On a glorious spring afternoon, Leeds United entered the home straight of the 2012/13 Championship season with a vital home win which keeps alive their slim hopes of promotion to the Premier League. With two difficult away fixtures to come over the next seven days it was vital that the Whites picked up maximum points from the match against mid-table Millwall.
Neil Warnock named an unchanged line up for the third game in succession, hoping that the side could add goals to the sides newly found defensive stability. Kenny Jackett made one change to his side that won at Middlesbrough last weekend, recalling former United loanee Shane Lowry after serving a one game suspension.
Despite another overall disappointing crowd, every seat available at each end of the ground was taken and the atmosphere at kick off was much livelier than in recent weeks. It was the visitors that started the better, backed by a little over 100 fans following a boycott of the game by the Millwall support, with Martyn Woolford having a couple of strikes wide of the goal inside the opening three minutes.
Leeds were being overrun in the midfield area, Michael Tonge and David Norris struggling to get with the pace of the game early on. Millwall should have taken the lead in the 13th minute, James Henry beating Paddy Kenny at his near post only to see the ball come back off the woodwork.
Kicking towards the Kop end, United slowly began to get a foothold in the game, with all the danger coming down the right hand side where Sam Byram was raiding effectively. It was a typical run by the right back which brought Leeds a penalty in the 27th minute. The teenager burst into the area and a quick change of direction totally befuddled Lowry, who clearly took Byram's legs away, leaving referee Mike Jones with the simple decision to point to the spot.
Unfortunately the referee felt that he was far too important a figure to just make decisions as he saw them and saw fit to interfere with the way Ross McCormack had spotted the ball for the penalty kick. Having broken the striker's routine to make him move the ball barely a millimetre, it was no surprise to see the Scot miss the penalty, denied by a superb save by David Forde. The Millwall keeper has form at Elland Road, denying Jermaine Beckford in the play-off semi final of 2008, and he dived full length low to his left to touch the ball on to the post, allowing his defence to clear.
Moments later and McCormack struck the other post, this time a superb curling cross from the right wing evading everyone before coming off the inside of the far post, Millwall defenders again reacting quickly to hack the ball away.
After a period of Leeds domination had not produced a goal, Millwall came a little more into the game, as play swept from end to end. Lions striker John Marquis fired an effort goalwards from inside the box, forcing Paddy Kenny into a save low to his right. Almost immediately Leeds swept to the other end, Luke Varney pulling the ball back from the left hand bye line to the penalty spot, where McCormack struggled to get into a position to get a decent shot away instead poking a weak effort that Forde easily saved.
The second period started slowly, with little in the way of attacking action in the opening 15 minutes. Howeve Leeds once again started to take a stranglehold on the match and a couple of efforts from Michael Tonge got things moving again. His first just whistled wide of the post before moments later a deflected effort from the edge of the area forced Forde to push behind for a corner.
Kenny Jackett decided to make a double change to pep up his attack, bringing on Natahn Tyson and Andy Keogh to replace Afobe and Marquis. Keogh received a warm reception from the Leeds support, a sign of appreciation for his efforts on loan last season. The former United trainee almost made an immediate impact, bursting into the area, crossing for Tyson who was denied by a block on the line by Peltier.
Leeds were stung into action and were handed another golden opportunity to take the lead with 20 minutes remaining. McCormack made a surging run into the box which was ended by a clumsy challenge by Alan Dunne, another clear cut penalty. Stephen Warnock was quick to grab the ball, and despite the managers efforts to get El-Hadji Diouf on to take the spot-kick, the left back stepped up to power the penalty into the top corner of the net.
Diouf and Michael Brown did get on with 15 minutes remaining, replacing McCormack and David Norris. Millwall started to push bodies forward leaving them open to the counter-attack and Luke Varney should have wrapped up the points following a break led by Tonge, the midfielder feeding Varney on the left hand side of the box, only for Forde to deny the former Crewe man with a fine block.
The closing moments were seen off without major alarm, the game dragging to a conclusion following two stretcherings off caused by Warnock. First thje former England international took out James Henry with a hard but perfectly fair challenge. Then in an attempt to end a Millwall attack, he doubled up with Luke Varney to tackle the returned Henry, following through to catch his own player.
Jason Pearce was introduced to replace Varney and helped Leeds see out the nine minutes of stoppage time to win the match, momentarily taking the Whites within three points of the play-offs.