ROSS McCormack's 17th goal of the season and a penalty save two minutes later by Andy Lonergan earned Leeds United a victory over Millwall as they bounced back well from their midweek beating at the hands of Nottingham Forets.
After losing 7-3 in midweek, it was a different story for United as they kept a clean sheet at the New Dean to record a 1-0 win that kept their play-off hopes alive.
With defeats for rivals Blackpool and Hull and only a home draw for Middlesbrough they have closed the gap again on the teams battling for a top six finish in the Npower Championship.
Manager Neil Warnock surprisingly made only one change to the side that was embarrassed by Forest with Alex Bruce coming in at centre-back and Tom Lees switching to right-back at the expense of Paul Connolly.
The vote of confidence was repaid as United defended so much better as a unit. They did not produce much up front, however, until the second half.
A typically frantic start to a Millwall – Leeds game saw Whites skipper Robert Snodgrass booked in the first minute. The opening chance fell to the hosts with Darius Henderson heading over. United replied with Snodgrass crossing for Luciano Becchio, who also headed over.
The goalkeeper Millwall picked up from Leeds, Maik Taylor, was brought into action to save McCormack’s deflected free-kick while Lonergan also made his first save of note to deny Henderson’s low shot.
But it was not until the second half that the game opened up more with McCormack having an effort well saved by Taylor and Millwall having shouts for a penalty turned down after there appeared to be a handball after Bruce had done well to make a clearance.
Leeds took the lead on 65 minutes when superb work by Adam Clayton and Snodgrass set up McCormack for his 17th goal of the season, the Scottish striker turning the ball home from six yards out.
A minute later the hosts had the ball in the net through Harry Kane only for referee Lee Probert to have already blown for a penalty for a trip by Bruce on former Leeds striker Andy Keogh.
Henderson stepped up to take the spot kick, but saw Lonergan dive to keep the ball out to make what turned out to be a match winning save.
Millwall stayed on the attack and were unlucky when Paul Robinson’s header crashed against the crossbar
But instead of a grandstand finish from the hosts it was United who had the better chances in the closing stages and were unlucky not to add to their lead when McCormack was denied by Taylor when he could only shoot straight at the keeper after making the opportunity for himself with a clever flick.
Leeds United 1
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Millwall: Taylor, Robinson, Smith (Montgomery 83), Craig, Ward, Abdou, Wright, Henry (Bouazza 83), Keogh, Henderson, Kane.
Leeds: Lonergan, Lees, Bruce, O’Dea, Robinson, White (Webber 62), Clayton, Brown, Snodgrass, McCormack (Connolly 90), Becchio.
Referee: Lee Probert.