Leeds United emerged from a gathering storm last night as a battling FA Cup win over Birmingham City earned welcome respite for manager Neil Warnock and his squad.
United raised themselves after a woeful league defeat at Barnsley on Saturday to fight back from a goal down against Birmingham and secure a televised fourth-round clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
Second-half goals from Ross McCormack and El-Hadji Diouf settled a competitive replay at St Andrews, with Leeds atoning for a result against Barnsley which saw Warnock subjected to chants of ‘time to go’ from United’s supporters.
A heavily-changed team responded with a 2-1 win over Birmingham, earning a tie against Spurs at Elland Road on January 27, and Warnock, who revealed that he had received supportive phone calls from United’s new owners since Saturday afternoon, was pleased to see his side relieve the pressure on him.
Warnock 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 – the reaction was superb – 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.”
United’s top scorer, Luciano Becchio, missed last night’s third-round replay after falling ill on Monday.
His absence fuelled speculation about his future amid unfounded rumours that he had been spotted at an FA Cup clash involving Wigan Athletic – a team linked with Becchio last month – but Warnock said: “He texted Shaun Harvey (United’s chief executive) to say he’s at home in bed.
“He’d obviously heard the rumours too. We lost him to illness on Monday.” Click here to register and have your say on the Leeds United stories and issues that matter to you