Xisco was right about Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United - and comes out off the mark

Sheffield Wednesday’s Akin Famewo. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Sheffield Wednesday’s Akin Famewo. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

For Xisco, who has spoken of the time being no break and vitally important in offering time on the training ground, for the players, who will get the benefit of that opportunity.

And for the fans, who are spared a weekend off the stress and tribulations of a Saturday watching the Owls, who to the relief of all involved earned their first point of the Championship season with a gritty goalless draw at Leeds United.

While there are huge differences between the circumstances in which the two clubs find themselves in, there are also sweeping similarities. New divisions, new expectations, new management teams trying to build new identities in the wake of recent predecessors. Two fairly turgid starts to the season.

But with Wednesday lining up at Elland Road with a starting line-up that cost no more than £2m to put together, the differences outweigh the similarities 10 to one.

A quick-as-a-flash one-two between £12m-rated Crysencio Summerville and £36m Georginio Rutter left Wednesday defenders as spectators. £12m Joel Piroe belted wide. By the time Willy Gnonto - the subject of a £25m transfer bid this week - began running at them it felt like the Owls were gallantly battling on for the sweet release of half-time.

A look at the clock revealed only 16 minutes had passed.

Wednesday’s sole attacking substitute saw free transfer Ashley Fletcher rise from the bench. Leeds threw on their Tottenham Hotspur loanee Djed Spence; signed to Spurs last summer for a deal that could rise to £20m, if you’re asking.

There was a comment in Xisco’s post-Mansfield Town presser that caught a scornful ear from supporters leading into what is a fierce derby; that Leeds United are a better football team than Sheffield Wednesday. The fact of the matter is that he wasn’t wrong. Wednesday will have to battle at places like Elland Road this season. They have to defy the weighted odds. And that they did.

Wednesday had nice moments, too. They passed it about nicely and built some opportunities to attack. They got themselves into dangerous areas out wide. Such was the scale of the mission, their first shot on target came on 56 minutes and it was Leeds that looked slicker, quicker and more polished before they faded in the face of a Wednesday scratching and clawing to earn a first clean sheet of the season.

Josh Windass would later see a one-on-one thwarted and Callum Paterson shinned a guilt-edged chance over the bar. They could’ve easily wheeled off in their getaway coach masked and with three points in the swagbag.

A passage on the hour told a tale; Gnonto nutmegging Callum Paterson and giving Diaby the eyes before sashaying into the Owls box, Lee Gregory received the ball moments later in a little space of his own half and promptly pumped it into orbit. Vasquez ran the ball into the corner of his area to sap a little time as early as the 74th minute. The two teams were operating different missions.

For all the pulling and pushing and in no small part down to an excellent Devis Vasquez save from Rutter’s well-struck close ranger, then on the other side of the break from Summerville’s poked effort, Wednesday clung on. And on.

As the second half rolled on, they grew. And but for a penalty shout that Wednesday can consider themselves fortunate with, Leeds’ threat was dulled.

In fact, it was Wednesday that had the better chances of that second period.

For all the faraway promises of Champagne football, it is a grotty pint of mild that can sometimes quench the thirst. Leeds United are a better football team than Sheffield Wednesday, with resources incomparable. And with grit and gnarl and no little determination, the Owls deserved to open their account for the campaign.

Two weeks of hard work comes next.