Leeds United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Wind-up merchant Maguire eyes revival with Owls

Striker Stevie May leaps onto the back of Chris Maguire
Striker Stevie May leaps onto the back of Chris Maguire
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NINTH place and a return of 17 points from 11 games.

To most Championship clubs, heading into the second international break of a season with such a record would be viewed as steady rather than spectacular.

For Sheffield Wednesday, however, their current standing represents a major step forward after reaching the October hiatus in each of the last two campaigns dumped in the relegation zone.

Credit, therefore, is due to Stuart Gray, the unassuming Wednesday manager who has overseen such a dramatic upturn in fortune at Hillsborough – they had just one win from 16 games when Dave Jones left last November – that supporters no longer see a Premier League return as the unattainable goal it once seemed.

A promotion push may be beyond the Owls this term, as the current squad, for all the great strides made under Gray, lacks that little bit of quality required truly to thrive at this level.

But there can be little doubt that Wednesday are moving in the right direction once again, as Chris Maguire is the first to admit.

“We have to be pleased with how things are going,” said the Owls’ goalscorer in a sometimes fiery derby draw with Leeds United.

“We are on a great run and have only been beaten twice in our first 11 games. The main thing is we are picking points up most weeks. It takes us closer to those teams above us.

“Against Leeds, we weren’t at our best and, in the first half, our ‘keeper kept us in it. Kieren (Westwood) has been brilliant all season. He has kept us in five or six games, not just the Leeds one.

“Maybe Kieren deserved to be on the winning side but we got a point and didn’t lose. We will come back after the break and look to push on.”

Maguire’s praise for Westwood was richly deserved, the Owls goalkeeper pulling off four fantastic saves to deny Leeds at vital moments in the match.

The first came after 14 minutes, Westwood racing from his line to bravely block Alex Mowatt’s shot after the teenager had latched on to a delightful through ball from Tomasso Bianchi.

His next – and perhaps the best of the lot – followed just four minutes later, as Rodolph Austin hit a 35-yard shot that looked destined for the top of the net until Westwood managed to get enough on the exocet missile of an effort to touch the ball over the crossbar.

Westwood’s double save together with a glaring miss at the other end by Stevie May on the stroke of half-time meant the two sides went in level at the break.

That parity remained intact for just seven minutes after the restart due to Maguire breaking the deadlock for the visitors with a drilled shot that followed Jacques Maghoma tricking his way past Giuseppe Bellusci out wide.

By then, though, Westwood had pulled off another wonder save to deny Mirco Antenucci with an outstretched leg as the Italian burst clear.

The Owls goalkeeper then repeated the trick a couple of minutes after Maguire’s opener with a one-handed save to keep out Antenucci once again.

As the 1,213 fans who had travelled up the M1 from Sheffield hailed the summer signing from Sunderland for the umpteenth time, it looked like being one of those days for Leeds.

That feeling grew as tempers flared during a madcap six minutes around the mid-point of the second half that saw no less than five players booked.

Eventually, though, play settled down again and salvation finally arrived for United with 10 minutes remaining.

Mowatt’s free-kick created the initial danger and after Glenn Loovens had only been able to partially clear, the ball fell to Bellusci and he stroked the ball through a melee of bodies in a manner more expected of a midfield playmaker than a centre-back.

That set up a frantic finale but, despite Gary Madine and Jeremy Helan threatening for Wednesday and Austin going close for the home side, there were to be no more goals as honours finished even.

“I enjoyed the game even though we didn’t get the three points,” said Maguire, who had angered the home fans after celebrating his goal in front of the Gelderd End.

“Once you get in front, you think you will get the three points but, unluckily for us, they got the equaliser.”

The other downside for Maguire was being one of the seven players yellow-carded, which due to it being his fifth of the season means he must sit out Wednesday’s next game at home to Watford.

Manager Gray said: “I can’t control the Leeds players but we had a couple of players on yellow cards and some of their players wanted red cards.”

As for Maguire, who was booked following a bust-up with Gaetano Berardi that saw the Leeds full-back also handed a yellow card, he added: “It is disappointing (to be banned).

“Some of the yellow cards against Leeds were soft, there was nothing in them. The referee was on TV and probably tried to get a bit of TV time.”

Asked about why he slid in front of the home fans to celebrate his goal, Maguire replied: “I like to get the crowd going, get them on our backs.

“I had the centre-half and the left-back on edge because the fans were booing me every time I got the ball. We all know what it is like at Hillsborough, when our fans are booing an opposition player you want to whack them one.

“Unfortunately for me, I got booked and taken off. But I do like to wind them up.”