elland-roadA Stephen Warnock penalty handed Leeds a narrow victory over despised adversaries Millwall, sparing the blushes of Ross McCormack who had earlier failed to take his own spot-kick opportunity. The win leaves the Whites firmly in the hunt for the play-offs having taken seven points from a possible nine.

Even more pleasing for manager Neil Warnock will be a third consecutive clean sheet. A stable back four of Sam Byram, Lee Peltier, Tom Lees and Neil’s namesake Stephen are proving to be a formidable quartet, not to mention the good form of Paddy Kenny between the sticks.

Leeds’ season will most likely be decided over the next two matches. Daunting away trips to Leicester and Crystal Palace (both top-six teams) threaten to permanently derail the upward trajectory. Six points from those two matches would be huge; three points would be a very positive outcome. Either way, Leeds would have to do something they haven’t done since an early December trip to Huddersfield and win away from Elland Road.

Fortunately, today’s match was in LS11 where Leeds have (in stark contrast to the 2011/12 season) developed a fortress. Only table-topping Cardiff have taken anything from Elland Road over recent months, and even that was a match which Leeds were unfortunate to lose.

For the third consecutive game, an unchanged line-up was announced meaning that Leeds’ front six would consist of Paul Green, Michael Tonge, David Norris, Luke Varney, Steve Morison and McCormack.

An even opening to the match saw little action, aside from when a chink in the home defence let in James Henry. His shot beat Kenny, but rebounded to safety via the post.

Leeds were playing some good stuff, passing the ball around and trying to create openings. The match burst into life shortly before the half hour mark as good play sent Sam Byram on a surging run into the penalty area where he was clinically scythed down. Up stepped McCormack, but his powerful low penalty was saved brilliantly by David Forde who tipped the ball onto the upright.

As the dust was still settling from the penalty disappointment, a wicked cross grazed the head of Varney and found the opposite post to which McCormack had hit seconds earlier. Millwall were leading a charmed life and Leeds should have been ahead.

Further dismay was to come for Leeds’ diminutive Scotsman. An accurate low cross from the impressive Varney found McCormack in space just ten yards from goal. But, not quite finding his balance, the resulting shot was easily saved by Forde. Leeds should have been two goals up and supporters pondered if those moments of misfortune would cost the team dearly.

The remainder of the first half saw Kenny pull off an excellent low save to deny John Marquis, before the man-mountain of Danny Shittu did well to block a low shot from Varney.

The second half began in unspectacular fashion, with chances at a premium. Leeds had possession, but Millwall had men behind the ball. In the final third, cross after cross was floated into the grateful hands of Forde (who must have been suitably satisfied with his day’s work at that point).

Michael Tonge raised Leeds from their stupor with two good efforts in as many minutes. The first flashed narrowly beyond the far post; the second was saved well by Forde.

Former Leeds player Andy Keogh entered the fray from the visiting bench and immediately caused problems for Lee Peltier, getting beyond the Leeds captain before instigating a goalmouth scramble in which Paul Green did well to avert the danger.

With less than twenty minutes remaining, the Whites were staring down the barrel of second consecutive goalless draw before McCormack was upended and referee Jones found himself pointing to the spot for the second time. Perhaps concerned that his confidence had been knocked, McCormack relinquished spot-kick responsibility and up stepped January signing Stephen Warnock. Leeds’ new left-back made no mistake and hammered the ball home to take the points.

Varney could have doubled the advantage late on, but saw his effort well saved. Leeds’ number eleven was later stretchered from the field, and will have three days to recover if the manager is to stick with an unchanged side in midweek.

Overall, this was not a stunning victory, but Leeds were confident, resolute and played some positive attacking football. The real test now lies in the next two games. Make or break.

Many thanks to those of you who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition on Twitter. The best guesses came from Tom Holgate (@TomHog1994) and Rob Prince (@OnTheRob) who both foresaw a 1-0 win. Nobody anticipated the goal scorer correctly… though there was one peculiar prediction of a David Somma strike.

  • igiveup

    I have this from a very good source: a deal has been struck with the owners of PSG to pump money into LUFC but they have a share-holding in Forest that they need to sell off first. It may take a few weeks for an announcement to be made

  • henrymouni

    We all give up!

    • Exiled White

      Give what up? Have I missed something,?

  • henrymouni

    This:-

    “igiveup • have this from a very good source: a deal has been struck with the owners of PSG to pump money into LUFC but they have a share-holding in Forest that they need to sell off first. It may take a few weeks for an announcement to be made”

    Another ‘good source’!!!!

  • Matthew

    Realistically I’m concerned for Tuesdays game, we’re playing a team thats scoring for fun at the moment. Regardless assuming luck is on our side, we need teams above us to implode, we’ve imploded multiple times this season, we need sides above us to kaboom a few times and plummet down the table, especially Brighton.

    • henrymouni

      We are an poor to average team who needs a miracle.
      It seems that NW feels we do not need a playmaker and a winger.
      He is worried about upsetting the current squad.
      Our rivals have brought players in recently who are performing well.
      We are doomed to fail.

      • kev raunds

        todays game was crap no atmosphere,whats going on we stood at the back of the Revie,it was like a morgue, where has the fans passion gone.forget promotion with this lot of players.

        • Matthew

          The fans need something to believe in. Also cheaper tickets, realistically we’re seeing the fallout from the Bates era. I would imagine next season we’l be seeing above 20k per game at Elland Road.

          I agree we’re not a great team, but we’re getting harder to beat at home which is a GOOD thing, we just need to work on that away form.

          Personally I think the team has improved over the months, I only wish this same team was the same one that played a few months ago. We’d be in the playoff spots.

          Certainly if we beat Leicester and Crystal Palace, I think people will see things differently.

          • kev raunds

            ok but we still need more from gfh,any information ,statement of intent,what happened to the full transparency we were promised when they took over

          • Matthew

            I’m looking forward to tommorows game personally. There’s something oddly exciting when you know it’s 3 games lost and you’re fucked basically. Every game is MUST win, can we do it? If we do it, I would like Warnock here next season.

            I know everyone, including myself have bitched about him, but back him with some funds and get him to keep playing proper football and build on our away form.

      • Irving08

        Henri,
        We might not be the finished article, but I think it is a tad churlish to describe us as ‘poor to average’.
        In terms ‘fight’ we are above average; while our six outfield defenders are the equal of most in this Division.
        We can debate the rest.
        As for being ‘doomed to fail’, let’s drink then to the success of our hopeless cause.

  • Adam

    Don’t agree with conclusion that we are out of it if we don’t win in our next two games. Our fixtures from 12 th march to Brighton at the end of April are all winnable.

    • henrymouni

      All the games we have played are winnable.
      Sadly we have lost most of them.
      Why should the next games be any different?

      • kev raunds

        Can we have a new manager please,one other thing ….did millwall fans forget about this game…171 did u come on a skateboard or did the £36 PUT YOU OFF cant really blame you for that cost me £31 total rip-off.gfh where is your commitment to the fans,cheap tickets to peterboro aint gonna cut it,give us a statement of intent,we know nothing about you or your plans.

    • Irving08

      Adam,

      Around this time in 1956 we thought we were out of it, but proceeded to win eight and draw one of our last nine games to climb from mid-table to snatch second place by one point from a clutch of teams. Of course we then had a famous goal scorer and an unheralded right winger who provided him with a regular supply of great ball.

      As I see it, following Becchio’s departure, we will struggle for goals, especially now McCormack has been pushed out to the right (which gives us a better shape however).

      I think we do need to do something in our next two away matches to remain in the hunt for the sixth play-off place. We have some tricky home fixtures coming up, and we should not expect to win them all. Leicester have a funny crowd, so a point or win there is not out of the question.
      We’re not for giving up yet…

      .

  • igiveup

    @henrymouni:disqus rumours are the only interesting thing at ER nowadays it seems

  • RoystonLufc

    it’s good to read the Miserabilists still plying their trade. It seems the more they whinge, the more we win – 7 points out of 9, definitely worth being depressed about; so Carry On Whinging. On a positive note (and I hope that doesn’t jinx the team for the next two games, although if it does it might cheer up henrymouni), or rather, a footballing note, isn’t it interesting that the current side doesn’t feature Diouf and Austin? Earlier in the season I was looking at them as potential saviours, it seems I was wrong. Not that I care: if we continue picking up points at this rate a play-off place is guaranteed. But what happened to them? I’m curious. What causes these players to shine then fade? And how come some of our previously disappointing players are starting to shine? Football – bloody hell (excuse that quote but it really is appropriate!). Enlighten me please, someone out there.

  • PabloJaimeTommo

    Excellent and comprehensive report Matt. We clearly need to be more ruthless upfront.

  • Tare

    In Youth we must believe then eh? Dawson. Stokes, Walters, Mowatt Cook and Richard Naylor as Manager will be the familiar names soon. Tare

    • Irving08

      The next managerial appointment is crucial. We need a thinker. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Brighton don’t go up. GFH should already be making informal enquiries on that bit of the South Coast.

  • Irving08

    Milwall – despised adversaries – by whom ? A healthy respect and rivalry on the field has developed between the two clubs over the past few seasons. Nor should anyone forget the sincere and dignified way the Milwall manager, Kenny Jackett, conducted himself during the Gary Speed wreath-laying ceremony in 2012; but then Mr Jackett has always impressed this LUFC by the way he carries himself and by speaks in generous tones about our club. Milwall football club have similarly impressed by their action in respect of a recent racial incident involving one of our players. Of course, the ‘Istanbul’ chants heard in recent matches at the New Den are worthy only of contempt, as is the ‘Munich’ song, once heard loudly at our ground – and who can say that it won’t be heard again when we meet our old adversaries in red on a regular basis ?

    For the first twenty minutes yesterday genuine rivalry on the football pitch was again in evidence; in fact, they could well have been two up before we began to play; as it was, they hit the post only once. But for the remainder of the match it was mostly us trying to play and them mainly spoiling – and fouling – for a draw. The game overall demonstrated that we are an improving, if somewhat toothless side, while they appear to be going backwards and, like us, are lacking in much penalty-area threat. It is difficult to see us conquering the heights with three supporting, albeit hard-working, strikers. Unlike the TSS correspondent, I thought McCormack’s penalty was both easy to read and not well struck; I was surprised his even taking at all, given what seems to be a loss of confidence in respect of scoring goals. Warnock seemed the obvious penalty-taker all along.

    Three more points ! Hurrah.

  • PMH

    Look a the table because it doesn’t lie. Never mind Millwall at home, away form is the problem, and giving up goals is the root cause. The next two games will let us know if there is meaningful improvement. On the other hand, a couple of nil-nil draws would not be very inspiring to the home fans. NW needs to adjust the attacking tactics/personnel to help translate good approach play into goals. The team does seem to be stabilizing and improving. Just don’t get your hearts set on play-offs because they are still very unlikely.

  • Matthew

    On the bright side, a point is a point. Heartbreaking we conceded so late too.

    But on that bright side, if we beat Palace we’l be back in the running for the playoff spots, assuming the 5th and 6th placed teams fuck up.

    It’s not over yet. We need 25 points from 33 possible points.

    • mrbigwheels

      Good to be on the bright side Matthew but we really are chasing rainbows in every sense and always have been.

      We cling to the mandate that Warnock was given by the previous owner twelve months ago. That owner never having the intention of backing the manager or team with the real cash to enable Warnock to start the serious challenge in August ’12.

      A takeover the owner knew was going to happen and to add injury to the whole debacle he had the power to control the entire season to meet his personal gains and certainly not add or offer any benefit to the Club. its Support. the Manager or the Team… to try and achieve that goal.

      GFHC may well turn that around in the next season but are well short at this point in revealing their plans with an associated timescale. I suppose they are, like Warnock, chasing their tails. Warnock needs goals to win… they need cash to survive and win. Perhaps they are totally dependent on Warnock winning to bring in the next tranche of cash to move forward for the summer and next season?.

      What I do know though is that it’s great to see some on the floor football, a team giving its all and gelling together, a support that are possibly going to see a very firm base in a team going forward to next pre-season just needing refining with 3/4 talented additions that may well step forward from the youth ranks and GFHC putting their money where their very quiet mouth is.

      We may not reach the play offs but the slowly improving performances on the pitch may well be the catalyst for attracting greater investment into LUFC for next year.

      The Pay Off not the Play Off…?

      • henrymouni

        And when we are mathematically out of the chase, our performances will improve even more!
        We will be saying that things look promising for next season “if we keep this squad, and add a few quality players”.
        Same old tripe every year!!

      • Matthew

        You know what, I agree with you and Henry.

        But I also just wanted to add that as long as we’re picking up points this season, until we’re mathematically out of the playoff chase, we should keep the faith alive lol

        I personally have doubts we’l make it there, but instead of being a gloomy fucker, I’m going to be positive.

    • Irving08

      On the evidence of the game at our place, Palace are beatable, even at home. Much depends on two players – Byram and Zaha, and one Manager – Warnock – who will have to find a way to compensate for the fact that Bryam will not be as free to go forward as he was in the Leicester match.