Sunday, April 29, 2012

Leeds 1 Leicester 2: Warnock fury as United are outfoxed at Elland Road

Mail 28/4/12
Teenage debutant Harry Panayiotou scored a last-second winner as Leicester ended the season on a high and condemned Leeds to an unwanted club record.
Martyn Waghorn's first-half goal had looked to have sent United to an 11th home defeat of the season, only for Danny Webber to equalise with eight minutes remaining.
But, with seconds left on the clock, Panayiotou touched in Ben Marshall's effort, leaving home manager Neil Warnock and his players to confront the linesman about an alleged offside.
Warnock's fury may have been more about a season of underachievement at Elland Road than the goal itself, but the veteran boss - who has promised a summer of change - may hear more about the incident after he appeared to throw his chewing gum at the official at the full-time whistle.
And, while 17-year-old Panayiotou may have won it for Leicester, their manager Nigel Pearson - like Warnock a mid-season appointment - will be well aware of the hard work ahead this summer after his big-spending club failed to make their expected promotion push.
Both will hope for better next season but, with so little a stake today, it was of no surprise that the goals apart, action was thin on the ground.
Of the two, Leeds started the better, with Robert Snodgrass' volley on the slide blocked by former United keeper Kasper Schmeichel, and Luciano Becchio wasting a one-on-one when he somehow chipped into Schmeichel's hands from 10 yards.
But, with a large number of Warnock's starting line-up already knowing they will be elsewhere next season, sustained enthusiasm was hard to come by and Leicester grew into the game with Liam Moore's cross zipping across the six-yard box and narrowly evading everyone.
Leeds briefly threatened again as Adam Clayton's shot was blocked by Wes Morgan, but Leicester were not having to work too hard to keep them at bay and quickly took control.
After Marshall's free-kick had been theatrically saved by Andy Lonergan, they took a 39th-minute lead after a catalogue of Leeds errors.
Veteran midfielder Michael Brown kicked off the farcical chain of events, spooning a regulation clearance high and back towards his own goal.
Even then, Danny Pugh should have swept things up but, as the left-back missed the ball and fell over, Waghorn pounced and ran on to slot past Lonergan with ease.
The same player rapped a close-range volley into Lonergan's hands four minutes after the half-time break, while Lloyd Dyer would have made it two had his length-of-the-field counter-attack run not ended with his shot being defected over by Pugh.
With the season trickling away for both, opportunities were even rarer than they had been in the first half, with Marshall the only player to even try his luck when he twice fired over from distance.
Substitute Mikael Forsell did work Schmeichel from 12 yards before, almost completely unexpectedly, Leeds levelled with eight minutes left.
Snodgrass was the architect, running at the heart of Leicester's defence and standing a ball up for Forsell. When possession fell back to him he clipped an effort beyond Schmeichel and, even though the ball was headed for the goal, Webber made sure from a yard.
There was still time for more drama, though, with Panayiotou making for a controversial finish when he touched in Marshall's edge-of-the-box effort.

New shirt, new start

Enterprise Insurance have extended their sponsorship agreement for a further two years and will continue to act as main sponsor until the end of the 2013/14 season.
Chief Executive Shaun Harvey said: "We are delighted... We have developed an excellent working relationship with Enterprise Insurance during the course of this season and have launched a number of Leeds United branded insurance products through the partnership, including the increasingly popular Leeds United Insurance Compare website. We look forward to developing our relationship further with Enterprise and helping them to promote their business to a worldwide audience."
Commenting on the extension of the sponsorship agreement, Enterprise Insurance Managing Director, Andrew Flowers, said "We are delighted to continue as the main sponsor for Leeds United. It's a terrific club and over the course of this season we have seen the real benefits of a marketing partnership with a globally recognised brand such as Leeds United. The Enterprise brand has been featured in 11 live games on television this season, generating significant exposure for our company not only in the UK but Internationally where we have growing business interests."

Three days later came the linked announcement of the new kit for the 2012/13 season, available from 5 May, launched with an Eminem-inspired video on YouTube, under the banner of "New Shirt, New Start", with manager Neil Warnock offering an inspiring rallying cry: "You've all seen the stadium, and you know what it's like to play for Leeds, it's an amazing place, isn't it? You've got to revel in the atmosphere. You know the fans are absolutely fantastic, aren't they? What can you say about them, they've been amazing. And if you're good enough, and if you've got enough under your shirt, and I mean by that have you got the desire, the passion, the commitment. Because as a manager I need to know who's in the trenches with me. Forget this season, give me your shirt. Who's ready to wear this?" It might have been hackneyed, but it was certainly stylish...
According to the club's official website: "We are proud to reveal the new Leeds United Macron home kit and showcase what the team will be wearing next season. The white shirt will be worn with white shorts and socks, all of which are on sale from Saturday 5 May...
"The shirt interprets the club colours in a unique style and has been designed by Macron, in conjunction with the club, in order to create a bespoke shirt that integrates a variety of different fabrics. The main body fabric is framed with a royal blue piping whilst the neck features a Korean style collar made of ribknit fabric with the year the club was founded, 1919, embroidered in the back neck along with the club's moto 'Pride of Yorkshire - Agmine in Uno'. Mesh inserts on the side flanks regulate the body temperature guaranteeing maximum breathability.
"The new Macron 2012/13 home shirt is available in adult sizes small to 5XL, priced at £40 and junior sizes small junior to XL junior priced at £36. Adult home shorts are available in sizes small to 3XL and are priced at £19 with Junior home shorts available in sizes small junior to XL junior priced at £16. Adult home socks are available in sizes 7-11 and are priced at £10 and Junior home socks are available in sizes 12-2 and 3-6 priced at £8."

Warnock spells it out to disgruntled supporters

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/4/12
Neil Warnock has been willing this season to end since the Ides of March or thereabouts. His wish will be granted when Leeds United sign off with a dead rubber against Leicester City.
United’s boss realised some time ago that a Championship miracle was beyond his club, and he saw no harm in voicing that opinion. “Roll on next season,” said Warnock repeatedly, even while mathematical calculations had Leeds in contention for a play-off position.
Certain supporters took umbrage with that, writing to Warnock to complain about what they saw as a premature surrender.
“I must admit I’ve had a few letters about my comments,” he said. “They were asking for their money back for this year. One guy wanted 50 quid back because he’d lost a bet with a mate at Burnley. It’s all my fault that we didn’t finish above them.
“But I’ve got to stand for that. I’m relieved it’s almost over and I don’t think it could have been much better. It’s time to move on. Long-term I had to plan for next season.”
Next season. The focus of Warnock’s attention for several weeks and evermore so with the last of 46 league games upon him.
Tomorrow’s match against Leicester is the essence of a meaningless clash, contested by two clubs who are finding no consolation in their mid-table positions. United, Warnock admits, have fallen short of the expectancy of their crowd. Leicester, in contrast, have struggled to capitalise on the millions of pounds invested by their owners, initially in support of former manager Sven Goran Eriksson. The experiment with Eriksson ended in abject failure.
Warnock watched Leicester lose to West Ham United on Monday night and wondered why Nigel Pearson’s squad are so far down the table, behind nine other clubs. “I can’t understand why West Ham and Leicester aren’t number one and number two,” he said. “They ought to be.”
As for his own squad, Warnock says they are where they deserved to be. For brief moments under him – specifically after victories at Middlesbrough and Millwall – sixth place appeared to be attainable but Leeds and Leicester are proof of the adage that leopards don’t change spots; that teams as inconsistent as they have been are unlikely to find a sudden vein of form at the height of the run-in.
“If we’d had anything about us we could have got into the play-offs,” Warnock said. “But that shows you the level of the Championship.
“We’d have been smudging the picture because I don’t think we were anywhere near good enough. I might get caned for saying that but it’s no good pretending. I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something needing doing.
“We’re playing Leicester tomorrow and they’ve thrown about £17m at it. They’re not even in the play-offs. The expectations of both clubs are slightly different. Our expectations are because we have such a big fan-base. But when you’ve spent that sort of money, I think the expectation should be far greater. You’ve got to come up with the answers when you spend that sort of money.
“As much as he tried, Sven found out that the Championship’s a unique league. I’m sure Nigel will have his own squad next year. He’ll be a lot more prudent than Sven but they’ll be a more difficult side to play against next season, I’m sure of that.”
Meaningless or not, there are a couple of sub-plots to tomorrow’s match. Leicester’s squad will include striker Jermaine Beckford and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, both of whom served Leeds with varying levels of distinction in the past. Neither has played at Elland Road since declining to sign new contracts and moving on.
Warnock is also aware that defeat would mark Leeds’ 11th home loss of the league season, a record never seen at Elland Road before. Only once have United suffered 10 home defeats, during the 1946-47 campaign. Warnock is keen to avoid that dubious distinction but ready to swallow it if needs must.
Four losses to date have been on his watch, with the other six coming under former manager Simon Grayson and caretaker Neil Redfearn.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Warnock said. “If we get beat then I’ve got that record. I’m only really thinking about building a new team.
“At the end of the season you finish where you deserve to be. You have bad luck here and good luck there but you finish where you should finish. We haven’t been good enough and the manner of some of our defeats has upset me.
“But you don’t want unwanted records. It would be a joint-record between me and the other managers who’ve been in charge, though. I wouldn’t be on my own! But we don’t want that.”
Yesterday marked a notable anniversary for Leeds, exactly 20 years since the club won the Division One title after beating Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Warnock was aware of the date and saw present-day significance in it, realising that two decades have passed since the club’s supporters saw a trophy brought to Elland Road, a drought of lengthy proportions.
“This is my one opportunity to put out a team that a new generation of Leeds United fans can enjoy watching,” he said. “We’re on the anniversary of 20 years since the club won Division One and the youngsters of today haven’t seen a lot of that. My intention in my period at the club is to build a side that the young generation can be proud of.
“We all know the history of the club and ex-players are around the place all the time, to remind you of the tradition. The challenge for me is to build a team with the right type of signings so kids come to the ground excited and we give them a good run for my money. That’s what I’m looking at.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Beccs lights up dour draw

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/4/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock was tempted to miss Leeds United’s game at Cardiff City and scout players for next season instead.
For much of the 1-1 draw he endured, his unconventional idea seemed eminently sensible.
It is hard to know what he has left to discover about the squad at his disposal but he can have learned little on Saturday. Little, that is, beyond the fact that his low opinion of it ought not to change. Warnock summed up a laboured match in one cutting sentence. “If we had anything about us we’d have won that today.”
Leeds don’t and they didn’t, hence the need for a new broom and a clean sweep. Their persistence and a 73rd-minute goal from Luciano Becchio earned them a point – as good a result as the club tend to accrue in Wales – but the frustration for Warnock was his team’s inability to take hold of a game so sterile and so flat.
At face value the final scoreline made satisfactory reading. Leeds have a grisly record at Cardiff and Eddie Gray – present on Saturday as a radio pundit – retired from playing in the year when they last won in the Principality’s capital, far back in 1984. Around 30 away supporters dressed up as St George for the club’s final journey of the season but even they could not inspire the slaying of a Welsh dragon.
For Cardiff, Becchio’s goal mattered, leaving their play-off position vulnerable with the Championship term about to conclude this weekend. The club’s manager, Malky Mackay, blamed that on a brilliant second-half save from United goalkeeper Andy Lonergan rather than on the header from Becchio which came soon after. “That’s probably what got them their point,” he said.
Lee Mason, City’s highly-regarded striker, gave Cardiff the scent of victory by scoring a goal which Warnock and his team would rather not watch again. In a season of lame concessions, his 41st-minute lob made a late appearance near the top of the list. Cardiff had done nothing to merit that lead and they made a full contribution to an afternoon of forgettable football, but it could not be claimed that beating United has taken exceptional class this season. Eighteen losses and counting, with one game to play. A 19th on Saturday would have been harsh.
It remains to be seen whether they are asked to return to this unhappy hunting ground next season. Cardiff are four games from the Premier League, without looking so close or so good. Their strength, as the division shows, is their ability to resist defeat as consistently as they have. Leeds never truly threatened it.
Mackay’s unchanged team was indicative of Cardiff’s steady league form. Warnock, as ever, tweaked his own after the obligatory red card shown to Darren O’Dea at Blackpool. Given their recent disciplinary record, it was something of an achievement for Leeds to reach full-time with 11 players on the field, left alone by a referee who has not dismissed anyone since August.
In that respect they were slightly fortunate. Mark Halsey could have taken a dimmer view of a 14th-minute scuffle between Robert Snodgrass and Stephen McPhail, a scuffle for which both players were equally responsible. Halsey declined to book them and their confrontation was as lively as the first half got until Mason woke Cardiff up.
Against the team ranked sixth in the table, Warnock’s team looked comfortable. The level of anxiety affecting Cardiff was difficult to gauge with the division so favourable but Saturday’s game felt like a pregnant pause, a fortnight before the start of the play-offs.
City narrowly avoided a concession in the fifth minute when Snodgrass’ quick feet forced a corner and Ross McCormack glanced it wide from a position which begged him to score his 20th goal of the season. For a long time, Cardiff came no closer and Mason, who signed a new contact on Friday, found himself alone and uninvolved for all but a handful of moments.
He made nothing of a chance from close range on 10 minutes, misdirecting a header after the ball sprung unexpectedly to him six yards from goal, and his overhead kick from a Peter Whittingham cross caused Lonergan no problem. Otherwise, the ball was lodged between either box for extended periods.
Warnock had altered his formation by recalling Becchio to fend alone up front and using a three-man midfield of Adam Clayton, Zac Thompson and Danny Pugh. The system was stable for half-an-hour but United’s manager was forced to replace Leigh Bromby when the defender collapsed clutching one knee after directing a simple pass to Tom Lees.
With no player next to him, the severity of the injury became apparent immediately and Bromby was treated for several minutes before being carried down the tunnel on a stretcher. The home crowd applauded him sympathetically.
Cardiff made a brief pretence at picking Leeds open after his substitution and Lees appeared in the right place to head Whittingham’s cross away from Kenny Miller on 36 minutes, but the contest was no spectacle at all. The body language of an animated Mackay contrasted with that of Warnock, a boss who has already seen all he needs to see this season.
Leeds’ attempts to play Snodgrass, McCormack or Becchio into the game were in vain, and the first 40 minutes came and went without a shot on target at either end of the pitch. When Mason scored, the goal conceded was hopelessly soft.
Whittingham lofted a pass in behind Alex Bruce and Lonergan’s indecisive advance towards the ball gave Mason time to dink it over him. The forward’s finish was calm and clinical but easily afforded to him.
It is goals like his that will encourage Warnock to demolish his defence during the summer. Darren O’Dea was released from Leeds last week and others will follow. Bromby is unlikely to play again before Christmas. The improvement seen in the early weeks of Warnock’s reign was sharp but short; too short to persuade him that this team can improve over time.
Paul Connolly, Bromby’s replacement, almost gifted Cardiff a second goal in injury-time when he missed a header and allowed Whittingham to play Miller in behind United’s defence. Lonergan held his nerve and remained on his feet long enough to meet Miller’s low shot with his legs. The save kept Leeds in the match, for what that was worth.
Mark Hudson should have changed that early in the second half when he met Liam Lawrence’s cross with a free header, dipping it over the bar, but Leeds began to establish some control with an hour gone, more balanced and threatening with Connolly in his natural position. Pugh dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box and Becchio nodded a header off target, vague nods towards the equaliser which arrived 17 minutes from the end.
Becchio claimed it, sniffing around in the six-yard area and heading home Connolly’s cross moments after Lonergan met a sweet Andrew Taylor volley with an improbable block. The stadium greeted Becchio’s goal with confused silence, wondering if it really mattered. Middlesbrough’s win over Southampton later in the day ensured that it did but in the grand schemes of both Leeds and Cardiff, Becchio’s strike should make no difference to this season or next.

Injury KO for Leigh

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/4/12
By Phil Hay
Leeds United defender Leigh Bromby will undergo major surgery this week after suffering a knee injury which team-mate Alex Bruce described as “sickening”.
Bromby is facing months of rehabilitation from the ruptured patellar tendon he sustained in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City. The 31-year-old passed out on the pitch after collapsing in agony with no-one around him, and United’s players looked visibly distressed as medical staff tended to him on the field.
Bruce, who partnered Bromby in the centre of United’s defence until the centre-back was stretchered off in the 28th minute, said: “It was sickening to see. Obviously playing next to him, to see your mate in agony like that knocks the wind out of you to say the least. He’s a great lad and very popular in the dressing room. It was upsetting.”
Bromby travelled home with United’s squad on Saturday afternoon and the club were waiting for swelling around his knee to subside before sending him for an operation.
The injury will see him miss the start of next season and manager Neil Warnock is not expecting Bromby to recover until after the turn of the year.
Warnock said: “It was terrible. He was in agony and had to have oxygen straight away. He passed out.
“He’ll have an operation and he’ll be out a long time. I’d be very surprised if he was back before Christmas.”
Leeds are one game away from completing their Championship campaign and Luciano Becchio’s late header staved off a 19th league defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The forward scored 17 minutes from time to cancel out an earlier strike from Joe Mason, leaving City’s play-off qualification up in the air going into the last weekend of the term.
Warnock was ready to continue his cull of players this week, saying: “We’ve got to move on.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Warnock cannot wait to shake up the Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/4/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock revealed that his first summer transfer deal was effectively signed and sealed after a 1-0 defeat to Blackpool officially ended Leeds United’s season.
Warnock expects the unnamed signing to arrive at Elland Road during the first week in May, beginning a process of rebuilding which is set to intensify after last night’s loss at Bloomfield Road.
A 79th-minute goal from Spanish midfielder Angel subjected Leeds to another disappointing result, confirming mathematically that United will fall short of the Championship play-offs.
The Elland Road club have two matches remaining, one away to Cardiff City this weekend and the other at home to Leicester City on April 28, but Warnock is deep into his planning for the 2012-13 season with nothing left to vie for.
The United manager said: “We’re lacking in certain areas but we can’t do anything about that until the summer. Two games to go then I’ve got no excuses in pre-season.
“I’m looking forward to bringing players in and the first one should come at the end of the first week in May. I think it’s agreed.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll bring a number in soon after that and one or two other things are cropping up at the moment. Roll on the summer.”
Leeds finished last night’s game with 10 men after defender Darren O’Dea – recently returned from a two-match ban – received a red card which will rule him out of both of United’s remaining fixtures.
Warnock described O’Dea’s dismissal for a second bookable offence as “quite deserved and stupid” but claimed United deserved to take at least a point from Bloomfield Road.
He accused referee Tony Bates of denying his side a clear penalty in the first half when former Leeds full-back Stephen Crainey brought down striker Ross McCormack.
Warnock said: “We had some great chances and I thought it was a penalty.
“The referee said ‘something wasn’t quite right’ but I don’t know what that means. He either books (McCormack) if he dives or gives a corner. He’s given nothing.
“But we were playing against one of the better sides in the division and I’m disappointed that we’ve not come away with a win, let alone a point.”
Blackpool’s victory moved them to within touching distance of play-off qualification.
Manager Ian Holloway said: “I’m on top of the world. That was as tough a game as you’ll ever have, but I honestly thought we deserved to win by a bigger margin.”

Blackpool 1 Leeds 0: Holloway's men close in on play-offs thanks to late goal

Mail 17/4/12
Angel Martinez's first goal for Blackpool handed Ian Holloway's side a significant victory in their pursuit of an npower Championship play-off place.
The former Espanyol midfielder pounced on a loose ball 10 minutes from time to sink a spirited Leeds side that finished a man down after Darren O'Dea earned a second yellow card.
Wing duo Matt Phillips and Tom Ince had Blackpool on the front foot during the first-half, but Leeds were a threat from set plays and on the counter attack.
Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio went close as Neil Warnock's side grew into the game after the interval, but Martinez sent the majority of a sell-out crowd home happy.
Middlesbrough's 0-0 draw with relegated Doncaster means Blackpool are four points ahead of the seventh-place side going into the final two games of the season.
Lomana LuaLua - who bagged a brace in a 5-0 victory over Leeds at Elland Road in November - came into the Blackpool line-up in place of the ill Stephen Dobbie, while left-back Bob Harris dropped to the bench to accommodate Stephen Crainey.
Leeds boss Neil Warnock went with the line-up that finished Saturday's 4-1 win over Peterborough, meaning Paul Robinson and Danny Webber started in place of full-back Charlie Taylor and injured winger Robbie Rogers.
Darren O'Dea headed over from Robinson's cross when unmarked after Blackpool failed to clear a Leeds corner, but the hosts made most of the early running.
In the 10th minute, Bloomfield Road burst into song and applause to commemorate the 10th anniversary of former manager Billy Ayre's death, and Phillips almost provided a fitting tribute by darting in from the left and clipping a shot into the side netting.
Ince then effortlessly spun Robinson on halfway before surging towards the area and planting a shot over, and then visiting goalkeeper Andy Lonergan rushed from his goal to thwart Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
Shortly before the half hour, Ince collected a return pass from LuaLua and bundled through a clutch of challenge on the edge of the Leeds area to draw a fine save from Lonergan.
The game flowed engagingly from end to end as half-time approached and after Phillips nodded beyond the bar from Taylor-Fletcher's header across goal, Leeds top scorer Ross McCormack had a penalty claim waved away after he appeared to get the better of Crainey.
In the 44th minute Lonergan saved from LuaLua's free-kick after a meaty challenge from O'Dea on Taylor-Fletcher earned the Leeds defender a booking.
A counter-attack was launched moments later and Webber cut in from the left to draw a sharp near-post stop from Matt Gilks. Some controlled possession from Leeds at the start of the second period failed to yield any clear cut chances and Lonergan was back in action after the hour, palming a LuaLua effort behind following some clever footwork from Ince.
It was a relatively isolated moment of encouragement for the Seasiders, who were becoming increasingly ragged, and Snodgrass had Gilks at full-stretch from a 67th minute free kick before Becchio - on for the injured Billy Paynter - headed over from Adam Clayton's searching cross.
Blackpool substitute Nouha Dicko had Lonergan at full stretch in the 78th minute and he was soon involved in the winning goal. The on-loan Wigan forward engineered space on the right to cross towards Ince and, when his team-mate failed to get the ball under control, Martinez was on hand to stab home.
Webber headed off target as Leeds sought an immediate response, but their quest for a point was compromised when O'Dea sent Dicko sprawling.
‘A couple of agents I know told me Angel had been unlucky with injuries but that he was a fantastic player who was worth a go,’ said Holloway.
‘They were right. He has kept Barry Ferguson and now Ludovic Sylvestre out of the side just lately.
‘It was a nice night, but I don’t want it all to end horribly. I can still feel the sting from last season. It was like a jellyfish got us, so we are desperate to put that right.’

DUO SET TO LEAVE ELLAND ROAD

leedsunited.com 16/4/12
The contracts of homegrown defender Ben Parker and Finland international Mika Vayrynen have been cancelled by mutual consent. Both players contracts were due to expire in the summer, but an early termination has been agreed. Ben is likely to remain at Thorp Arch until the end of the season to continue training with the squad.
Ben was the longest serving player at the club, having first tasted senior action back in the summer of 2006 when he featured heavily in the club's pre-season games. He spent the 2006/07 season on loan at Bradford before making his Leeds debut at Macclesfield in the Carling Cup in August 2007.
His league debut followed a few days later against Southend United and after featuring regularly during the first half of the season, he moved to Darlington on loan following the arrival of Gary McAllister as manager.
Ben featured regularly the following season, scoring his only goal for the club at Northampton in the FA Cup, but disaster struck on the opening day of the 2009/10 campaign when he suffered an injury against Exeter that was to prove the start of over two years on the sidelines.
The former Academy youngster underwent a series of operations and made a number of aborted comebacks before finally returning to action around Christmas 2011. Ben hasn't featured for Leeds this season, but had a loan spell at Carlisle United.
In total, Ben has made 47 starts for the club and seven sub appearances.
In contrast, Vayryrnen has started just three games and made nine appearances as a substitute since Simon Grayson signed him in September. He made his debut as a sub against Man U in the Carling Cup and his full league debut came at Peterborough the following month.
Mika's most recent appearance was in the FA Cup reverse at Arsenal.
The club wishes both players every success for the future.

Keep the faith, Warnock tells stars

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/4/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock has warned Leeds United’s most valuable players that they would be “idiots” to seek a move out of Elland Road when the season ends in two weeks’ time.
Warnock urged his influential squad members to keep faith with the club during a summer of transition after a 4-1 defeat of Peterborough secured his maiden home win as Leeds manager.
The 63-year-old watched from the stands when United beat Doncaster Rovers at Elland Road on the day of his appointment in February, but goals from Billy Paynter and Ross McCormack on Saturday saw Leeds claim a first victory with Warnock on the touchline.
The club’s form in the interim has made the Championship play-offs all but unreachable and Warnock’s attention has already turned to the task of rebuilding his squad with the aim of competing for promotion next season.
He and chairman Ken Bates met last week to discuss the summer transfer budget and the offer of new contracts to key players on the books at Leeds, among them captain Robert Snodgrass.
The Scotland international, whose existing deal expires in June 2013, would become United’s highest earner by accepting the improved deal proposed by Leeds, but he is unlikely to commit to another year at Elland Road without firm assurances about the club’s ambition and future potential.
Warnock is due to speak with representatives of Aidan White this afternoon in a bid to prevent White leaving United when his current deal runs out this summer, and formal offers are expected to be made to McCormack, Adam Clayton and Darren O’Dea in the weeks ahead.
The fate of the remainder of Warnock’s squad remains to be seen, but Paynter staked his claim for a role under the Leeds boss next season by enhancing his poor goalscoring record with a brace against Peterborough.
The ex-Swindon forward had hit just one previous goal in almost two years with United but played an influential role on Saturday, during his first seasonal start.
His fate is up in the air, however, with Warnock saying: “I honestly haven’t got a clue who’s going to be involved next season. I don’t think anyone can say, not even the lads under contract. We’ll have to see what develops.
“The ones who’ve got a year left, the one’s who’ve got nothing left – I’m making decisions and I’ll stand by them. There’ll be some people here next year and people who I hope would want to stay – the lads we’re talking to.
“But if they don’t stay, then that’s their hard luck and I’m not just talking about Snodgrass. I’m talking about others as well. At my age, I don’t worry now about people who want to leave.
“I look to the future and I think this is a great club and a great place to be. You’d be an idiot to leave at the moment. It’s an exciting time.”
Asked if he’d had any response from Snodgrass to the contract offer made to him last week, Warnock said: “No, we’ve not had time – other than me telling him he’ll be stupid if he doesn’t sign!
“If I was him, I wouldn’t rush into anything either. He’s got to know where we want to be, and I’m telling him where we want to be. I hope he’s part of it.
“If not, then he’ll move on, but he might not get a game somewhere else. You never know what’s around the corner. It would be great for him to lead us out next year with a revamped squad, looking forward to the season.”
Leeds hit back from a 38th-minute goal from Posh’s Joe Newell to seal victory with three quick goals either side of half-time. Newell struck after Danny Webber and teenager Charlie Taylor failed to clear the ball from the edge of United’s box, but Paynter was gifted an equaliser in first-half injury-time by a mistake by Peterborough goalkeeper Paul Jones.
Two goals from McCormack early in the second half turned the game on its head and lined up a welcome home win, and Warnock said: “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had some great performances at home and some diabolical ones too. It seems to be the toss of a coin over how we’re going to play.
“We started well and could have been two or three goals up, but as always we shot ourselves in the foot with a calamitous goal. Fortunately, Peterborough gave us a more calamitous goal back.
“At half-time, we regrouped and we were a lot more positive in the second half. But I don’t get carried away. Nothing’s changed my opinion on what I need in the next few months or where I want to be at the start of next season.”

Match report: Leeds United 4 Peterborough United 1

Yorkshire Evening Post 15/4/12
Goal-shy striker Billy Paynter finally found his scoring boots to help Leeds United to a crushing come-from-behind win over Peterborough that earned Neil Warnock his first home victory as manager.
The 27-year-old, signed from Swindon two years ago, had managed just one goal for the club prior to this afternoon and, when he was announced as one of five changes made by Warnock following defeat to Derby on Monday, his name was greeted with sarcastic cheers from fans who had grown tired of waiting for him to prove his worth.
He answered them today, though, scoring twice as Warnock’s men replied to Joe Newell’s opener in some style, with Ross McCormack also grabbing a brace to take his tally for the season to 19.
Paynter’s first and McCormack’s double came in a chaotic 180-second burst either side of the interval and killed off a Posh side who are still not mathematically safe from relegation and require a point to survive.
Today was Paynter’s day, however, and after being handed a rare start ahead of Luciano Becchio, he set about proving to Warnock that he wants to remain in a squad that the veteran boss has repeatedly stated since his February arrival needs major surgery.
He had a first-minute one-on-one saved and then had a second-minute header cleared off the line, while Robert Snodgrass was also denied under the bar as Leeds looked to have heeded Warnock’s post-Derby warning that one of his sides would never play so badly again.
That quickly looked likely to be a false statement, though, as Posh got on top.
George Boyd missed two presentable chances, one after Andy Lonergan came for and missed a cross, the other after teenage defender Charlie Taylor slipped and lost possession.
Leigh Bromby’s deflected header then clipped Peterborough’s bar, but Leeds looked shaky at the back and, after another Taylor error, the visitors took the lead when Newell robbed him of possession in the 37th minute and tucked under Lonergan from an acute angle.
Boyd should have made it two seconds later but could not adjust his feet after the home keeper shelled Paul Taylor’s shot, meaning that when Paynter scored from a yard in first-half injury time after Paul Jones dropped a Snodgrass shot, it brought Leeds level rather than giving them a lifeline.
If Peterborough were stunned by the goal then they were even more shellshocked after the break as McCormack’s quickfire double put them out of sight.
First, his weak back-post volley after a Paynter flick somehow bobbled over the top of Jones and then, as Peterborough poured forward, Snodgrass, Danny Webber and Adam Clayton picked them apart to give the Scot a two-yard tap-in.
The game was over as a contest now and Leeds probed for chances seemingly at will, with Paynter taking one with 17 minutes left. Tom Lees’ cross found its way to him at the back post and his clinical 12-yard finish belied a man who only 40 minutes previous had scored his maiden home goal for the club.
He could and should have had a hat-trick after that, blazing wide when played in by Webber, before Warnock afforded him a standing ovation when he withdrew him with seconds remaining.

Warnock sold on Leeds vision

Sky Sports 14/4/12
Drastic action is needed, says Leeds boss
Leeds boss Neil Warnock is set to stay at the Championship club next season after productive talks with chairman Ken Bates. Warnock arrived at the club in February and has endured a difficult start to life at Elland Road with Saturday's win at home to Peterborough ending a run of three consecutive defeats.
And Warnock has admitted he had doubts about staying at the club because he is not interested in merely treading water - he wants a record eighth promotion.
But after extensive talks with Bates, the 63-year-old has been reassured he will be given the tools to achieve that goal next season.
"Before I spoke to the chairman I possibly did have doubts about next season," Warnock told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"I said when I first came here that I didn't want to be around mid-table. Next season's a big season for me.
"I don't want to work many more years and if I felt we couldn't get up there then it would be pointless picking up my money just to put a team out. I've never been like that.
"The chairman knows how desperate I am - and you can use that word because I am desperate - to bring the players in who can give me the success I want. The incentive for me is a record eight promotions.
"I was very pleased with his reaction and I've spoken to him numerous times this week. But how I feel at the moment is irrespective of anything. I just feel like taking the challenge on.
"If the supporters had been negative towards me or if I thought they didn't believe in me then it would be easy to walk away at the end of this season. But I'm probably the best man for the job that needs to be done at Leeds.
"I do feel that I want to put a team together for next season and give it a go. I don't want people to see me as having a team who are playing out games. I want to have a team who have something to play for.
"The challenge is there, I know what I need and I've told the chairman what I need. He's trying as hard as he can to give me what I require to make us successful. I'll know more in the next few weeks because things are happening behind the scenes all the time."
Warnock sees Bates' willingness to offer a new contract to club captain Robert Snodgrass as a positive start.
The Scotland international has a little over 12 months left on his existing deal and recently questioned the wisdom of selling former club captain Jonathan Howson to Norwich City in January without lining up a replacement.
But Warnock feels Bates understands what is needed now, saying: "I was very pleased with the reaction of the chairman. He listened to what I said and he's got his own ideas.
"But money's not everything with players. Some of them just want to see the ambition the club's got. I think Rob (Snodgrass) made that clear in some of his comments this week.
"It's also about getting the right players with the right attitude, and players who can play for Leeds. This isn't a normal club. You need a certain type of mentality to play here.
"I've already told the chairman of three or four players who I'm looking at and I'm speaking to agents regularly.
"We need to get cracking as soon as the season ends and that's why I want to get the first one in almost immediately. I hope that's almost done. I won't know for sure until the day it's agreed but I'm optimistic.
"We've gone through a list of players who are at the club already, giving ticks and minus and the chairman realises where I am. He knows what I'm thinking."
Warnock has had the challenge of keeping both players and fans happy while he begins the rebuilding process.
"I don't think players are daft," he said. "If I've got to change things around then I'll need people to go and make more wages available. It's not rocket science.
"My back's broad and we aren't playing well but for all the negativity, I've been surprised by how much support I've been given. The fans have taken on board the fact that drastic action is needed."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Warnock’s happy after productive Bates discussions

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/4/12
Leeds United manager Neil Warnock has given the clearest hint yet that he will lead the club into next season after a week of productive talks with chairman Ken Bates.
Warnock admitted to harbouring doubts about United’s future prospects in the Championship ahead of a number of scheduled meetings with Bates, but the 63-year-old said he “felt like taking the challenge on” following fresh discussions about his plans for the summer.
He and United’s owner spoke several times this week to review the club’s transfer budget and strategy for a close season when Warnock wants to see “major surgery” and “drastic action” taken on the squad at the Elland Road.
Warnock is nearing the end of the first stage of his contract with Leeds – a deal which runs until the summer of 2013 but includes a clause allowing him to leave the club when this season ends – and he warned again that he had no desire to coach a mid-table team in a year when he hopes to seal a record eighth promotion as a domestic manager.
Leeds hold 14th place in the Championship heading into tomorrow’s game against Peterborough United, one of four remaining matches, and his meetings between Bates came on the back of a 2-0 loss to Derby County – United’s 10th home defeat of the campaign.
Warnock, who insisted upon his arrival in February that the job at Elland Road would be his last in management, said: “Before I spoke to the chairman I possibly did have doubts about next season. I said when I first came here that I didn’t want to be around mid-table. Next season’s a big season for me.
“I don’t want to work many more years and if I felt we couldn’t get up there then it would be pointless picking up my money just to put a team out. I’ve never been like that.
“The chairman knows how desperate I am – and you can use that word because I am desperate – to bring the players in who can give me the success I want. The incentive for me is a record eight promotions.
“I was very pleased with his reaction and I’ve spoken to him numerous times this week. But how I feel at the moment is irrespective of anything. I just feel like taking the challenge on.
“If the supporters had been negative towards me or if I thought they didn’t believe in me then it would be easy to walk away at the end of this season. But I’m probably the best man for the job that needs to be done at Leeds. And it’ll be as tough as job as I’ve ever had.
“I do feel that I want to put a team together for next season and give it a go. I don’t want people to see me as having a team who are playing out games. I want to have a team who have something to play for.
“The challenge is there, I know what I need and I’ve told the chairman what I need. He’s trying as hard as he can to give me what I require to make us successful. I’ll know more in the next few weeks because things are happening behind the scenes all the time.”
Bates’ willingness to offer a new contract to club captain Robert Snodgrass was a positive start in Warnock’s eyes.
The offer would make the Scotland international the highest earner at Elland Road and would, if accepted, counter the threat of him leaving Leeds this summer. With 12 months left on his existing deal, it not yet certain whether Warnock will have Snodgrass available when the new season starts on August 18.
At an official club function on Tuesday night, Snodgrass was reported to have questioned United’s wisdom in selling former club captain Jonathan Howson to Norwich City in January without signing a suitable replacement.
Warnock, too, has looked for signs of Leeds’ ambition in his talks with Bates and chief executive Shaun Harvey, asking them to secure key players whose contracts are running down and make funds available to recruit his chosen transfer targets. Warnock remains hopeful of securing his first signing on May 1, three days after the season finishes.
“I was very pleased with the reaction of the chairman,” he said. “He listened to what I said and he’s got his own ideas.
“But money’s not everything with players. Some of them just want to see the ambition the club’s got. I think Rob (Snodgrass) made that clear in some of his comments this week.
“It’s also about getting the right players with the right attitude, and players who can play for Leeds. This isn’t a normal club. You need a certain type of mentality to play here.
“I’ve already told the chairman of three or four players who I’m looking at and I’m speaking to agents regularly. We need to get cracking as soon as the season ends and that’s why I want to get the first one in almost immediately. I hope that’s almost done. I won’t know for sure until the day it’s agreed but I’m optimistic.
“We’ve gone through a list of players who are at the club already, giving ticks and minus and the chairman realises where I am. He knows what I’m thinking.”
Warnock, who revealed that his intended signing was not a player who had played under him before, admitted after Leeds’ defeat to Derby that certain members of his team were being affected by the realisation that they were likely to be deemed surplus to requirements this summer.
“I don’t think players are daft,” he said. “If I’ve got to change things around then I’ll need people to go and make more wages available. It’s not rocket science.”
United’s manager promised changes to his line-up against Peterborough tomorrow, looking once again to make a decision on the handful of players who are still to be deemed either valuable or expendable. Michael Brown begins a three-match ban this weekend but Adam Clayton is available after completing a suspension of his own.
Leeds are one loss away from recording their worst ever home record in a single league season but Warnock said: “I’ve got to think longer-term now. The home form will change once we sort the team out.
“My back’s broad and we aren’t playing well but for all the negativity, I’ve been surprised by how much support I’ve been given. The fans have taken on board the fact that drastic action is needed. I still want to see three or four lads start a game, and Peterborough’s the one game of the four we’ve got left where the other club aren’t going for promotion.
“I’ve got to be careful against the other sides with the teams I put out but there’ll be two or three changes tomorrow. I can’t still be wondering about these players in two weeks’ time.”

Leeds United 0 Derby County 2: Warnock vows to rid abject Leeds of dead wood

Yorkshire Post 10/4/12
By Wayne Gardiner
Neil Warnock pledged to never again preside over a Leeds United team like his current one after they slumped to another abject defeat.
It was United’s 10th home reversal of the season, with goals from Craig Bryson and Steven Davies confirming their position as Championship also-rans.
Warnock, known as a promotion expert, was given the Elland Road reins after Simon Grayson’s sacking in February and has spent the last seven weeks running the rule over the squad he inherited.
He now feels he has got their number and has vowed to put things right over the summer.
“The end of the season can’t come quickly enough,” he said.
“I said to (Derby manager) Nigel Clough at the end, ‘Enjoy this, Nigel, because you’ll never see another Leeds United team or a Neil Warnock team like this’.
“We had a lot of players playing today that know they won’t be here next season. We’ve not got enough Leeds-type players. “We don’t revel in the atmosphere and that’s what we will do next year. We will revel in it.”
Friday’s 2-0 defeat at Reading saw United receive criticism in some quarters, with their robust, tough-tackling display reminiscent of days gone by when the club picked up its ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag. Michael Brown did his best to add to that yesterday, getting sent off 26 minutes in for a studs-up tackle on Theo Robinson.
Although Warnock felt referee Oliver Langford was right to dismiss the midfielder, the Leeds boss was unhappy with the official for comments he claims were made before kick-off.
“I don’t think you can complain about the sending-off,” said Warnock. “We all saw (Manchester City striker) Mario Balotelli’s tackle at the weekend and I think refs have been watching it. You don’t have to put them in that situation and Michael is wrong to do so. Putting his foot high gave him an excuse.
“But the referee said to Danny Pugh in the tunnel before the game, ‘I saw your game on Friday’. I think that’s pre-meditated, totally wrong and out of order.”
The win was Derby’s sixth in 10 matches and, had they had more than four games remaining, a play-off push may not have been out of the question. They are five points shy of sixth place Clough also saying afterwards that he is looking ahead to next season. Derby continue to hold the Indian sign over Leeds after recording a seventh straight win against disorientated United.
Brown’s dismissal was United’s third in as many games and their ninth of an up-and-down season. Fancied for promotion in August they are now headed for a bottom-half finish. Warnock has yet to win a game in front of his own fans since being appointed in February.
Even before Brown’s hot-headed moment Derby had impressed and enjoyed all the possession and chances. After Bryson’s goal the result was never in doubt and County saw out a game they deserved to win.
Jake Buxton had a header saved by Andy Lonergan and Nathan Tyson headed the rebound over an open goal early on.
It was all Derby and Paul Green missed before Brown’s dismissal. Six minutes later, County were ahead when Bryson made the most of a pocket of space outside the area to curl a delightful 25-yard effort high above Lonergan.
The Whites had their first genuine chance when Frank Fielding did well to punch away Robert Snodgrass’s fizzing free-kick, while the former England squad man also got down well to deny Ramon Nunez.
Brown’s absence left Leeds woefully short in midfield, though, and after Derby walked through with 66 minutes gone, they made it two. Davies had a shot that was charged down, but was on hand to lash home when the ball fell back into his path. Danny Webber skewed wide when clean through before Lonergan denied Davies what would have been a third.

Leeds 0 Derby 2: Bad boy Brown sent off as bogey side add to Warnock's home woes

Mail 9/4/12

By John Edwards
Neil Warnock faces one of the busiest summers of his managerial career if he is to achieve his goal of promotion before signing off at Elland Road next season.
With retirement beckoning at the end of his short-term Leeds contract, Warnock knows he has little time to build a squad fit for the Barclays Premier League and admits he is using the rest of this season to decide on individual futures.
Chairman Ken Bates put it more bluntly in his programme notes, claiming: 'The players are beginning to fall into three categories: 1 Keep, 2 Get Rid, 3 Undecided.'
Category two is in danger of being oversubscribed, judging by the evidence of a third successive defeat riddled with defensive shortcomings, basic errors and more indiscipline.
An eighth red card of Michael Brown's career, for a high challenge on Theo Robinson, was Leeds's third in as many games and left them a man short for 64 minutes.
Given Jake Buxton and Nathan Tyson squandered two glaring chances after barely a minute and Tyson steered a close-range header wide soon after it is debatable if it would have made much difference if Brown had stayed on.
The 10 men went behind to Craig Bryson's 25-yard curler in the 32nd minute before substitute Steven Davies doubled Derby's lead in the 66th minute with a low finish.
Leeds could muster little in reply, other than a Ross McCormack header that Frank Fielding turned away at full stretch, and Warnock said: 'A lot of the players know they won't be here next season. There weren't enough Leeds players out there, ones who revel in the atmosphere here.
'That will change, though, and I said to Nigel Clough at the end, "Enjoy it, because you will never see another Leeds or Warnock team like this one".'
Derby manager Clough said: 'If the season had an extra four games to go, maybe we'd have a chance of the play-offs, but we might just run out of time.'

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Neil tells it straight after Reading clash


leedsunited.com 7/4/12

United manager Neil Warnock was full of praise for the attitude shown his side after Friday's clash at Reading, despite suffering defeat.
Despite losing out to two late goals, the boss found plenty to take heart from after a fiery clash.
United had Zac Thompson sent off early in the game, but a no-nonsense approach from Warnock's side and a real workmanlike display saw Reading's usual attacking flair stifled.
"The players were fantastic under the circumstances," said the boss.
"We had a makeshift team and I didn't think they had a shot on goal until they scored.
"We played really well under the cosh and I was pleased.
"But I've never seen players surround the referee like they did there. It does influence him. We're told not to do it but everybody seems to.
"Straight away he gives the red card and I thought the kid was unlucky, having watched it three or four times. The ref only sees it once but when you've got the crowd and five or six players around you straight away, you tend to react.
"I don't think it's a red card, not when you see it in slow motion. I thought Pugh's tackle was worse. He should have been sent off and Hunt's challenge on Lonergan was a disgrace.
"All credit to my players though. I couldn't have asked any more from them.
"To get a man sent off so early on made it difficult. It throws everything off but we tried to be tight and break when we could. I thought we had the best chances."
As the game entered the final 10 minutes the outcome was still finely balanced, but the boss was disappointed with what he felt was a foul during the build-up to Adam Le Fondre's opening goal for the Royals.
"I was disappointed with the winning goal or what I'd call the winning goal - the first goal," said the boss.
"I thought Becchio was fouled in the build-up to it. Gorkss is clever. He's gone up and pushed Becchio with his arm before playing the ball. When you've played the game you know Gorkss is fouling Becchio and you know that's a free-kick.
"Bill Shankly used to say that 'the referees know the rules but they don't know the game.' With things like that, referees and linesman need to be educated. They've got to know what they're looking for and I don't think they do.
"For me that's the biggest disappointment of refereeing today. But in general, one referee teaches another so it's difficult to improve without bringing ex-professionals onto the scene.
"When you see Hunt's knee go right into the goalkeeper's ribcage, that's at least a yellow card. The referee didn't even see the knee going in. I had to tell him about it. He just thought the goalkeeper flapped at the ball."
The TV cameras also zoomed in on the United boss talking to young midfielder Thompson after he was dismissed early in the game.
The manager said: "I haven't said too much to him. What can you say? He's had an opportunity and he's blown it in some respects. But he's a good lad and he needs to learn from this.
"The trouble is, he set off with two feet. But he landed before he made contact and then slid in with one leg.
"What the assessors say is that if you've got two feet off the floor then it's a red card but I don't think it's a red card when he's not hurt the kid.  Not when you see it in slow motion. Obviously the referee doesn't get the benefit of that."

Battling Whites are stung at the death


Yorkshire Evening Post 7/4/12

By Phil Hay
In the end it was better than Neil Warnock expected – a day when those Leeds United supporters who laughed off his joke about staying at home found some satisfaction in ludicrous adversity.
Leeds took the long road to Reading with their squad coming apart at the seams and were backed into a corner by inexperience and recklessness, but a desperate situation found their players willing to dirty their hands.
United’s manager, Neil Warnock, reacted to his team’s defeat to Watford last week by suggesting his team lacked “something between their legs”. That something was found at the Madejski Stadium where Zac Thompson’s 13th-minute red card set the Alamo in motion. With 10 players and no end of credit, Leeds fought their way to within six minutes of a goalless draw.
Warnock would have accepted any stalemate as a creditable result before kick-off, on an afternoon when his choice of players was woefully inadequate, but it represented an immense possibility after the chaos which ensued so early in the game.
Thompson’s selection was largely the effect of Warnock’s extensive roll of absentees but the young midfielder’s only contribution was to invite his dismissal with the match in its infancy and leave United to face the music against the Championship’s second-placed team.
Creditable
They danced to Reading’s tune, as teams with 11 players regularly do at the Madejski Stadium, but a moral victory was found in their late and narrow defeat, inflicted by Adam Le Fondre’s goals on 84 and 90 minutes. A performance worth of the moniker ‘Dirty Leeds’ ran Leeds close to a point as creditable as any other accrued this season.
There were near-misses prior to Le Fondre’s tap-ins but stoic defending too; also a sense that Reading were relying on inevitability rather than their indisputable ability to bring matters to a head.
As Brian McDermott’s team persisted, Michael Brown and Danny Pugh put the boot in readily – sometimes legally, sometimes not. An impasse developed.
By the final 20 minutes, Reading were pushing their luck as Robert Snodgrass allowed a glorious chance to come and go, but Le Fondre, a late substitute, forced the issue when Jimmy Kebe’s cross found United’s defence stretched.
Warnock could not complain about tired legs or tired minds when the striker put Reading’s win beyond doubt in the last minute.
For all the hindrances bothering United’s boss – suspensions to Paul Connolly, Adam Clayton and Darren O’Dea, and an injury to Aidan White added to several others – his starting line-up retained a reasonable level of strength, albeit for 13 minutes.
The tell-tale signs of problems behind the scenes were Thompson’s appearance in the centre of midfield and the presence of Charlie Taylor on the bench. Warnock had promised to give “one or two kids a go”after United’s sorry defeat to Watford but the selection of an 18-year-old left-back among his substitutes was clearly enforced.
All in all, it led Warnock to dispense with his preferred system and set Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio against the brick wall of Reading’s centre-backs, Kaspars Gorkss and Alex Pearce. The defenders were only part of a team whose failings could be listed on the back of a stamp. In Warnock’s eyes, Reading had none.
Their attempt to flex their muscles began immediately, with Noel Hunt rising above Paul Robinson to head Ian Harte’s free-kick over the crossbar and the striker shooting straight at Andy Lonergan after collecting a misguided clearance from Alex Bruce.
Gorkss should have scored in the eighth minute when he met Harte’s corner six yards out, nodding it wastefully into the stands from close range, and the flow of the tide seemed to be set by that early juncture. Thompson’s dismissal confirmed that it was.
Michael Brown had already escaped unpunished for a committed foul when Thompson cut through the ankle of Jobi McAnuff, far out on one touchline. Referee Darren Drysdale pulled out his red card as players crowded around him and replays did nothing to exonerate Thompson. Warnock clasped the midfielder by the shoulders as he walked from the field with his head bowed, uttering some pointed words of wisdom.
Their backs to the wall and their formation shredded, Leeds could do nothing more than hang on gamely. Warnock berated the fourth official after Drysdale tolerated McAnuff’s late foul on Brown, one wild challenge in a half littered with them, but for a while he was helpless to stem Reading’s predictable onslaught.
Harte narrowly failed to test Lonergan from long range and then clattered the inside of a post with a flighted cross from the left wing. All that with 70 minutes to play.
It would have summed up United’s week to that point had Lonergan failed to recover from a 25th-minute collision with Hunt and deprived Warnock of his goalkeeper with no recognised replacement in reserve. A spell of treatment brought Lonergan back to his feet and Leeds’ first chance came moments later as McCormack slipped into Reading’s box and pulled a volley across the face of Adam Federici’s goal.
McAnuff clipped United’s ear soon after by cutting inside an embattled Tom Lees and hooking a shot over Lonergan’s bar but the lull in the game which followed suited Leeds.
Reading lost Jem Karacan from their increasingly anonymous midfield six minutes before the break when Brown dealt with him and the ball in one crunching movement.
It was through bloody-minded aggression like his that a depleted team reached half-time with parity and their pride intact.
Federici’s first save came immediately after the restart when he dived to turn Snodgrass’ free-kick around a post but the plot for the second half was never likely to be centred around attacks by Leeds.
Jimmy Kebe’s free-kick caused a scramble in front of Lonergan and Hal Robson-Kanu mis-controlled the ball when almost clean through. Had United been given the time, they would have watched the ticking clock.
But McCormack threatened an upset when he reacted to Kebe’s slip and clipped the outside of a post with a fine effort, and Snodgrass missed the opportunity to stab Reading in the back on 72 minutes when he arrived in an empty box and cracked a shot against Federici’s arms.
Sensational it would have been but Warnock’s players could hardly have emerged with more credit, even after Le Fondre arrived at the far post on 84 minutes to nudge Robson-Kanu’s hanging header into an empty net with six minutes to play.
With 90 minutes all but up the striker struck again by meeting Roberts’ cross from close range, unmarked inside the box.
It has been one of those seasons for Leeds, and one of those weeks.