DERBY rivals Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday head into Saturday’s lunch-time derby at Elland Road with contrasting emotions following dramatic midweek draws this week.
Leeds were left licking their wounds after a late two-goal blast in an unlikely denouement which enabled hosts Bristol City to claim a fortuitous point in a 2-2 draw at Ashton Gate, thanks to last-gasp goals from Kieran Agard and Aden Flint.
Wednesday, meanwhile, were the beneficiaries of a huge slice of luck on a night when they turned in an abject performance against Reading - with a late howler from Royals keeper Jonathan Bond presenting substitute Modou Sougou with a gift-wrapped leveller in a 1-1 draw.
Here are five things we have learned heading into Saturday’s big Yorkshire derby.
1: Late goals are hurting Leeds.
After Sam Vokes’ leveller four minutes from time to earn Burnley a point in United’s 1-1 opening-day draw at Elland Road, the two concessions in the 89th minute and 95th minute at Bristol City were far more grievous wounds. All three goals have cost United the equivalent of four points - they would be joint top with Ipswich Town, Hull City and Brighton if they had kept the back door shut. It’s early days, but it is a still alarming trend with Leeds having failed to hold onto leads in three of their four matches so far this term in all competitions. If Leeds concede a costly late goal on Saturday, then the issue is likely to become a real worry and the alarm bells will be really reverberating.
2: Wednesday are still very much a work in progress.
After the optimism of their free-flowing attacking displays against Bristol City and Mansfield and the spirit that they showed in a narrow defeat at Portman Road, Wednesday hit the wall against Reading. It wasn’t a case of one or two having an off-day, but virtually the whole outfield line-up in a poor performance, which saw the hosts bailed out thanks to a late gaffe from Bond. Not sure what the Portuguese is for ‘get out of jail’ card, but Wednesday got one. While Carlos Carvalhal did not directly allude to the Owls being lucky - which they were - he will know that his side need to sharpen up massively for Saturday. In that respect, a high-octane derby may not be too bad a thing.
3: Some selection posers for the Owls.
With captain Glenn Loovens likely to be struggling after hobbling off in the first half of Wednesday’s draw with Reading, Wednesday have a possible issue at centre-back, with his replacement Vincent Sasso not exactly convincing when he came on. The Owls lacked leadership at the back, with regular number one Keiren Westwood also sidelined with bruised kidneys. The Owls kept 17 clean sheets in the league last term, but weren’t convincing at the back on Wednesday night, particularly in the second half. It is an area where Leeds may feel they can exploit. The performance of sub Sougou, a rare chink of light on an abject night for the Owls, will have also given Carvalhal food for thought further forward.
4: Chris Wood is up and running - and for that he will be grateful.
In the cold light of day, while late events at Ashton Gate were a blow in the solar plexus for Leeds, a big positive arrived in a first competitive goal for the club from Chris Wood. With a big price tag on his shoulders following his summer arrival, Wood’s strike in the West Country will have lifted a bit of pressure going into Saturday’s big televised derby. For strikers, goals pay the rent after all and forwards live or die by them - as Wood well knows. The fact that he and Mirco Antenucci caused problems aplenty for the Robins back four should ensure that the pair of them head into the Owls clash with plenty of confidence - on a night when both found the net.
5: Will Alex Mowatt be restored to the starting line-up?
The Doncaster lad was rested and had to settle for a place on the bench at Ashton Gate before coming on in the 65th minute - and it will be interesting to see if he returns to the Leeds starting line-up at the weekend. Uwe Rosler has obviously alluded to United’s packed schedule so far this season in freshening up his side in the early weeks of the season and a recall for Mowatt is a strong possibility. Games between Leeds and the Owls have been tight affairs at Elland Road in recent season and with Mowatt’s goalscoring nous, he represents a possible code-breaker amid the derby morass.