Varney Brace Gives McDermott First Win

Laurence Griffiths

Two headers from former Sheffield Wednesday player Luke Varney gave Leeds all three points as they showed heart to come back under new boss Brian McDermott.

Football never fails to surprise. It is, as they say, a funny old game. We say this on this site, on every site how hard it can be following Leeds United and this season has once again echoed those messages.

A lack of ambition, players sold, managers sacked and a lack of improvement have seen many lose hope. Neil Warnock's tenure ended badly, there was no play-off dream or one final happy ending. Instead last week I sat in shock as we really did slip into the relegation battle thanks to a Charlton winner. What on earth had gone on?

The week building up to this Yorkshire Derby was one of dread to be honest. Another troubled week seemed inevitable as we welcomed Sheffield Wednesday who were obviously going to try and ruin our chances of moving away from the drop zone. The appointment of Brian McDermott pleased most, a cool head in a terribly run football club. Would it ever work and could he turn it around in such a short space of time?

Instead of sitting in the stands and making notes, McDermott threw himself into the deep end. Supported by Neil Redfearn and Nigel Gibbs Leeds kicked off his tenure with some renewed hope (yet again).

The starting eleven was a little out of shape with the lack of familiar centre-backs. No Tom Lees and Lee Peltier so Stephen Warnock slotted into the middle of defence with Adam Drury lining up at left-back for the first time in an age.

The game started like a typical Derby, lots of tension and neither side really showed any composure to keep the ball on the floor. Morison went close after a goal mouth scramble and Austin was pinging his shots all over the shop but doing enough to get a cheer from the crowd.

On the attack Wednesday looked OK and were showing they had plenty of pace with Johnson and Lita doing the damage. Sam Byram and Austin showed their grit and determination to get stuck in and that gave the crowd a big lift.

Despite some improved passing here and there, or the will to keep it on the floor there was still no clear improvement under the McDermott era. Things didn't improve when the visitors took the lead when Johnson got on the end of a Kirkland kick and lobbed the helpless Kenny. All in all it was criminal defending.

Leeds looked for that important first half goal but it didn't come despite Pearce and Morison going close. At half-time faces were glum and it was a little nervous for those in attendance. Losing to our rivals, relegation battle and all was not an option as far we were concerned. McDermott agreed and he threw on Diouf to change the game when he replaced Norris.

The change in formation and impetus gave everyone a lift. Movement a key element in football was evident as Diouf tried to link the midfield to the attack. McCormack went close, Green had a header but as he was about to tap it home Llera came flying across to save the day.

After the hour mark United found the all important equaliser and it was Varney who found it. A cross from the right saw Varney leap highest to nod it home in off the bar, there was confusion and as the linesmen flagged Varney gave his first sign of a connection between the fans by celebrating towards us this time.

McCormack linked up again with Varney to find the former Wednesday man free to head home yet another goal. Ross glided from left to right before cutting back and chipping in a perfect ball, Varney once again got up highest and his flick found the top corner to send the crowd into raptures.

The elation and relief were clear to see and I can't remember a time like that where the crowd really seem to have lifted the roof off of the Kop. It was backs to the wall for the remainder of the game as Wednesday went close to finding their second goal. Lita missed a glorious chance and sub Howard saw his volley hit the post but United found energy from somewhere to battle on and pick up the win.

It was a huge lift off the shoulders of players, fans, staff and the board. We aren't mathematically safe but a win gives us a six point cushion with four games to go. Instead of looking back we can look forward, McDermott was calm in his post-match interview and showed his desire to succeed.

For the umpteenth time we need to back him, the players and all be together as one. I'm bored of saying it but this club could go a long long way with the right support and everybody firmly behind the vision we have. We have four games to go to finish the season on a high.

Onto Burnley on Tuesday!

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