Kyle Bartley paid tribute to a goalkeeper who was “proving how good he is” and a striker he admitted he “wouldn’t want to play against” after Rob Green and Chris Wood inspired Leeds United to a derby victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
Leeds took the honours from a tight meeting between two clubs with an eye on promotion on Saturday as Wood’s first-half finish and a brilliant penalty save from Green secured a 1-0 win at Elland Road.
Wood found the net on 24 minutes, the forward’s 20th league goal of the season and his 23rd in all competitions, and Green protected United’s lead with a brilliant reaction to repel a penalty from Jordan Rhodes 10 minutes after half-time.
Rhodes spurned the chance to equalise after Souleymane Doukara was penalised for a foul on Sam Hutchinson, denied by Green diving to his left and pushing the ball onto a post.
Green, who turned 37 last month, has endured pockets of criticism during his first season with Leeds but Bartley credited the England international with helping to guide United through a mixed spell of recent form and keep their play-off bid on course.
“Greeny’s really come into his own in the last month or six weeks,” the centre-back said. “He’s been a great voice and his experience has shone through. I think he’s proving how good he is. From where I was it looked like a really good save. It looked like it was right in the corner.”
Leeds, who were level on points with Sheffield Wednesday before Saturday’s fixture, have opened up an eight-point advantage over Fulham in seventh with 12 games to play.
Wood’s form has been instrumental in maintaining the club’s push for promotion and the striker came good again with a sharp effort after Wednesday defender Vincent Sasso failed to deal with a cross from Gaetano Berardi.
Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal has invested heavily in attacking players, including a deal to sign Rhodes on loan from Middlesbrough last month, but Bartley helped to stifle the Scotland international and Italian forward Fernando Forestieri. Carvalhal’s late introduction of Steven Fletcher failed to force a draw.
Bartley insisted that Wednesday’s array of forwards would struggle to oust Wood from Leeds’ line-up, saying: “He’s up there with the very best (in the Championship). You see it week-in, week-out – he’s bullying centre-halves and he’s an absolute nightmare for them. I certainly wouldn’t want to play against him.
“He’s scored a lot of goals and he’s massively important for us, not just with his goals but with his all-round play and how he leads from the front. He gives everyone a great lift.” Wood is the only member of Garry Monk’s squad on double figures this season and the former Leicester City player has accounted for almost half of United’s Championship goals.
But Bartley denied that Leeds were unduly reliant on him, saying: “I don’t think he’s all we’ve got (in attack). I just think Woody has just made that spot his own and credit to him. He can’t get comfortable and he knows the gaffer won’t take any nonsense. If he’s not performing or if he has a game or two where he’s not on it then the gaffer won’t be afraid to make a big decision and pull him out of the team. But he’s a great lad and I’m sure he’ll keep performing.”