As another European autocrat once famously pointed out, leaders need generals who are lucky as well as good, and perhaps Leeds United president Massimo Cellino will decide he has found just that man in Neil Redfearn.
Academy manager Redfearn, appointed caretaker after Cellino dispensed with the services of David Hockaday on Wednesday, oversaw a performance that was much improved on United’s previous six efforts this season, featuring as it did promising showings from new boys Casper Sloth, in midfield, and Mirco Antenucci, up front.
Good fortune also played its part, though. Stephen Warnock’s first-half goal, hit low across the goalkeeper, was clearly intended to be a cross, and deep in added time, United goalkeeper Marco Silvestri pulled off two extraordinary close-range saves from Jermaine Beckford and Lee Chung-Yong.
Redfearn, who is taking on the caretaker role for the third time in the last three years, was careful not to rule out the possibility of taking over on a full-time basis.
“I’ll have a chat with the president and see how he wants things,” said the Yorkshireman. “I’m excited about the academy, and the quality of the players we’re bringing through, but I work for the club.”
Cellino released another “message” before the game, warning supporters that the next coach may not be a big name. Steve Clarke is the fans’ favoured appointment, though that was before this game.
For the moment, however, Redfearn is in charge, and the former Barnsley and Charlton midfielder gave a debut to the unpromisingly named Danish midfielder Sloth – it is pronounced ‘Slot’, apparently – as well as first home starts to centre-half Giuseppe Bellusci and forward Antenucci. Sloth, bought from Aarhus for £600,000, is United’s 12th signing of the summer, and there are certain to be more before the transfer window closes on Monday.
Brazilian play-maker Adryan, who was reported to be at the game, and Paraguyan striker Brian Montenegro are understood to be considering season-long loans from Cagliari and Asuncion respectively.
The focus on Leeds may not have displeased Bolton manager Dougie Freedman, who brought his side to Elland Road having drawn one and lost three of their first four games. He will have been rather less happy to see Joe Mason skip past Jason Pearce on the right side of the Leeds penalty area only to shoot against the top of the bar early on. United fans hoping it was a sign the club’s fortune was turning for the better quickly received further encouragement.
Warnock was afforded far too much space close to the angle of the Bolton penalty area, but whether he intended to shoot inside goalkeeper Adam Bogdan’s left-hand post, or whether he was trying to play the ball along the six-yard line for his forwards to turn in, only he can say.
For what remained of the first half, Leeds looked rather good. Antenucci worked hard and intelligently to link up with Bianchi and Sloth, but Bolton retained a threat, and as half-time approached Silvestri twice had to save from Mason. The first, making himself ‘big’ and then holding the ball when Craig Davies put Mason through, was first-rate work.
Having gained the initiative, the visitors retained it after the break, but while the ball bounced around the Leeds penalty area on any number of occasions, it never fell kindly for the Trotters, and Silvestri dealt competently with shots from outside the box.
Freedman sent on Beckford, but this was United’s day, and given Cellino’s capacity for unpredictable decisions, it might turn out to have been Redfearn’s too.
Leeds United (4-1-3-2): Silvestri; Wootton , Bellusci , Pearce Warnock (C Taylor 55); Cook: Bianchi, Sloth (Bendicic 78), Mowatt; Sharp, Antenucci.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Bogdan; White, Wheater (Dervite 7), Mills, Ream; Lee, Medo (Feeney 82), Spearing, Danns; Mason, C Davies (Beckford 78).
Referee: Simon Hooper.