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Warnock strike enough to beat Bolton
Sunday, 31st Aug 2014 22:25 by Tim Whelan

We might have been slightly fortunate to beat Bolton Wanderers yesterday, but it was a win we needed to stay clear of the bottom three.

After Hockaday’s departure on Thursday Neil Redfearn took temporary charge, and he made several changes to the line-up. He’ll be familiar with academy products Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook, and took the opportunity to put them in the starting line-up as the Warnock-era midfield was swept aside. New signing Casper Sloth came straight in and there were also home debuts for Giuseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci.

And the new line-up worked pretty well, with Lewis Cook particularly impressive, working hard to break up Bolton’s moves and play a simple ball to get us moving forward. At the start I thought that too many passes were going astray and that all the new players still needed time to ‘gel’, but by the end the midfield were linking well together.

At the back Wooton was playing right-back in Byram’s absence with Bellusci in the centre, though both players might be more comfortable in the other position. And at times we looked exposed, with Pearce occasionally struggling against the pace of Bolton’s forwards, and one such moment led to the first chance of the game. Mason got past Pearce as the latter thought about bringing him down, but Silvestri got the touch he needed to deflect the ball onto the bar.

And five minutes later Leeds were in front. A good move down the right saw the ball crossed to Sharp, and he played it left again to find Warnock coming through in acres of space. Warnock might have been trying to drive it across the face of goal, but it crept in at the far post and I’m sure Bogdan will be disappointed he didn’t get down in time to keep it out. After Warnock’s wind-assisted effort at Yeovil last season he’s become a specialist at scoring flukey goals.

This seemed to settle Leeds down and we built several more promising moves. Despite the goal Warnock was still allowed to run free down the left (perhaps Bolton’s left back was having an afternoon nap) but we didn’t make the best use of him. On one occasion Mowatt tried to pick out Sharp through a congested midfield with Warnock free on the left, and a promising move was snuffed out.

Just before the break Mowatt nearly atoned with a fierce shot that was just too high, and at the other end a Bolton break ended with Mason shooting straight at Silvestri. The visitors had a lot more of the game in the second half, but one the Bolton fans in my office had told me they couldn’t score, and he was right, as they wasted a few good chances with some wayward shooting.

Silvestri was becoming the busier of the two keepers and he gave a master-class of quality Italian time-wasting, falling forward even after routine catches and needlessly lying on the ball for several seconds every time. Not once did the referee ask him to get a move on, but he probably won’t get away with it in away matches with a hostile crowd to yell at him.

Leeds lost one possible outlet for breaking out of defence when Warnock limped off to be replaced by Taylor, and by the 78th minute Sloth had run out of puff and was substituted, with Benedicic coming on. That was no great surprise, with the Dane reportedly not fully fit after his transfer. And at the same time Jemaine Beckford came on to a hero’s welcome, as Freeman tried to boost Bolton’s attack.

Antenucci went close with a curling shot, but apart from that Bolton had all the pressure in the closing stages. Silvestri kept out their best opportunity with a superb double save, the second being right on the line when they seemed certain to equalise. We still had to survive six minutes of stoppage time (there had been three injuries, so that was about right) but we held out even through the drama of Bogdan coming up for the final corner.

The celebrations at the end showed the importance of the win, to get our season back on track and open a slight gap between ourselves and a bottom three where Bolton now occupy one of the three places. Silvestri was our man of the match, and he milked the occasion by running the length of the field to hand his jersey and his gloves to some of the fans at the front of the Kop.

Out of curiosity I wandered into the first post-match party in the Pavillion, but I can only recommend it if you’re a Stevie Wonder fan. His Greatest Hits seemed to be the only CD the DJ had in his collection, apart from the dreadful dance music that accompanied the cheerleaders’ performance on stage. But the event will have boosted the club’s bar takings, so long may it continue.

We might have been fortunate to get all three points yesterday, but there are signs that this team is coming together, and we could start move up the table after the international break with the right new manager. Let’s hope Cellino gets it sorted out soon.

Photo: Action Images

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