Leeds United 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday

After his four hundred thousandth man-of-the-match performance at Elland Road this evening, Kalvin Phillips spoke of how impossible it was for the squad to avoid the news of Jake Cooper’s last-gasp equaliser for Millwall at Bramall Lane.

The pineapple-haired hero referred to the atmosphere in the crowd lifting, but from the bubble of the dressing room, the true extent of the crazy last fifteen minutes of that match was intangible.

The nervy first half and the Blades’ press in the second that eventually yielded a goal was an expected outcome, but the Lions’ response was a pleasant surprise and the Leeds delight was clear when they forced an 86th minute penalty.

Elland Road antagonist Ben Marshall, who gleefully tucked away his spot kick in front of the South Stand, duly smashed his effort off the bar and over after John Egan channelled his Gaelic Football roots, diving to parry a shot off the line with his hand.

Deep into the six added minutes, with Elland Road filling up for the Wendies game, Cooper stooped to head his side level and send Leeds fans into both delight and self-loathing for lauding a Millwall goal. If only it had been Morison.

Jake’s namesake Liam possibly over-exerted himself in the celebration of this good fortune, as Phil Hay soon dampened our Cockney-fuelled enthusiasm with the news that our skipper was ruled out. No fear though, enter the caged lion of Gaetano Berardi.

Thus began the inevitable possessional domination of another Elland Road visitor, but could we score? Could we f*ck.

This time though the ‘Shots on Target’ column read a healthy 6 by the end of the game, and recalled Owls goalkeeper Kieran Westwood could well have pushed the Yorkshire Pirlo close for the Man of the Match award.

The Irish stopper was feline-like in his reactions to turn over a Tyler Roberts header. He repeated the trick low to his right to flick an excellent Harrison header around the post. He spread himself large to deny Alioski space to tuck away a further chance and was again on hand to deny Roberts before the break.

We had our own defensive hero in Luke Ayling, sliding in to force Gary Hooper wide when Wednesday did force a chance, Jansson having committed himself and leaving space for the former Celtic man to run into.

With the second half continuing in much the same vein, it was hard to shake the feeling that this looked a lot like the Sheffield United game. We were grateful to see the back of Adam Reach, but the frequency with which we were simply kicking the ball to former Leeds man Barry Bannan was concerning.

It was another frustrating afternoon for Patrick Bamford in front of goal. He performed his role well, holding the ball up, rolling defenders and making clever runs, even showing improvisation in an attempted header as he sat in the six-yard box.

When the gilt-edged opportunity came though, he watched in agony as his effort slid harmlessly wide of Westwood’s goal after Harrison rolled back Luke Ayling’s cross to him. It was his last act, replaced by the over-eager Kemar Roofe immediately afterwards.

With the next attack, Pablo did what Pablo does, zipping a low cross through the legs of an Owls’ defender into the path of Harrison, whose deft touch finally broke Westwood’s resolve and lifted the weight off the shoulders of every man, woman and child with blue and yellow coursing through their veins.

The relief lasted all of five minutes before the familiar nagging sensation of imminent concession returned, but we needn’t have feared the worst. Phillips retrieved ball after ball, Alisoki nipped and stung at the heels of Wednesday raids and forced the turnover. Forshaw and Dallas arrived like custodians to shore up things and Jansson swept up anything that made its way through.

Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa once said:

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”

In footballing terms, the Championship is the maddest of mad worlds. Its twilight zone of added time has yielded a treasure-trove of mind-bending occurrences. Kemar Roofe’s late winners against Villa and Blackburn back in December. Hernandez crashing home against Millwall, Phillips’ late goal at Middlesbrough. And that’s just Leeds.

If only the mad are sane, then Leeds are positively serene.

The snarling Berardi, who introduced himself to Leeds fans with an immediate red card for assault and who celebrated a midweek goal for the U23s by hoofing a water bottle over the hoardings.

The animated Pontus Jansson, who thinks nothing of nipping down to Chelsea to lead a chorus of his hometown club’s supporters and who violently celebrates even the smallest of defensive tasks.

King of the Madmen however is Gjanni Alioski. The Macedonian thinks nothing of biting footballs or rubbing the referee’s free kick spray onto the official’s sock. From nuzzling Pablo’s groin as part of a free-kick routine to angrily accosting Pontus for giving him a cheeky kiss, Gjanni is his own endearing freak show.

In the white heat of Championship madness however, the mad are sane.

Who was making the vital interceptions and clearing headers as Leeds dropped deep in the second half? Pontus Jansson.

Who was snapping at the heels of the countering Wendies as they pushed for an equaliser, forcing turnovers? Gjanni Alioski.

Who was the man on the line, providing the match-saving clearance when the visitors finally fashioned their best chance? Gaetano f*cking Berardi.

Four games remain.

This season.

This bloody season.