Football: Wilkinson receives welcome cheer

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The Independent Online
Leeds United. . . . . 3

Sheffield Wednesday. .1

LEEDS UNITED came through comfortably enough in the end and, given their recent traumas, their manager Howard Wilkinson must have been pleased with this win over his former team. However, Wednesday, too, have lost their way of late, and such was the fragmentary nature of their game that Leeds will not be lured into believing their troubles are over.

Leeds, who had only one win from their previous 10 matches, restored Chris Whyte, following injury, to the heart of their defence and prudently deployed Gordon Strachan on the right, where he is potentially more potent. They persisted with their offside ploy and Chris Waddle almost embarrassed their square back-line when he darted wide on the left and crossed low into the heart of the area. Gary Speed rescued his team and soon threatened Wednesday's goal as his header, from Tony Dorigo's free- kick, dropped beyond the far post.

Strachan's cross invited Chris Fairclough to join the Leeds attack and his volley was saved by Chris Woods. The England goalkeeper had a simpler task collecting Lee Chapman's shot.

Just when it seemed Leeds' play had gone sterile, they went ahead, albeit with the assistance of a breakdown in communications in Wednesday's defence. Strachan's quick free-kick, after 32 minutes, should have been dealt with but Nigel Pearson, presumably unaware of Woods' advance towards the edge of his area, attempted to head clear.

Instead the ball hovered for Speed to head forward and neither defender nor goalkeeper could back-track in time to retrieve the situation.

Wednesday had offered little by way of genuine creativity. However, in the 37th minute they equalised, again the goal arriving with considerable help from the opposition. Roland Nilsson cut in from the right and his shot clipped Whyte to beat John Lukic, who was hopelessly committed on the wrong foot.

Strachan underscored the value of simple right-wing play to present Chapman with Leeds' second goal in the 47th minute. He danced outside John Harkes and Nigel Worthington, floated his cross to the near-post and Chapman, unattended, gratefully headed past the exposed Woods.

Harkes had the opportunity to make amends when he galloped through barely a minute later. To the dismay of his colleagues he steered his shot off target.

Twice in two minutes Wednesday might have had a second equaliser. Bright's header could not quite turn in Nilsson's cross from the right and Harkes shot wide from Carlton Palmer's diagonal pass.

Imre Varadi was introduced against one of his former clubs in the 77th minute, and celebrated a goal within two minutes. He failed to make contact with Strachan's centre but the ball broke to Speed, who drilled it back low and hard. Varadi claimed a final touch as it whipped past Woods.

Leeds United: J Lukic; J Newsome, T Dorigo, D Rocastle (S Hodge, 86 min), C Fairclough, C Whyte, G Strachan, Rod Wallace (I Varadi, 77 min), L Chapman, G McAllister, G Speed. Sub not used: M Day (gk). Manager: H Wilkinson.

Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, N Worthington, C Palmer, N Pearson, P Warhurst, J Harkes, C Waddle, (C Bart-Williams, 86 min), D Hirst, M Bright, J Sheridan, Subs not used: G Watson, K Pressman (gk). Player-manager: T Francis.

Referee: I Borrett (Harleston, Norfolk).

Goals: Speed (1-0, 32 min), Nilsson (1-1, 37 min), Chapman (2-1, 47 min), Varadi (3-1, 79 min).