compared to Sol Bamba who went absolutely ballistic and had to be restrained by both sets of players. "he'll get a red for this" I wrongly commented to HC. Mcguire stepped up and dispatched the penalty with ease before goading the Leeds fans on his way to celebrate in front of the ecstatic Owls fans. 1.0 Wednesday.
The goal rattled Leeds and it was the Owls who were now pushing forward looking for a second as half time approached. Tom Lees sent a header goalwards but Taylor tipped the ball over for another corner just before the half time whistle. HT 1.0 Wednesday. The ever critical Leeds fans were not happy. "Morison's a waste of space" one assistant coach sat behind me declared before slating Redfearn's tactics from a half that we were on top up to the dubious penalty. Football is a funny old game at times.
Leeds recovered some composure after the break and started to test the Wednesday defence. Austin hit a shot into the ground and just past the post from a corner as Wednesday looked to hang onto what they had but on 55 minutes the away side got just what they deserved. With Aidey White warming up to replace Taylor the referee penalised Semedo for grappling Bamba on the edge of the box at a free kick. Leeds lined the ball up with both Murphy and Mowatt positioned to take the shot. Murphy strode forward and hammered the ball into the wall but the ball fell to Morison who tried a shot with legs flailing all around him from 8 yards.......the ball deflected onto the 6 yard line where Charlie Taylor toe poked the ball home to the delight of the travelling hordes. I could hear Noel Whelan shouting get innnnnnnnnnnnnn! along with 4,000 other passionate battle weary fans. 1.1 and definitely game on. Poor old Aidey White put his bib back on and slumped to the bench!
The game was now nip and tuck as both sides looked for a winner. Stevie May came on for the Owls and he escaped his markers to head wide from a dangerous cross. For a game with nothing to play for suddenly the tension levels were lifted. Billy Sharp entered the fray at the expense of Mowatt and immediately lifted the away side with a couple of niggling runs at the tiring home defence. Wednesday were starting to wilt and Leeds smelt blood. On 71 minutes Leeds broke quickly out of defence. Byram glided onto the ball on the half way and motored forward before releasing "waste of space" Morison with a defence splitting pass. The much maligned Leeds striker bore down on Westwood's goal with 4,000 fans trying to suck the ball into the net...............his first shot was saved but that didn't worry the Leeds forward he just picked up the rebound and dispatched it into the Owls net from a tight angle to give Leeds a 2.1 lead. The Leppings Lane end erupted with even Morison's harshest critic doing cartwheels behind me.
Leeds should have killed the game two minutes later when Morison broke away again but this time he chose to the pull the ball back to Taylor on the far post with Billy Sharp wide open on the penalty spot. A few nervy minutes later we were all celebrating a welcome victory as the ref blew his whistle to give the signal for about 1,000 riot police to trot across in front of the away fans to keep them off the pitch. Comical really especially when the Leeds players walked through them to throw their shirts to the crowd.
In the end a good win for Redfearn's men. Barardi had an excellent game at left back with Bamba and Cooper commanding the centre of the Leeds defence. The pitch wasn't the best and the ball spent a hell of a lot of time in the air so it won't go down in memory as a classic but it was a win. It seems inconceivable that Redfearn will be sacked after the Rotherham game next Saturday after all he's done to turn a season round that was heading for disaster as a result of the barmy decisions of our mad Italian owner but I fear this will be the unassuming Redfearn's last away game in charge. Absolutely ridiculous.
So another season of away games comes to an end. We've seen the highs of victories at Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Fulham and Boro mixed with the usual lows that we now accept as part of the membership of the LUFC family. As ever the travelling support has been phenomenal and I do wonder it would be like if we ever put up a real promotion challenge? Maybe next year?