Leeds owed the three points more to the fragility of the Wednesday goalkeeper, Kevin Pressman, than to any great prowess of their own. Pressman, often a tower of strength for his team, went a long way towards deciding this undistinguished contest by twice proving weak and ineffectual under pressure.
The first instance gave Leeds an equaliser they scarcely deserved towards the end of a first half during which Wednesday had been marginally the better of two poor sides.
Any home score seemed likely to come from a freak or an aberration and there was a little of each in this, Martin Hiden sending a huge throw into the area and Pressman, with David Wetherall in close attendance, only sending it out for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to volley it home and break his recent goal famine.
The second blot on his afternoon came on the hour when David Hopkins' long corner found the 18-year-old defender, Jonathan Woodgate, beyond the far post. His gently looping header should have presented few problems, but Pressman, hip to hip with the Leeds substitute, Clyde Wijnhard, failed to get off the ground to pick it off as it floated in just under the crossbar.
"The first goal was a mistake from the goalkeeper, but for the second he was impeded," said the Wednesday manager, Danny Wilson. "I also felt we should have had a penalty. In all honesty, I think the referee will be embarrassed when he sees that one again. There were 30,000 people in the ground who saw it, but the man who mattered didn't."
Wilson praised his players for not getting themselves booked by trying to change Keith Burge's mind over the incident five minutes from time when Andy Booth did indeed seem to go over the outstretched leg of Ian Harte.
"But to say I'm disappointed is putting it mildly, because we definitely deserved to go away with something today," he said.
When Booth broke an eight-month, 18-game horror run without a goal in the third minute, Wilson and Wednesday must have thought that their luck had changed. Booth, vilified by some Wednesday supporters during his long barren spell, rose impressively through a disorganised Leeds defence to head home Danny Sonner's corner and could have had another with an equally powerful header from Andy Hinchcliffe's cross two minutes later.
Leeds struggled for any sort of rhythm and only the occasional spark from Lee Bowyer in midfield and the odd muscular foray from Hasselbaink suggest that they could begin to make up for their Uefa Cup exit.
"We got the luck and they didn't; it's as simple as that," said a commendably honest O'Leary about his first Premiership win as Leeds manager.
"We rode our luck today. We've played a lot better than that and not got a win. We were a bit better in the second half, but we couldn't sink much lower than we were in the first."
O'Leary was equally honest about what he termed the "blatant penalty" that Wednesday should have had.
"We got lucky," he said. "And you need luck in football."
He also needs better players, because he knows that the Leeds team he has inherited is not good enough to get lucky on a regular basis.
With Lucas Radebe missing from the heart of their defence, they looked insecure even against a strike force of such modest scoring power as Booth and Ritchie Humphreys.
There is too little variation in midfield and Hasselbaink, if he is to start scoring regularly again, badly needs someone to hold the ball up for him.
"We've got to get players in," O'Leary said. "But it's not just about money. The clubs that have those good players don't want to let them go."
Plus, although he did not say it, the evidence seems to be that not many players are falling over themselves to come to Elland Road either. Win or no win, there was nothing in yesterday's display to change any minds.
Goals: Booth (3) 0-1; Hasselbaink (40) 1-1; Woodgate (61) 2-1.
Leeds United: (4-4-2): Martyn; Hiden, Wetherall (Wijnhard, h-t), Molenaar, Woodgate; Bowyer, Hopkin, McPhail (Haaland, 74), Harte; Hasselbaink, Kewell. Substitutes not used: Ribeiro, Halle, Robinson (gk).
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Thome, Walker, Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson, Sonner, Jonk (Magilton, 67), Rudi; Booth, Humphreys (Newsome, 78). Substitutes not used: Sanetti, Briscoe, Clarke (gk).
Referee: K Burge (Mid-Glamorgan)
Bookings: Leeds: Harte, Bowyer. Wednesday: Jonk.
Man of the match: Boyer.
Attendance: 30,012.Reuse content