Leeds United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1: McCormack earns derby point

Leeds United manager Brian McDermott.
Leeds United manager Brian McDermott.
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A CLASSY leveller from in-demand striker Ross McCormack underlined his full value to Leeds United, who rallied after the break to claim a share of the spoils in a hard-fought Yorkshire derby, writes Leon Wobschall.

McCormack, the subject of considerable and onging interest from Middlesbrough, struck a delicious leveller just before the hour mark to cancel out Kamil Zayatte’s opener in the first period - his first goal for the Owls.

The result ensured United maintained their unbeaten start to 2013-14, although they spurned the chance to claim a brief hold on top spot.

Wednesday were afforded respite after losing their opening three fixtures of the season in all competitions with a welcome point to get their campaign up and running.

Leeds struggled to get out of first gear in the first half, with their main flashes of danger coming from the lively Dominic Poleon, handed a start in place of Noel Hunt.

At the other end, Wednesday brought little creativity to the table, but did pose a clear danger from set-pieces, an avenue that they were able to exploit with their opener nine minutes before the interval.

Giant Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu saw an 22nd-minute close-range header from a Chris Maguire corner blocked on the goalline by Paddy Kenny with United’s sole moment of genuine first-half quality arriving ten minutes later at the feet of McCormack.

The Scot, received the ball after slick work from Luke Murphy and having spotted Chris Kirkland off his line, produced a deft chip which was tipped over in the nick of time by the backtracking former England keeper.

That cameo of action failed to inspire United and they fell behind for the second successive home league game this term in the 37th minute.

A deep inswinging corner on the right from Jeremy Helan was headed back across goal by the unmarked Michail Antonio and with the home defence statuesque, Zayatte nipped in to steer in a well-directed header for his first goal in English football since November 2009.

Moments before the interval, the corner route almost delivered a second for the Owls, with the unmarked Antonio heading wide at the far post following a well-taken Maguire corner.

United chief Brian McDermott made an interval change, with Michael Tonge thrown into the fray at the expense of Paul Green in a bid to inject some passing incision into the home midfield.

The first foray of the half was fired by Leeds, attacking the Kop, with Murphy’s effort flying over before the hosts restored parity with a sublime leveller two minutes before the hour mark.

McCormack received the ball forty yards from goal after good work from Varney and with the visitors stretched, the striker bore down threateningly on goal with space to exploit.

After knocking the ball expertly past Zayatte and leaving him for dead, he slotted the ball confidently past the advancing Kirkland for a fine leveller.

Reda Johnson, making his comeback from injury was thrown into the fray for Maguire on 65 minutes, with Leeds scenting blood and on the front foot and four minutes later, Jacques Maghoma replacing the ineffectual Nuhiu.

Going into the final quarter of an hour, Leeds looked the most likely, but a rare break at the other end then almost yielded a second for the Owls with Antonio’s shot saved at full-stretch by Kenny.

Eight minutes from time, some desperate defending somehow kept out a close-range effort from Maghoma as Wednesday, having weathered a brief storm earlier in the half, suddenly scented a late winner.

A frenzied finale then ensured with El-Hadji Diouf brought on by Leeds with the final chance of the game falling to McCormack after Johnson was penalised for a foul on Matt Smith, but his free-kick tamely hit the wall.

Leeds United: Kenny, Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Warnock, Green (Tonge 46), Austin, Murphy, McCormack, Poleon (Diouf 85), Varney (Smith 72). Substitutes not used: Ashdown, Brown, Drury, Hunt.

Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland, Buxton, Gardner, Zayette, Palmer, Antonio, Coke, Prutton, Helan, Maguire (R Johnson 65), Nuhiu (Maghoma 69). Substitutes not used: Semedo, Davies, McCabe, Lavery, Llera.

Referee: R East (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 23,766 (1,062 Wednesday fans).