Warnock's pep talk inspires Leeds
Leeds United 3 Doncaster Rovers 2: New manager delivers half-time verdict and then watches as his new squad complete comeback
Sunday 19 February 2012
The fanzine seller outside Elland Road was in no doubt that, for once, Ken Bates had got it right. His publication, The Square Ball, was carrying a piece titled: "Why it has to be Neil Warnock", a conclusion Bates had reached just a couple of hours before when confirmation of Warnock's appointment as Leeds United manager came through.
Warnock, who had met Bates in Monaco on Friday and shaken hands on a contract until the end of the 2012-13 season, was greeted by the supporters here, though there was no high-profile presentation of a manager grudgingly admired for his achievements at three other Yorkshire clubs; just an introduction over the Tannoy as he took his seat.
The contest that unfolded showed just why Warnock could not reject Bates's overtures; he saw Elland Road come to life as Leeds overturned a two-goal deficit to win against the Championship's bottom club through a Luciano Becchio goal in the ninth minute of injury time. The result lifted Leeds one place to 10th in the Championship, within three points of a play-off spot.
"The attraction is the situation they're in, a massive club with great fans," said the 63-year-old Warnock. "I enjoyed the support of the QPR fans but having 25,000 to 30,000 behind you is brilliant. I spoke to Wolves on Thursday and then to Ken in Monte Carlo on Friday. It was all a bit rushed and I hadn't planned to finalise anything but it all seemed to fit. I didn't want to stay out of football any longer.
"I think today showed how far we have to go. We are a long way from being a top side but the lads have spirit and showed it."
Warnock's goal in his 13th managerial post will be the eighth promotion of his career. "He has a proven record, knows what it takes, and he gets value for money out of players," said Bates, who tried to lure Warnock to Chelsea after he had taken Notts County into the top flight in 1991.
Bates had decided on Warnock after Leeds suffered defeats by Brighton and Coventry under caretaker manager Neil Redfearn. The academy coach seemed destined to end his temporary tenure with a third loss when Don-caster took a two-goal lead, and he gave credit to Warnock for the part he played in inspiring their second-half fightback. "He's had a big input today, he came in and addressed the lads before," Redfearn said. "He came in at half-time and made one or two points. He's an experienced guy and the information he gave has helped."
As the former Leeds player and manager Eddie Gray noted beforehand, Warnock's first task will be to sort out Leeds' defensive frailties, which were apparent once again. Doncaster might have begun the match with 10 men – Pascal Chimbonda having been ordered by Keith Stroud to remove his earring back in the dressing room – but by the 54th minute the division's lowest scorers before kick-off had scored twice.
Mamadou Bagayoko got the two goals, the Mali forward's first in English football since his January arrival. The first came after 32 minutes, soon after he had replaced the injured Habib Bam-ogo, Bagayoko rolling the loose ball home after Andy Lonergan saved at the feet of James Hayter. El-Hadji Diouf's through-ball was the catalyst for that goal, and in the 54th minute he turned a Tommy Spurr ball across goal for Bagayoko to score his second.
If that was the good of Diouf's contribution, the bad and the ugly followed after the final whistle when he and Ross McCormack exchanged words. As he entered the tunnel, the Leeds defender Alex Bruce raced after him and the plastic walls of the tunnel began shaking. More than a dozen police officers were soon rushing to the tunnel, though Redfearn did not comment and Dean Saunders, Doncaster's manager, did not attend the post-match press conference.
All that followed Leeds' revival. Thrown a lifeline by on-loan Tottenham midfielder Andros Townsend's first Leeds goal 60 seconds after they had fallen two behind, they had a let-off when Lonergan denied Bagayoko from close range before drawing level through a first-time Adam Clayton volley from Robert Snodgrass's left wing-cross.
Injuries to Spurr and Ronnie Rogers meant there were 10 minutes of added time, and in the ninth minute Becchio sealed the comeback, curling a shot past David Button after his initial effort had come off a defender. The Warnock era is up and running.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Bruce, Lees, O'Dea, White; Snodgrass, Clayton, Pugh (Brown, 60), Townsend (Rogers 79, replaced by Forssell 90); Becchio, McCormack.
Doncaster (4-4-2): Button; Chimbonda, Hird, Lockwood, Spurr (O'Connor, 90); Barnes, Stock, Gillett; Diouf, Hayter (Robert 89); Bamogo (Bagayoko, 25).
Referee Keith Stroud.
Man of the match McCormack (Leeds).
Match rating 8/10.
Allen sacked by County
Notts County sacked manager Martin Allen after yesterday's 3-0 defeat at Hartlepool. County made the move despite the defeat being their first in five League One games. A statement on the club's website said: "Notts County wish to announce that Martin Allen has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect."
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