AN injury-time strike by Luciano Becchio gave Neil Redfearn a winning send off as Leeds United caretaker manager as the Whites came from two down to beat Doncaster Rovers 3-2 at Elland Road.
Redfearn admitted he had a bit of help from newly appointed manager Neil Warnock with some half-time dressing room tips, but was delighted to have broken his duck in charge at Elland Road.
Victory looked a long way off after Donny sub Mamadou Bagayoko scored his first two goals for the club to give the visitors a deserved two-goal lead against a horribly out of sorts Leeds.
But Andros Townend, with his first at Elland Road, began the fightback and midfielder Adam Clayton got forward to score his sixth goal of the season with nine minutes remaining.
And after losing to injury-time goals in the previous two matches, it was Leeds’ turn to leave it late to clinch the points with the winner coming in the eighth minute of time added on largely for injuries that saw United’s Robbie Rogers and Rovers’ Tommy Spurr stretchered off.
There was an element of luck about Becchio’s clincher as his original long range strike was blocked only to fall invitingly for the Argentine striker to place his next shot beyond the reach of Rovers keeper David Button.
The action was not finished as the antics of wind-up merchant El-Hadj Diouf sparked angry scenes down the tunnel that led to the police getting involved, but the passion that surrounded the finish of the game was in stark contrast to the first half, which was about as dire as any game seen at Elland Road.
The presence of new boss Redfearn was expected to give the Leeds players a lift, but instead they looked like they had never played together before as misplaced passes were common place and there were alarming gaps at the back.
The first warning shot was fired by Rovers striker Habib Bamogo as he was left unmarked in the box and hit the post with a back flick. Luciano Becchio forced a save out of Button at the other end with a clever header, but that was to prove the only effort on target from the hosts in the whole of the first half.
Andy Lonergan was not exactly busy either before he raced out to meet James Hayter in the 32nd minute and saved at the Doncaster striker’s feet only for the ball to fall invitingly for Bagayoko to fire into the unguarded net.
The second half was a huge improvement and started with a bang as Hayter got clear to hammer a shot onto the home crossbar. Five minutes later, though, the visitors did have their second goal when the unmarked Diouf met a cross at the far post and volleyed across for Bagayoko to get his second tap-in.
He had looked offside, but the goal was allowed to stand and it provoked a full-on fan reaction as home supporters demanded to know what was going on.
Their chant was quickly stopped in its tracks, however, when the Whites surged straight forward from the restart and the fall fell nicely for Townsend to calmly slot home his first goal for Leeds.
At last it was like a Yorkshire derby with chances at both ends and tackles flying in. Lonergan denied Giles Barnes and Bagayoko while Barnes hit a shot wide when he should have played in the unmarked Simon Gillett. At the other end Becchio had a good chance only to see his header well saved by Button and Ross McCormack was denied by the keeper as he tried to round him having been put through by Robert Snodgrass.
Clayton equalised with a stunning volley on the stretch from Snodgrass’s cross and a thrilling finish was in prospect.
Hayter squandered a decent chance for Rovers and they were made to pay for their misses when Becchio scored the dramatic winner and promptly sped back to the half-way line to hug caretaker Redfearn, for who the victory meant a huge amount.
Leeds United 3
(Townsend 55, Clayton 81, Becchio 90)
Doncaster Rovers 2
(Bagayoko 32, 54)
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Leeds: Lonergan, Bruce, Lees, O'Dea, White, Snodgrass, Clayton, Pugh (Brown 60), Townsend (Rogers 79, Forssell 90), McCormack, Becchio.
Doncaster: Button, Chimbonda, Hird, Lockwood, Spurr (O'Connor 90), Diouf, Stock, Barnes, Gillett, Bamogo (Bagayoko 25), Hayter (Robert 89).
Referee: Keith Stroud.