SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY head coach Jos Luhukay believes that Saturday’s priceless derby victory at Leeds United has relieved the pressure on the Owls in their quest to rubberstamp Championship safety.
A stoppage-time winner from two-goal Atdhe Nuhiu saw Wednesday triumph 2-1 at Elland Road as the visitors secured a relieving first victory in eight matches in all competitions and a maiden away win under the command of Luhukay.
More significantly the triumph, which helped the Owls register a first derby double over Leeds since the 1959-60 season, maintained the Hillsborough outfit’s eight-point buffer above the relegation zone.
It has provided respite for the Owls heading into the international break, but the pain has intensified for Leeds, whose abysmal post-Boxing Day sequence continued.
United’s atrocious form is such that in their past 14 league matches only West Brom and Grimsby Town have picked up fewer points than their tally of eight, with even Championship crisis club Sunderland having amassed more points in that spell of games.
On his side’s much-needed win and first on the road since December 26, Luhukay – who saw the Owls move up a place to 17th – said: “When you win it is important to make a better position in the league.
I have a lot of respect for our fans. It is maybe one hour from Sheffield, but we came with so many supporters and I am very happy we gave them a good feeling.Jos Luhukay
“We must believe in ourselves and not look too much at what is behind us. We must be positive to have a good direction in the league and we must work on that.
“The win was very important. In England they say you must have fifty (points) to be safe, so we still have to win three times. We will now look to Preston next, who are a very good opponent.
“But we now have time to enjoy this day and game and the players are very happy.”
Dedicating Saturday’s win to the club’s travelling support, while also paying tribute to the input of match-winner Nuhiu, the Dutchman added: “I have a lot of respect for our fans. It is maybe one hour from Sheffield, but we came with so many supporters and I am very happy we gave them a good feeling.
“They are special for motivating and supporting.
“I am very happy for my team, but also for our fans as they came with a lot of support.
“Together as a team we fought for the three points. Atdhe is a very good person and character and I am also so happy he could make a difference for us. We thank him for that.”
In contrast Luhukay’s opposite number Heckingbottom was again left to bemoan his side’s fitful defending, lack of winning mentality and ruthlessness on another unsatisfactory afternoon at Elland Road, where Leeds have won just once since Christmas.
Questioned on whether he himself has made an impact so far at Leeds, Heckingbottom – who has tasted victory just once in his first eight matches in charge – candidly acknowledged: “In terms of results 100 per cent no.
“When you are there and you talk to the staff and players you look at last-minute things that have not gone our way, conceding or hitting the post, and performances that deserved better. But my message will always be the same – you get what you deserve.
“We lost the game because we have not been clinical at one end and, weak is the wrong word, but we have been punished for our decision making. That is it. That is what has to change for the results to change otherwise you are just hoping.
“We could have won that game, but we would still be speaking about the same mistakes. They just would not hurt as much.”
Heckingbottom, hopeful that Samuel Saiz will return for the Good Friday home game with Bolton Wanderers after missing Saturday with a hamstring niggle, added: “I know for a fact that I will look back and there will be no lack of effort.
“It is nothing to do with that. It is bad decisions at bad moments that has cost the players.
“It is about a winning mentality, but there is more to a winning mentality than trying.”
Gloss was provided for the Owls following the return to the fray of key midfielders Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan, who made their first appearances of 2018 following injury.
Hutchinson admitted that he had been pushing for an earlier return to action after a hernia injury, but believes that the cautious approach of Luhukay, who only deemed him ready for first-team selection after appearances for the development squad, was the right one.
He said: “Basically the gaffer was looking after me and doing it properly and I moaned. Everyone knows I moan, I am honest about that and I thought I was ready to play.
“There are new rules at the club and you have to adhere to them and I did and luckily enough I got to play and so did Baz (Barry Bannan) and we are happy with that decision.
“I think it was the right thing.”
Match report: Page 3.