Football: Wilkinson encounters entertaining problem

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Leeds United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

AFTER 90 minutes of passion laced with genuine quality, not to mention six goals equally shared, there was little danger of a queue for refunds at the Hillsborough ticket office. Here was football as unqualified entertainment.

But you just cannot please some people. 'I'm still not sure if I'm satisfied or disappointed,' Trevor Francis said, an hour after full- time. 'It would probably be the former . . . if we were higher up the table.'

The Sheffield Wednesday manager's counterpart was more sardonic still. 'If there were an award for 'entertainers of the year' we would win,' Howard Wilkinson wryly observed. 'It was good end- to-end stuff; you can't complain,' he added, but you knew that, in the dressing-room, he almost certainly had.

But the last few days have not been easy for the Leeds manager. Being a man of conviction is all very well, but only days after the contentious sale of David Batty to Blackburn tested his belief in running football as a business, here was another dilemma: do you play for thrills, or go for tedious one-nils?

A win here, however it were achieved, might have helped appease the pro-Batty faction, whose banners Wilkinson will doubtless see again. Leeds already have to go some if Manchester United are to be challenged and they know now that anything short of a serious assault on the title will bring the wrath of Elland Road upon them.

In truth, they may not miss Batty as much as the faithful believe. With the attacking runs of Gary Kelly at right-back now balancing Tony Dorigo's menacing raids on the left, and with David Rocastle returning to worthwhile form, Leeds threatened Wednesday on both flanks. They could have no more impressive playmaker than Gary McAllister and the presence of Chris Fairclough in the deeper midfield role made them look strong in all but the last line of outfield defence. Replace the ponderous Jon Newsome and Wilkinson's unit would be complete, more or less.

After two minutes, Newsome conceded the 20-yard free-kick with which Chris Waddle brilliantly opened the scoring and Wednesday's other goals each came along the central channel, Ryan Jones ranging up to head home Waddle's cross, Mark Bright sweeping in Des Walker's pass as the home side clinched a point in an eager late surge.

Therein lay Wilkinson's discontent, having seen Rocastle set up goals for Fairclough and Gary Speed either side of a cool piece of finishing by Rod Wallace, only for the lead to be wasted.

But Wednesday, who have slipped into the bottom three but surely will not stay long among the stragglers, did not deserve defeat. As Wilkinson would have to concede, that's entertainment . . .

Goals: Waddle (2) 1-0; Fairclough (42) 1-1; Jones (43) 2-1; Rod Wallace (57) 2-2; Speed (64) 2-3; Bright (69) 3-3.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nilsson, Walker, Pearce, Worthington; Waddle, Palmer, Jones, Sinton; Jemson (Sheridan, 84), Bright. Substitutes not used: Williams, Woods (gk).

Leeds United (4-1-3-2): Beeney; Kelly, Wetherall, Newsome, Dorigo; Fairclough; Speed, McAllister, Rocastle (Hodge, 79); Deane, Rod Wallace. Substitutes not used: Strandli, Lukic (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

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