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Memory Match – Watson the villain again as United earn Hillsborough draw

With Leeds live on Sky against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night, we look back to another televised clash from the mid 1990's and a match when the Owls striker Gordon Watson once again became the villain of the piece, a couple of years after his infamous dive.

Gary McAllister - Scorer of United's goal on the night.
Gary McAllister - Scorer of United's goal on the night.
Michael Regan

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Leeds United 1

Monday 24th September 1994

Leeds United headed to Hillsborough in September 1994 in the middle of an inconsistent period of form. Early results had seen home wins against Arsenal and Manchester United, and a home loss to Chelsea which had seen the Whites throw away a two goal lead to lose 3-2. Prehaps more frustrating was a home loss to Mansfield Town just three days after a first victory over Manchester United since the return to the top flight.

Wednesday themselves had made a poor start to the season. After famously losing to a Jurgen Klinsmann inspired Spurs on the opening day, the Owls had managed just one league victory, over Wimbledon, so far.

The match was broadcast live on Sky on a Monday evening and saw Leeds line up in a 4-3-3 formation. Carlton Palmer made his first return to Sheffield since his summer transfer to United, Howard Wilkinson using him as a centre half alongside David Wetherall. Another ex Owl, Nigel Worthingon was at left back. Mark Tinkler came into midfield alongside the two Gary’s, McAllister and Speed. Brian Deane was joined in attack by Rod Wallace and South African new boy Philemon Masinga.

The Wednesday line up looked quite a formidable one. They had Dan Petrescu at right back and Des Walker in the centre of defence. Former United favourite John Sheridan was at the heart of the Owls midfield, whilst up front were Mark Bright and enemy of the Whites, Gordon Watson.

Watson of course had been the figure at the centre of one of the most blatant acts of cheating ever witnessed on a football pitch with his disgraceful swan dive in Leeds 6-1 victory at Hllsborough in the championship season of 1992. He managed to con referee Phillip Don into awarding Wednesday a penalty, despite no Leeds player being within a yard of him when he "fell" in the area. He was once again to prove a central figure in the match on this night.

Leeds took to the field in an unsual looking outfit. The white shirt had already been sullied by kit manufacturers Asics with the addition of a blue and yellow hoop, and with United’s socks clashing with Wednesday, the team were forced to wear blue socks.

After just six minutes, United’s Mark Tinkler was in need of another sock as he fell victim to a dreadful challenge from the aforementioned Watson. The Wednesday striker launched himself into a two footed lunge which was well over the top of the ball, catching the young midfielder around the shin. Referee Alan Wilkie had no hesitation in showing Watson the red card, despite the game being in its infancy. Tinkler was extremely fortunate to escape serious injury and was fit to continue as Leeds looked to press on with a man advantage.

Leeds began to move the ball around intelligently, looking to find the gaps afforded by the Owls being down to ten. Neat interplay between Wallace and McAllister put Speed in on gaol, but the Welshman fired into the side netting.

United though were in front after 12 minutes. Palmer moved forward purposely from the back and played a great ball through to Masinga. The forward, who had proved to be an instant hit at Elland Road cleverly ran over the ball, allowing ot to run into the path of McAllister. The Leeds skipper drove into the penalty area unopposed and slid the ball past Kevin Pressman into the Wednesday net for the opening goal of the game.

Wednsesday responded quickly though through Mark Bright. The former Palace front man had suffered a poor start to the season and had yet to open his account for the campaign. In the 15th minute he broke his duck, latching onto a through ball from Chris Bart-Williams, beating United’s attempts at the offside trap and skipping round John Lukic to slot home the equaliser.

Leeds though continued to look the better side. Another good opportunity fell the way of Gary Speed but this time the Welsh midfielder was denied by a fine save from Kevin Pressman who was at full stretch to tip away a header from looping into the top corner.

United were in full flow playing some delightful passing football, with McAllister the architect of everything that was good about Leeds that night. He was helped by an impressive performance on the right hand side by Gary Kelly, the Irish full back a constant threat to the home side. His lack of ability in front of goal though was exposed when he got on the end of a Nigel Worthington cross from the opposite flank, wasting the opportunity by firing straight at Pressman.

It was Wednesday though that came closest to taking the lead in first half stoppage time as Bright once again showed his ability. He showed superb skill to spin away from Palmer and strike the bouncing ball on the volley, denied a goal by a brilliant save by Lukic who turned the ball over the crossbar.

The second half was a much tighter affair with chances at a premium. Sloppy play at the back between Kelly and McAllister allowed the Sheffield left back Ian Nolan a chance, but like Kelly in the opening period he wasted the chance by shooting straight at Lukic.

Leeds thought they had grabbed a winner through Owls old boy Palmer. He reacted well to a flick on by Brian Deane to put the ball into the net past Pressman, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag as he adjudged Palmer to be offside.

Leeds again went close in the final minute of the game, McAllister hitting a fizzing drive from 25 yards in stoppage time, the ball spectacularly turned over the bar by Pressman to preserve a point for the Owls and ensure the game ended honours even.

WEDNESDAY: Pressman; Petrescu, Atherton, Walker, Nolan; Sinton (Taylor 80), Hyde, Sheridan, Bart-Williams; Bright (Hirst 86), Watson

LEEDS: Lukic; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall, Worthington; Tinkler (Radebe), McAllister, Speed; Wallace, Masinga(Whelan HT), Deane

Referee: Alan Wilkie