Sheffield Wednesday 1 Leeds United 1
YORKSHIRE football may be having a hard time right now, with this season being the third in a row where the Premier League has had no representative from within the Broad Acres.
Last night proved that the White Rose county can still put on a damn good show for the country.
But what the meeting of these two old foes also proved, however, is that football continues to attract a moronic element as hooliganism made an unwelcome return to the county.
Not only was Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland left requiring treatment after being attacked by a Leeds ‘fan’ during a mini-pitch invasion that followed Michael Tonge netting a second-half equaliser for the visitors.
But come the final whistle, the corner of Hillsborough that separates the North Stand and Leppings Lane End was littered with debris thrown by spectators from either side of the Sheffield-Leeds divide.
Seats, broken-up pieces of an advertising hoarding and enough coins to keep a charity going for the best part of a month were the evidence of the carnage that had descended on S6 for a crazy five minutes.
Hopefully, the perpetrators will be brought to book and, if found guilty, banned for life from every football stadium in the country as there is simply no place for what went on last night in the 21st Century.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the whole sorry episode is that the trouble marred what had otherwise been a captivating night’s entertainment.
Watched by a crowd of 28,582 – among the highest in the Football League this season – the two teams, and unwittingly the officials, had played their part in a memorable derby encounter.
That honours should end even was harsh on Wednesday, who were the better side for long periods.
The Owls could also point to a truly shocking decision by referee Eddie Ilderton, who somehow missed a blatant penalty during the first half when Luciano Becchio punched the ball behind for a corner.
Like countryman Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’, Becchio’s handball was neither sly nor discreet.
However, just as in the 1986 World Cup, it went unseen by the officials to leave the Owls players understandably chasing after Ilderton for an explanation.
It was a shockingly poor decision but one that Wednesday made light of by going ahead through Jay Bothroyd a couple of minutes before the break.
That Bothroyd’s goal was not enough to seal a long overdue win for the Owls was down to a truly stunning strike by Tonge that deserved better than the chaos that followed as Kirkland was felled by the cowardly actions of one idiot.
The ugly scenes were in stark contrast to what had gone before in a game that had seen Wednesday rediscover much of the attacking verve that has been absent for much of the run that had yielded just one point from a possible 21 before last night.
United’s first lucky escape had come on 10 minutes when Paddy Kenny allowed Chris O’Grady’s shot to squirm through his hands.
A goal seemed the most likely consequence of the former Blades goalkeeper’s mistake only for the ball to loop up and strike the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
The Owls continued to boss proceedings and should really have had more than one goal to show for their efforts by the time referee Ilderton blew for half-time.
Michail Antonio had wasted one particularly good chance when he headed wide after being found unmarked by Bothroyd, while Lewis Buxton should have done better than fire aimlessly across goal after being released by Paul Corry.
The biggest let-off for the visitors, however, had nothing to do with the Owls’ shortcomings in front of goal and everything to do with Ilderton.
Just how he managed to miss Becchio punching the ball clear as Anthony Gardner stooped to meet Bothroyd’s corner is something only the Tyne & Wear official can answer.
Any hope, however, that the visitors would get to the break still on level terms were ended on 43 minutes when Bothroyd rose highest to meet a long-throw from Antonio and power a header past Kenny.
Wednesday then had several chances to double their advantage after the break as Bothroyd stabbed wide and then Gardner had a shot diverted over the crossbar.
Antonio also went close with a shot that was diverted into the side-netting before Tonge rescued an unlikely point with a stunning strike 15 minutes from time.
Sadly, however, that was not the main talking point come the final whistle as football once again finds itself in the dock after some truly shocking scenes that deserve the sternest of punishments.
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Buxton, Gardner, Llera, D Jones; Bothroyd, Corry (Mayor 83), Barkley, Semedo, Antonio; O’Grady (Madine 83). Unused substitutes: Bywater, Taylor, J Johnson, Rodri, Pecnik.
Leeds United: Kenny; Bryam, Lees, Pearce, Peltier (Varney 68); White, Austin (Norris 46), Brown, Tonge; Becchio, Diouf. Unused substitutes: Ashdown, Drury, Green, Gray, Hall.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).