A 72nd minute penalty put away by Stephen Warnock kept Leeds United in the play-off hunt as they beat Millwall 1-0 at Elland Road.
The left-back’s first goal for the Whites gave his namesake manager some cheer after United were making hard work of beating the Londoners and had earlier seen another penalty by Ross McCormack saved.
Leeds were denied twice by the woodwork and looked set for a frustrating afternoon until their second spot kick, awarded for a foul by Alan Dunne on McCormack, gave them their big chance to clinch an eighth win in their last nine home matches in the Npower Championship.
In an open game Millwall also hit the post through James Henry and could count themselves unlucky to finish with 10 men when Henry was stretchered off on 86 minutes with a knee injury after they had already made their three substitutions.
The visitors opened brightly with their Pontefract-born winger Martyn Woolford hitting a second minute shot into the side netting and Henry’s effort hitting the post after 12 minutes.
But United eased their way into the contest and should have scored when Luke Varney headed a Warnock cross wide with keeper David Forde nowhere.
Michael Tonge hit a shot from the edge of the box just wide before they were awarded the first of their penalties on 27 minutes when Sam Byram was tripped by Woolford after running onto Paul Green’s great pass. However, McCormack then saw his spot kick well saved low down with Forde tipping the ball onto the post.
Within a minute McCormack had hit the woodwork again when his cross evaded the leaping Varney and beat Forde only for the ball to bounce to safety off the inside of the post.
McCormack should have made amends on 36 minutes when set up in the box from Varney’s run and low cross, but he took an extra touch and saw his shot saved by Forde.
At the other end Paddy Kenny saved well from John Marquis’s volley and ex-Leeds loanee Shane Lowry fired a shot over in a crowded goalmouth and somehow the half ended goalless.
The second half took a while to get going action-wise, but Tonge hit two decent shots from distance with the second needing a good save from Forde and Green’s goalbound strike was blocked by a defender.
United survived a scare when another ex-Leeds player Andy Keogh got in behind their defence to set up fellow sub Nathan Tyson, but he could not get a shot away. But Leeds came up with their winner as McCormack was brought down by Dunne and this time Warnock picked the ball up to shoot home confidently from the spot.
Varney had a chance to put the seal on victory on 83 minutes when sent clear by Tonge following a counter attack from their own half only to be unable to beat Forde in a one-on-one with the keeper.
Varney ended up off the field after being carried off in injury time, but United saw the game out well with the only scare being a handball appeal waved away by referee Mike Jones after the ball bounced up and hit Byram on the arm.
Leeds United 1
(Warnock 72, pen)
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Peltier, Warnock, Green, Norris (Brown 75), Tonge, Varney (Pearce 90), McCormack (Diouf 75), Morison.
Millwall: Forde, Dunne, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry, Henry, Abdou, Wright (Saville 84), Woolford, Afobe (Keogh 67), Marquis (Tyson 67).
Referee: Mike Jones.