Leeds United boss delighted at ‘best performance of the season’

LEEDS United boss Neil Warnock hailed his team’s performance as the best of the season after they ended Crystal Palace’s 14-match unbeaten run on Saturday.

The Whites got back to winning ways against a Palace team that started out on top of the table as second half goals from Luciano Becchio and Paul Green clinched a 2-1 victory.

They were left hanging on at the end after Peter Ramage pulled a goal back for Palace, but they were delighted to end their seven-match league run without a win.

Manager Warnock said: “By a mile that was our best performance of the season. We showed that on our day we are as good as any team in the division.

“It just shows what a thin line it is between success and failure in football. If you’d interviewed me ten days ago you’d think I was thinking of chopping my head off, but now this has given us a massive lift. Even at my age you get down with things, but the takeover has given me a massive lift and we’ve got to take advantage, it’s a fabulous club.

“There has never been a lot wrong with us, I don’t think. We just needed a win to give us a lift and this one against a very strong Palace side has given us a massive boost.

“I am absolutely delighted for the new owners. We deserved the win over the 90 minutes,

“We started the game very well and had to hang in there at times. We worked very hard on how we were going to stop Palace and how we were going to be positive. But our two new lads made the difference.

“Alan Tate is a good pro. Me and him have had some good battles over the years, only because I admire him. He had a calming influence on us at the back.

“On his day Jerome Thomas is as good as anyone in the Premier League, let alone the Championship.

“We needed the lift in confidence those two have given us. I’m delighted to have got both of them until January.”

After the midweek takeover it was a more positive Elland Road atmosphere that greeted Crystal Palace and the United players seemed to feed off this.

The first half was goalless, but saw some good play at times from both sides. Leeds started like a house on fire as David Norris got forward from midfield to get several early efforts in on goal, one forcing a fine save from Palace keeper Julian Speroni, who also made a routine save from a Becchio header.

Jerome Thomas made a bright start on the left-wing after his loan move from West Brom and hit a snap shot wide from just outside the box.

After surviving the early onslaught the visitors showed why they had climbed to the top of the league with their England international Wilfried Zaha looking a particular threat down the left flank. In a great 10 minute spell Zaha hit an angled shot wide, Owen Garvan had a shot parried by home keeper Paddy Kenny, Yannick Bolasie headed wide and Kenny was forced into a double save to deny Jonathan Parr and Glenn Murray.

The second half burst into life seven minutes in when Paul Green headed down a Lee Peltier cross and Ramage’s attempt to clear only succeeded in the ball bouncing back off Mile Jedinak straight to Becchio, who had a simple to task to score from close range.

Michael Tonge went close to adding a second with a bending shot from the edge of the box and Norris blazed well over when placed to latch onto a poor Palace clearance while the visitors’ only response was a long range strike by Parr that went wide.

But it did become 2-0 on 75 minutes when Alan Tate’s free-kick from his own half was not cleared and Green’s well struck volley found the net via a deflection to give him his first goal in Leeds colours.

Palace were lucky to escape soon after when a tricky back pass led to Speroni mis-kicking, but the ball went wide of the goal to go out for a corner. But the visitors produced a big finish after Ramage headed home Kagisho Dikgacoi’s cross.

In almost six minutes of injury-time it was all hands to the pumps as Palace threw everything forward and an almighty scramble almost produced an equaliser with Tonge clearing off the line to deny Murray and ensure United clung on to celebrate a vital three points.

Match facts

Leeds United 2

(Becchio 52, Green 76)

Crystal Palace 1

(Ramage 86)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Npower Championship

Att: 20,964

Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Tate, Peltier, Green, Norris, Tonge, Thomas (Poleon 75, Brown 90), Diouf (McCormack 82), Becchio.

Palace: Speroni, Ward (Wilbrahim 90), Ramage, Delaney, Parr, Bolasie (Easter 68), Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Zaha, Garvan (Moritz 65).

Referee: David Coote.