Brian McDermott claimed the experience of a hard, uncertain season would ultimately benefit Leeds United’s squad after the club earned three badly-needed points from a nervous clash with Millwall.
McDermott said his side had shown “resilience and spirit” in a 2-1 victory and insisted criticism of United’s performance at Elland Road had failed to take account of the young age of certain players in his line-up.
Leeds ended a run of six matches without a win on Saturday, surviving waves of pressure from Millwall to hold out after goals from Matt Smith and Ross McCormack put United 2-0 up at half-time.
DJ Campbell’s 72nd-minute volley forced Leeds to face down persistent attacks from a Millwall team who are third bottom of the Championship but dominated much of Saturday’s contest.
McDermott admitted that his side had failed to produce “silky football” but the United manager said: “I’ve got a lot of youngsters out there.
“People don’t take that into account sometimes.
“You’ve got to remember how many we’ve got in this team – Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt, Connor Wickham, Jack Butland, Tom Lees. Even Jason Pearce in his own way.
“There’s also Luke Murphy and Matt Smith who’s come in from Oldham and scored 11 goals. That’s an awful lot of young lads who’ll benefit from the season we’ve had and everything that’s gone with it.
“We hadn’t won for a little while so that was a big win. It was resilient and we showed great spirit. I’m pleased with everything about it.”
Saturday’s match was played against the backdrop of a proposed takeover at Elland Road, as many of United’s fixtures have been this season.
Massimo Cellino’s £25m buy-out of United continues to sit at the mercy of the Football League, eight weeks after he and club owner Gulf Finance House agreed the sale of majority shareholding.
The Football League’s executive is assessing whether a conviction for tax evasion handed down to Cellino in Italy last week should bar him from buying United through a UK company, Eleonora Sport Limited.
Leeds hoped for a decision last week but were still looking for an answer this morning amid legal debate and widespread expectation that the Football League will reject Cellino.
The Italian, who lives in Miami, did not attend Saturday’s game but is expected to arrive in England in the next 24 hours.
“We need an owner that wants to carry this club forward,” McDermott said.
“The place is uncertain. There’s been a lot of uncertainty. Fans pick up on it, players do and the staff do too. We want the uncertainty to go away and once we’ve got a decision and a new owner comes in – someone with clout – that will gives us a chance.”
But Smith, whose 18th-minute header was his third goal in four games, said the squad at Elland Road were largely unaffected by the planned change of ownership. “Our day-to-day business doesn’t change one bit,” Smith said. “Training’s been the same, the match days are the same. From the playing point of view, nothing’s changed. It’s just about getting results.”
United have a long trip to Bournemouth facing them tomorrow with a mid-table finish in the Championship ever more likely.
Their win over Millwall ended any possibility of the club slipping into the relegation picture but a 12-point gap stands between United and the play-offs.
“We’ll go to Bournemouth and try to win,” McDermott said. “But Millwall was an important game to win.
“When you have a little run of results where you haven’t won, it’s important to do that. We can look forward now.”