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Sheffield Wednesday 6 Leeds United 0: Wednesday wipe out 22 years of hurt with destruction of Leeds

Sheffield Wednesday's Caolan Lavery turns to celebrate after scoring his side's fifth goal as Leeds United's Alex Mowatt cannot look

Sheffield Wednesday's Caolan Lavery turns to celebrate after scoring his side's fifth goal as Leeds United's Alex Mowatt cannot look

  • by Richard Hercock 
at Hillsborough
 

January 12, 1992 is a dark date in Sheffield Wednesday’s history. It was the day when Leeds United came to Hillsborough and played the Owls off the pitch in a 6-1 demolition.

Even Wednesday’s solitary reply came after a dubious penalty was won by Gordon Watson and tucked away by John Sheridan.

That brilliant Whites side would go on to be crowned champions of England, and not even a 6-2 reverse four years later at Hillsborough, a deceptive scoreline, was enough to heal Owls’ wounds.

Twenty two years on, almost to the day, and Wednesday finally gained some revenge for that harrowing defeat to their Yorkshire rivals on national television.

Two-goal hero Caolan Lavery was not even born when Leeds won at Hillsborough in 1992, although former Owl Sheridan could lay claim to having a helping hand in Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing.

The current Plymouth Argyle manager took Lavery on loan for the last month, giving the former Ipswich Town youngster vital Football League experience.

Three goals in four games earned the Northern Ireland Under-21 striker a recall to Hillsborough last week.

He added extra humiliation with two late goals to cap off a stunning home display against a Leeds side who were shocking in most departments.

“I have been in and around the first team this season,” said the Canadian-born striker, who lived for a year in Ireland from where his parents hail before 
arriving in England when he was 16. “The Owls sent me on loan to Plymouth, to go and prove myself, and I think I did quite well so they called me back.

“It gave me the confidence that if I got a chance, to take it and, hopefully, I have done that.

“The first goal was good,” said Lavery, shrugging aside Marius Zaliukas on halfway before racing away and shooting in off Paddy Kenny’s right-hand post. “I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to do, I was looking round for support.

“I just thought, ‘I’m going to go for it’, and, luckily it went off the post and in.”

His second was even better. Punishing another mistake by Zaliukas in the Leeds defence, Lavery opened his body and curled the ball beyond a ragged Kenny for Wednesday’s sixth goal.

“It’s probably the best goal I have scored,” he said. “The defender made a mistake and I saw my chance, hit it low and was delighted when it went in.

“I learned a lot at Plymouth. League football is completely different to reserve football.

“I was coming off the bench in the first couple of games and did well enough to get a start.

“John Sheridan gave me the chance. Playing every game, you learn more and more, the runs to make, how to knock in to defenders; it’s been a great learning curve for me.”

Lavery’s preparations for the game were hardly ideal, a 600-mile round trip from Sheffield to Plymouth.

“We had a few days off, so I was in Sheffield and went back with John Sheridan in the car to Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon. I arrived Tuesday night, went to training Wednesday and got a call about 9.30 saying, ‘We need you back’.

“So I trained, said goodbye to the lads, and hopped on a train back to Sheffield. It was a nightmare.

“It gave me a lot of confidence that they wanted me back, and to get involved, even if it was because of injuries. They still wanted me back.

“I don’t think scoring two goals has done me any harm.”

Leeds were never in the contest from the moment Reda Johnson opened the scoring after being left in acres of space to collect Kieran Lee’s superb cross and beat Kenny with ease.

Jacques Maghoma should have put the Owls in front earlier, but seemed to trip himself as he galloped through the heart of the United defence.

Lee, alongside the destructive Jose Semedo, suffocated Leeds’s midfield and it was the former Oldham player who created Wednesday’s second goal, sliding the ball across the penalty area for Atdhe Nuhiu to tap home at the far post.

Lee has been a revelation since returning from injury, the former full-back impressing in midfield, and another incisive pass cut open the visitors, but right-back Liam Palmer fired wide with just Kenny to beat.

United chief Brian McDermott, having opted to go 3-4-3 to accommodate new signings Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe, threw on striker Matt Smith at half-time to go 4-4-2.

Or at least that was the plan, but within seconds of his arrival Smith was sent off for a late challenge on Reda Johnson.

With a full complement of players, Leeds were second best. Down to 10 men, it was just a matter of how many a free-flowing Owls side would rack up.

Connor Wickham delivered an individual effort to collect his eighth goal in 10 games since his loan move from Sunderland, firing low and catching Kenny out at his near post, and Chris Maguire’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off Rudy Austin – who received ironic cheers from Leeds fans for a rare shot at goal midway through the second half – to deceive the United goalkeeper.

Enter Lavery. As a youngster he would climb bleary-eyed out of bed at 7am in Canada to watch English football on TV; now the 21-year-old was a screen star.

“We used to wake up early Saturday morning with my family to watch English football,” said Lavery.

“There is a time difference of seven hours so we were getting up at 7am just to watch kick-off. I have done it my whole life,” added Lavery, whose boyhood hero was Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

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