Now, for all those who support and have championed Neil Redfearn for the job (til the end of the season, and there are a good few of you), Neil Warnock’s interview with Yorkshire Radio after the match summed up everything we needed to know about Redfearn’s tenure.
Against Bristol City, we were fortunate, and that’s putting it lightly. We were so lucky to come out of that match with anything other than frostbite. Against Brighton and Coventry we were just as woeful and without the referee brandishing more red cards to the opposition, Leeds offered nothing.
The long awaited announcement that Warnock had indeed been given the job was a massive relief; not only had the club got their man but it meant Redfearn wouldn’t get the job. I must add at this point, I have nothing against Redfearn in that none of this is his fault, IN THAT he’s been flung into the fire without much hope of anything. He is very much a coach, and when we look at the team, he’s a good one who has coached a great many decent young players through the ranks but that is where his abilities are, and should be left. We don’t, and could not have continued with a man at the helm with whom the players thought of as a mate. It was too pally and too safe. Leeds simply could not afford to leave matters in his hands, even Bates knew that.
So, Neil Warnock. I’ve never professed to like the guy, far from it; even during his tenure at Elland Road, he’ll probably still be the annoying, moaning, most irritating manager in the league but there’s always been a grudging respect for his managerial record. He’s not liked but then again, nor are Leeds so it’s a good match.
To the match and there was an air of positivity about the new manager; our season could finally have the desire and leadership it craved but Doncaster Rovers weren’t about to let the afternoon go smoothly. Adam Smith was dropped out of the side in favour of Alex Bruce at right back – yes, we remember the square pegs; they’re still here. Elsewhere, the injured Fab Delph was replaced by Andros Townsend with Danny Pugh moving into the centre.
From the off, Leeds looked shaky at the back and within minutes, Habib Bamogo found himself with the freedom of the six yard box and with the cockiest of back-heels, he had Andy Lonergran beaten, luckily, it hit the post and trickled to safety.
It wasn’t long though before Leeds were caught out as James Hayter’s was through on goal, only for Lonners to smother his effort which fell kindly for substitute Mamadou Bagayoko who was left with the easy job of putting Rovers in front.
Leeds were struggling to get into the game at all, the blustery condition were blameless as Leeds hoofed their way to half time in scenes as rudderless and demorolising as what we’d been subjected to at Coventry during the week, except by this time, we’d somehow managed to draw level.
In the squad went at half time to a chorus of boos from the frustrated crowd. Thankfully for everyone, Neil Warnock was on hand for the hairdryer treatment; the players needed a bollocking and the tactics needed redoing.
It’s never easy with Leeds though and Bagayoko was soon at it again, finding himself unmarked as Diouf and Tommy Spurr played him in, the rest was too easy. Aidy White was in no mans land at the back post.
Now officially a worse match than Coventry, the boos were louder, the frustration boiling over. Leeds had been so devoid of ideas and the constant hoofs and head tennis was all too much for many.
Thankfully, change was in the air as Townsend slammed Leeds level from Pugh’s layoff. The roar went up and the slightest hint of belief crept over Elland Road. After a tactical reshuffle, courtesy of Warnock, over the phone; Townsend switched to wide right, with Ross McCormack hanging out on the left; Snodgrass came in field before Robbie Rogers came on for Townsend.
Leeds were on the front foot and Snodgrass was getting more freedom, the first of his crosses was superbly headed clear by Spurr as Becchio was inches from scoring before Adam Clayton swung a foot at Snodgrass’ cross for the equaliser.
The celebration was an emphatic fist swirling affair, full of passion and meaning and for the first time, there was belief we could actually win this. Leeds’ pressure was dampened though when the unfortunate Rogers went head to head with Spurr which ended both their afternoons. Rogers suffered concussion in the collision but has since been declared ‘ok’, although taken to hospital for precautionary measures. You know its been a good debut when you don’t remember it. Or am I thinking of a night out? Hmm.
The stoppage was also notable for the precursor to what kicked off in the tunnel at full time as O’Dea and McCormack got involved in a tit for tat war of words with the ever innocent El Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda. The sideshow was a sour moment which Diouf played up to, as he usually does. Warnock got it spot on when he described him as a sewer rat, even if that is somewhat of an insult to sewer rats.
The stoppage brought about by the injury meant a good 10 minutes eventually being added on and as Leeds pressed, the ball fell to a persistent Luciano Becchio; his first shot was blocked but the ball fell kindly and Becchio produced one of the most clinical strikes of his Leeds career. Right in the top corner, postage stamp accuracy and the turnaround was complete.
It was telling that the players all followed and joined in the mobbing of Redfearn on the touchline; a likeable gentleman he may be but the players need discipline and man management, not the pally-pally approach. Warnock added in his post match chat that he wasn’t overly happy at being ignored during the Argentine’s celebration.
He won’t have begrudged Redfearn the moment though. Despite his limited managerial abilities, he has come through a difficult and immensely challenging few weeks with his dignity intact. And his managerial record is no worse off.
Listening to the radio after the match, there was a rather unfamiliar and disconcerting positivity about what the future holds. Warnock pointed out the flaws which he had observed and will remedy; quotes rarely formed during Simon Grayson’s tenure. Most tellingly, he said Becchio will win every header this season, ‘mark my words’. If you can keep him off the floor and sort out his first touch, you’re on to a winner, Neil.
He spoke of the changes from half time, getting Snods off the wing where he was largely crowded out, into a central role, how Becchio had a thankless task, constantly isolated from a midfield starting from their own 18 yard box, to how unhappy he was seeing so many Leeds players defending without leaving an outlet up front. He spoke of going back to basics but with Warnock, the basics will be just that. Leeds can play nice football, Clayton, McCormack and Snodgrass are among the most talented players we have, and through them we will create goals but the disorganised defence which was crying out for a leader will be Warnock’s big task in the weeks ahead.
What are these ‘tactics’ you speak of Neil? Do share more with us!
The incident at full time which sadly took place away from the cameras view in the tunnel will probably roll on for a few days but the rumours surfacing from what happened are at best, unsavoury. Donny player(s) have allegedly spat at McCormack, who has understandably reacted, by head-butting the perpetrator. Not the wisest move but the chants of ‘we’ll pay your fine for you’ said it all about the fans feeling towards Diouf.
Regardless of the way the game ended, the victory is a huge confidence boost, even if it was against the club who are bottom of the league. Warnock would rather win one and lose one, than pick up a couple draws, which is comforting after Leeds looked happy to try for the point at Coventry.
*Disclaimer. Ross McCormack may or may not have nutted Diouf. Diouf may or may not be a massive twat.