Humphreys makes Leeds suffer

Leeds United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2
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The Independent Online
Who needs to spend pounds 15m on a striker? They're a lot cannier than that in Yorkshire, and the Wednesday manager, David Pleat, saw his side go to the top of the Premiership for the first time thanks to a pair of Yorkshire lads who between them cost less than Alan Shearer's left boot.

Such is the galloping inflation of the transfer market that Pleat was accused of parsimony for breaching the million-pound barrier only once in the close season - splashing out a modest pounds 2.65m on Andy Booth. The former Huddersfield Town striker began making the repayments in the 89th minute of last night's derby.

But it is the exploits of his striking partner - who cost nothing - which will be warming the hearts of thrifty Sheffielders this morning. And just to add spice to the bargain, they pinched him from their neighbours, Sheffield United.

Ritchie Humphreys made just one first-team appearance last season, and finds himself in the side now only because David Hirst is again injured.

Born within a corner-kick of Bramall Lane, he attended the Blades' centre of excellence before Wednesday snaffled him at the age of 14. A crisp goal on Saturday against Aston Villa helped Wednesday to a winning start, and 15 minutes into this match he was on target again.

Lee Bowyer, one of five home debutants in the Leeds side, slipped on the treacherous surface as the football and monsoon seasons coincided in West Yorkshire. Wednesday's Dutch winger, Regi Blinker, whose touch and pace caught the eye more often than his expensive opposite number Lee Sharpe, found Humphreys, who finished calmly with an angled drive. Two out of two. Not bad for an 18-year-old local lad.

Leeds, in sharp contrast, had placed their faith in experienced imports. With Brian Deane injured in the opening game at Derby, Mark Hateley, on loan from Queen's Park Rangers, was hastily drafted in to partner Ian Rush in the Leeds attack.

With both of them now 34, these look like desperate measures to an increasingly restless Elland Road crowd, who saw no reason to change that view when the opportunity for an instant equaliser went begging as Rush struck a post with Kevin Pressman beaten.

Howard Wilkinson got a second chance to use the woodwork as mitigation when Bowyer chipped a shot on to the bar but, with grit more in evidence than polish, as it so often is in Yorkshire derbies, it was Wednesday who were the more abrasive. Dejan Stefanovic might have increased their advantage when his 20-yard drive was deflected on to the crossbar.

The stature of Rush and Hateley tempted Leeds into a series of floated crosses which the mobile Wednesday back four gratefully swallowed, and it was not until they started receiving the ball to feet that the thirtysomethings began to live up to their reputations. Hateley burst into the box to bring a good save from Pressman, and Rush's header brushed the bar from Bowyer's cross.

Sharpe, too, briefly showed his class with a dazzling run which took him past three tackles, but his angled drive hit the inside of the post and rebounded along the face of the goal to safety.

It was that sort of night for Leeds, and as they pushed forward desperately for an equaliser the inevitable sucker punch caught them on the chin. Again, it was Blinker who picked up the ball in midfield and his weighted pass sent Booth clear to tuck the ball past Nigel Martyn and increase the pressure on Howard Wilkinson.

Pleat praised his "unsung heroes who started their careers at small clubs. It was enough for many of them to have been in the same match as the likes of Ian Rush. To walk off as winners is a massive bonus."

Leeds United (3-5-2): Martyn; Jobson, Palmer, Radebe (Wetherall, 65); Kelly, Ford (Gray, 65), Sharpe, Bowyer, Harte; Rush, Hateley (Tinkler, 88). Substitutes not used: Wallace, Beeney (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Walker, Stefanovic, Nolan; Collins (Nicol, 86), Whittingham, Pembridge, Blinker; Humphreys (Hyde, 80), Booth. Substitutes not used: Clarke, Sheridan, Oakes.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

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