WHAT a difference a few days made for Leeds United and Neil Warnock this week, writes Tony Harber.
Booed off and hammered by supporters following a poor performance and a 2-0 defeat to Barnsley in the Npower Championship on Saturday, it was suddenly all smiles again as the Whites came from behind to beat Birmingham 2-1 in the FA Cup on Tuesday night to book a tasty fourth meeting with Tottenham at Elland Road on Sunday week.
With Birmingham ahead at half-time through a Wade Elliott goal the pressure was really on and after fans called for manager Warnock to quit at Oakwell a few days earlier the knives were being sharpened. But a much improved display after the break saw Ross McCormack come to the rescue with an equaliser and six minutes later El Hadji Diouf put away a penalty to complete a real morale-boosting victory.
Now the question is what can fans expect at Elland Road this Saturday when United are next in action against Bristol City?
Having lost to the side then at the bottom of the table last week, Leeds now take on the team that took over at the basement and once again face opponents who have just changed manager.
City sacked Derek McInnes following their 4-0 defeat to Leicester last weekend, but were quick to appoint Sean O’Driscoll, who already has a win over Leeds to his credit this season on Boxing Day while boss of Nottingham Forest.
A quickfire double for him would heap the pressure back on Warnock, but the United boss is unfazed, publicly at least, by the recent criticism that has come his way and said on Saturday that he felt he was doing “a great job”.
After Tuesday’s cup win, he said: “I think the players realised that I came in for a bit of stick on Saturday.
“A few things were said in the dressing room afterwards, but I said then that the response to all criticism has to come on the pitch. That’s where you answer your critics and that’s when a manager gets paid.
“In adversity, it’s all about how you come back and how you react. That’s what we did and we’ve come out with a result that no-one would have predicted.
“We’ve got a great tie in the next round now. When you win like we did it gives you such a lift mentally and half the problem at our level is the mentality of players.”
Warnock is likely to make changes from the successful cup side with Paddy Kenny set to return in goal in place of cup keeper Jamie Ashdown and recently signed midfielders Ross Barkley and Michael Tonge available again after they were ineligible for the Birmingham match. Left-back Adam Drury picked up an injury and is a major doubt with either Aidan White or Alan Tate set to come back in.
Young striker Dominic Poleon has committed his future to the club by signing a new extended contract.
The 19-year-old broke into the senior squad during the summer and he has been rewarded for his progress with a new two-and-a-half-year deal with the club
A product of the club’s academy, Poleon scored 12 goals in 27 appearances in the under 18s during the 2011/12 season before making the step up.
He said: “I’m glad to be tied down and commit my future here.
“I know I’m going to be here for a number of years now and I can work to that and hopefully push on.”
Poleon has made seven senior appearances this term, six of those coming off the subs bench, and he also scored his first goal for the club in the 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest in September. He also scored twice in eight appearances while on loan at Bury.
He added: “When I started the season I was happy to do well and scoring was a bonus.
“The loan was all about me experience and that was a bonus doing well at Bury so it’s worked really well.
“I can only thank the gaffer here for the faith he has put in me. I’ll keep working hard, and hopefully I can shine and do well.”
Leeds’ Elland Road clash with Derby County on Monday, April 1 will be televised by Sky Sports with the kick-off time put back from the original 3pm to 5.05pm.