Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday: first goal key

Fessi back in form?

Leeds 2-0 victory at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday was their first win of the season and arguably one that generated some belief in a tricky start to the campaign.

After an even first half, Garry Monk’s side got the first goal after the break and then pounced on the counter. That type of performance is symbolic of their campaign to date. Only six teams have scored fewer first half goals – none have conceded fewer – and the first goal is normally crucial to the confidence of the team.

When their methods of starting reservedly backfires, Leeds can lack the inspiration to recover, having avoided defeat in just three of the 13 games in which they concede first.

Sheffield Wednesday conceded the opener against Brentford and lost 2-1. Recently, the Owls had not created too many chances and won games through clinical finishing but in midweek, it was the opposite. They had plenty of openings and goal-line scrambles yet lost to two set pieces and to score, it took one moment of injury-time magic from Fernando Forestieri.

The signs are that ‘Fessi’ is back to his best with two goals in as many games, the other at Nottingham Forest seeing the Argentine diving into the away crowd. That celebration seemed meaningful, given the question marks surrounding him this season.

Last season, he had played week in week out in his favoured number 10 role and was indispensable to the side. After the contract saga back in August, then the January arrival of two proven forwards in Sam Winnall and Jordan Rhodes, he has been shunted out wide and his importance has waned. Doubts over his attitude have been exacerbated by Carlos Carvalhal’s decision to drop him to the bench against Blackburn. These developments have stirred up a certain insecurity within Forestieri. If he continues his current form, that insecurity could be the thing to kick his career back into life.

This time, the enigmatic magician faces Robert Green, who after a shaky start has become a key man for Leeds. His work has preserved victories over the lesser sides as well as a point last week at Ipswich and the hosts are boosted by the recent return of Pontus Jansson. The Swede, Monk claimed this week, has formed the best centre-back pairing in the Championship with Kyle Bartley. The duo will be protected by midfield hard man Liam Bridcutt, who is expected to start after impressing when he came on for the second half at Portman Road.

Leeds are struggling for goals though with six in their last six and three straight defeats against top half opposition. Helped by a hard man of their own in Sam Hutchinson, Sheffield Wednesday have kept four clean sheets in their last nine games and hope for a fifth win in six.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-1
Betting tip: Sheffield Wednesday draw no bet at evens