Millwall v Leeds United: Lions’ Den will be perfect for Warnock

Neil Warnock.
Neil Warnock.
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Leeds United’s list of embarrassing Championship matches is an ever-growing one and there is more than enough material to provide for a decent-sized book.

Barnsley – twice – Blackpool, Birmingham City, Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End and now Watford, with supporters for whom the phrase ‘long-suffering’ could not be more appropriate forgiven for being punch-drunk by it all.

The latest tortuous result arrived on a lamentable Elland Road afternoon when everything that possibly could have gone wrong did in a 6-1 trouncing at the hands of Watford.

As preparation for this coming Sunday’s trip to Millwall goes – one of the most high-octane and demanding fixtures in United’s calendar whatever the season – it was just about as bad as it gets.

But United have been here before and ultimately had the last laugh.

Back in March, for starters, when fans who thought they had seen everything after a crazy 7-3 home loss to Nottingham Forest, were hailing a precious and sweet second victory under Neil Warnock’s watch just four days later in a 1-0 triumph at the New Den.

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That was the fourth time in 2011-12 in which United, on the ropes after a humiliating defeat, soothed open wounds by hitting back at the first time of asking.

The first arrived 12 months ago when United picking themselves off the canvas at the first time of asking with a victory few people expected at Leicester City following on from a desperate and infamous 5-0 defeat to Blackpool at an incredulous Elland Road.

At the start of the New Year, the Whites also showed their mettle to remedy a New Year’s Eve from hell at Oakwell in a 4-1 loss to start off 2013 with a victory in a 2-1 victory against visiting Burnley.

Not too long after when United slumped 4-1 at home to a Nikola Zigic-inspired Birmingham – with Simon Grayson dismissed the next morning – they hit back with a 3-0 triumph against Bristol City at Ashton Gate under caretaker boss Neil Redfearn.

Fans with longer memories will remember a 4-1 hammering of hosts Scunthorpe United immediately following a painful 4-0 trial-by-TV reverse to visiting Cardiff in October 2010.

All that kind of resolve and more will be required on Sunday lunch-time live on Sky Sports, with the odds massively stacked against them already against a rejuvenated side who are the form team in the Championship along behind the current top two of Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough.

Warnock has already battened down the hatches in preparation for the unique Bermondsey experience by stating that “not a single pundit will expect us to win there” in the wake of the drubbing by Watford, when the casualty count was high.

Likely to be minus two sturdy on-pitch foot soldiers in Jason Pearce and Michael Brown unavailable because of suspension and in all likelihood an injured midfield general in Rudy Austin, United must seriously do things the hard way at Millwall, not that anything can be remotely categorised as ever being easy there.

Warnock has seen it and done it before.

Like in December 2004 when despite his goalkeeper – a certain Paddy Kenny – dismissed along with fiery Lions skipper Kevin Muscat after a clash just before half-time, the then Sheffield United boss was able to savour a remarkable 2-1 triumph at the New Den with two late goals, despite having a centre-half in Phil Jagielka between the posts for the entire second half.

The match was famously filmed as part of a fly-on-the-wall documentary on the Blades commissioned by ITV with a combustive afternoon ending in the South Yorkshire outfit claiming their first victory at Millwall in 21 years – much to the joy of Warnock.

And you sense if Sunday’s backs-to-the wall Den scenario is up any manager’s street, it’s the battle-hardened Warnock.

Grateful for small mercies in that he at least has a full week to prepare for the forthcoming trip to Millwall, Warnock said: “We go to an in-form team on Sunday and we’ve got a week off, thank goodness.

“Millwall’s always an exciting place to go and I always enjoy going to the Den.

“It’s a great atmosphere and when you’re the underdog, you’ve got to take it on the chin and just get on with it. Whoever comes into the team has got to roll their sleeves up. Most pundits will think we’ll get beaten at Millwall with half a team.

“But that’s why I love the game and why I am still in it after all these years.

“It’s such a great game in England – you never know what’s round the corner.”

Meanwhile, United expect to receive scan results regarding Rudy Austin’s leg injury either at some time today or tomorrow with the club keeping their fingers crossed that the prognosis is not a bad one.

The influential Jamaican midfielder was stretchered off early in the second half on Saturday with conflicting reports soon emanating regarding his condition, with downcast boss Warnock stating in his after-match press conference that the 27-year-old had suffered a double leg fracture.

Austin underwent further scans yesterday and the club are waiting until the swelling has gone down before diagnosing the extent of the injury.

Meanwhile, former United target Chris Taylor is an injury doubt for Millwall ahead of Monday’s clash with the ex-Oldham winger suffering from a back problem.

The injury forced him off on the stroke of half-time in the Lions’ 2-1 home victory over Derby County at the New Den, their third win on home soil in their past four outings.

The triumph – in which one-time United loan man Andy Keogh found the net – extended the Londoners’ unbeaten run in the Championship to seven matches.

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