Energised Leeds take a step in the right direction
Leeds United 2 Crystal Palace 1
A cold, wet winter's afternoon in west Yorkshire did not feel much like a bright new dawn but Leeds United completed a significant week off the pitch at Elland Road with a much-needed step in the right direction on it.
Three days after the long-awaited announcement of the club's takeover by the Dubai-based investment firm, Gulf Finance House Capital, Neil Warnock's team ended a seven-match wait for a League victory by overcoming high-flying Crystal Palace.
With the paralysing uncertainty over the club's future now settled, Warnock had said the season started here, and this was the right way to go about it in front of David Haigh, GFH Capital's deputy chief executive, and director Salem Patel.
The takeover process is expected to be completed in December after a one-month transitional period and Haigh's declared wish is to take Leeds "back to the Premier League as soon as possible". Whatever follows – and the prospect of Ken Bates staying on as president remains a worry for some fans – this was the perfect start for Warnock.
The delighted manager said it was Leeds' best performance of the campaign "by a mile" and admitted the week's events had given his team "a massive lift". It was thanks to the takeover that Warnock had two new loan players on show in Swansea centre-back Alan Tate and West Bromwich winger Jerome Thomas, and he said of the pair: "We needed a bit of a lift with one of two new faces and they've come in and played like they've been with us all year."
Palace's manager, Ian Holloway, admitted that "the energy from the takeover, the energy from the new signings" had helped Leeds, though it might have been a different story had the visitors capitalised on a strong spell of first-half pressure when Paddy Kenny made a fine double save to thwart Jonathan Parr and Glenn Murray.
That it was Leeds' day was underlined by the fortuitous build-up to their opening goal after 52 minutes when Peter Ramage's defensive header hit fellow centre-back Damien Delaney and fell straight to Luciano Becchio who swept the loose ball home. The second goal came when Lee Peltier's ball into the box bounced off a Palace head towards Paul Green and his powerful volley flew past Julian Speroni.
Palace hit back with Ramage's header from Kagisho Dikgacoi's cross and saw Michael Tonge hook a ball off the line in stoppage time, but their 14-game unbeaten run was over. For Leeds, though, something may just be starting.
Leeds (4-4-2): Kenny; Byram, Lees, Tate, Peltier; Green, Norris, Tonge, Thomas (Poleon, 75; Brown, 90); Diouf (McCormack, 82), Becchio.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Ward (Wilbraham, 90), Ramage, Delaney, Parr; Jedinak, Dikgacoi; Bolasie (Easter, 68), Garvan (Moritz, 65), Zaha; Murray.
Referee David Coote.
Headers from Ben Nugent and Aron Gunnarsson earned Cardiff City a 2-1 win at Barnsley that lifted them to top of the Championship. Third-placed Leicester City won 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday, but Middlesbrough, fourth, and Hull City, fifth, both lost at home, to lowly Bristol City and Burnley respectively.
The surprise package, however, are Millwall who stormed into the top six after Chris Wood, on loan from West Brom, made it seven goals in seven games in their 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers. "Chris is here until Christmas and it's an obvious one that we'd like to take it further," Lions' manager Kenny Jackett said.
In the Midlands derbies, Nottingham Forest won 2-1 at Wolves and Derby County beat visitors Birmingham City 3-2.
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