WILL GRIGG may, as the soundtrack to Euro 2016 suggests, be on fire but it was Chris Wood who looked to have lit up Elland Road last night.
After a tame opening half hour that, at best could be described as a slow-burner, the Leeds United striker sparked the game into life with a red-hot finish.
It should have been enough to seal a fifth straight home win but, ultimately, the night ended in something of a damp squib for Garry Monk’s men thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser from Shaun MacDonald.
After a final 10 minutes that had seen United retreat deeper and deeper into their own territory, the Wigan midfielder rescued a point for Gary Caldwell’s men by firing in off the post.
On the balance of play, Leeds probably deserved more but an inability to capitalise on that sublime strike from Wood eventually cost the hosts dear.
Yesterday afternoon had seen the Flying Scotsman make a rare visit to Leeds but for the city’s football club it was far from full steam ahead in that opening half-hour against the Latics.
Despite plenty of endeavour, the visitors’ back-line was rarely tested with the best Leeds could muster being a snapshot from Wood that Adam Bogdan saved comfortably low to his right.
That apart, there was little to keep the 19,861 crowd warm on a cold evening. All that changed, however, courtesy of United’s top scorer in the 30th minute.
Hadi Sacko, who had been responsible for several promising moves breaking down thanks to poor control, provided the cross after Dan Burn’s attempted clearance had bounced off the United man and into his path.
But it was Wood’s control and vision that proved too much for Wigan, who could only watch as the Kiwi used his 6ft 3in frame to bring the ball down and then keep a scrum of defenders at bay before firing an unstoppable shot beyond Bogdan.
To describe this passage of play as being out of keeping with what had gone before would have been an understatement on a par with those whose response to the iconic Flying Scotsman passing through Leeds was to mutter, ‘What’s the fuss all about? It’s only a train’.
Wood’s opener, though, did kick-start the game into life and United had three major let-offs before the interval. First, Stephen Warnock opened up his former club’s defence with an incisive pass to release Grigg on the left.
The Northern Ireland striker, the subject of the ‘Will Griggs on fire, your defence is terrorised’ song that was so prevalent during last summer’s European Championships, then pulled the ball back for Michael Jacobs who could only fire his shot against the post.
Leeds had two further narrow escapes, Rob Green saving a point-blank header from Nick Powell before Pontus Jansson threw himself in front of the rebound from Jake Buxton.
There was little doubt that the interval was timely for the hosts, who emerged after the restart determined to kill off the game.
Sacko had a shot blocked by Buxton, who along with his team-mates was then relieved to see an effort from Wood fly over the crossbar after Wigan had been caught flat-footed by an incisive Pablo Hernandez delivery.
Bogdan turned a Luke Ayling shot wide before, from the resulting corner, Jansson saw a goalbound header blocked by Buxton.
United thought the second goal had arrived 17 minutes from time when Wood met Ayling’s right-wing cross with a looping header that Bogdan acrobatically clawed to safety at full stretch. The Latics goalkeeper then bravely cut out a Charlie Taylor cross as Alex Mowatt waited to pounce.
These two saves proved vital as, after that, Wigan seized the initiative as Leeds retreated.
The wonderfully-named Max Power twice shot wide when well placed before then also spurning another fine opportunity following a dart down the right flank by Yanic Wildschut that left Jansson fortunate that his wild lunge at the substitute had not connected.
Any hopes among the home crowd that their side had weathered the storm were, however, to prove premature with Powell heading a corner back across goal for MacDonald to fire home.
Leeds United: Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor; O’Kane, Phillips; Sacko (Grimes 66), Hernandez (Mowatt 73), Roofe; Wood (Antonsson 85). Unused substitutes: Cooper, Silvestri, Vieira, Coyle.
Wigan Athletic: Bogdan; Byrne, Buxton (Morgan 62), Burn (Gomez 62), Warnock; MacDonald; Power, Powell, Perkins, Jacobs (Wildschut 46); Grigg. Unused substitutes: Le Fondre, Garbutt, Davies, Jaaskelainen.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).