Two goals in six second half minutes by Luke Varney against his former club brought Leeds United from behind to beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in the big Yorkshire derby at Elland Road.
The Whites were trailing to a Jermaine Johnson goal at the break and looked in danger of defeat in Brian McDermott’s first game as manager, but turned it round with a superb display in the second half after the new boss made changes.
McDermott’s decision to take off out of sorts striker Steve Morison after an hour and switch Varney from the flanks to centre-forward proved a masterstroke as within three minutes Varney headed home an equaliser and soon after was on target with another header to clinch a vital victory.
Leeds had to hang on in the closing stages with Steve Howard hitting the post for the Owls, but saw the game out for a win that can go a long way to ensuring safety from relegation.
United started the game in bright fashion, but struggled to create many clear chances. Varney and Rodolph Austin hit long range shots wide and Morison completely miskicked one opportunity in the box before Wednesday took the lead with their first effort on target.
Chris Kirkland’s long kick downfield was not dealt with, Leroy Lita flicked on and Jermaine Johnson took advantage of a flat footed Stephen Warnock - standing in at centre-back - to nip in and lob the ball over home keeper Paddy Kenny.
United looked to be robbed of a penalty moments later after Adam Drury appeared to be brought down by Stuart Holden in the box, but referee Neil Swarbrick awarded a free-kick. Ross McCormack took it and saw his goalbound striker cleared by defender Miguel Llera.
Jason Pearce should then have done better with a free header in the box as he sent a glancing header wide, but Wednesday created another chance when Lita’s effort had to be saved low down by Kenny.
Leeds threw on El Hadji Diouf for David Norris at the start of the second half with McCormack given a free role behind the strikers and they came out firing. Morison was presented with a great chance four minutes in when clean through only to take far too long and not even get a shot away.
The pressure was maintained and McCormack saw a shot well saved by Kirkland then Diouf with a volley and Varney with a shot saw their efforts deflected wide.
It looked like a goal had to come and so it did on 63 minutes as Varney’s powerful header was adjudged to have bounced over the line by a linesman.
United swarmed forward again and following a superb run and cross by McCormack it was that man Varney heading home once more. There was no doubt about this goal and it proved the winner.
Wednesday did put in a big finish as sub Howard sent a header wide then hit the woodwork with a well struck volley.
Kenny did well to keep out a Reda Johnson header from a corner, but could only breathe a sigh of relief seconds later as Lita rounded Warnock only to send his shot wide.
That was the last chance for either team despite a nervy finish and new Leeds boss McDermott showed his delight at the final whistle when hugging Neil Redfearn.
Leeds United 2
(Varney 63, 69)
Sheffield Wednesday 1
(J Johnson 27)
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Leeds: Kenny,Byram, Pearce, Warnock (Tonge 85), Drury, Norris (Diouf 45), Green, Austin, McCormack, Morison (White 60), Varney.
Wednesday: Kirkland, Buxton, Gardner, Llera, R Johnson, Holden (Maguire 72), Coke (Lee 45), Prutton, Helan, J Johnson (Howard 52), Lita.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.