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Under-fire Neil Warnock bites back after Leeds United loss
Middlesbrough 1, Leeds United 0
Neil Warnock stuck to his guns as Leeds fans called for the United manager to leave his position after tonight’s defeat at Middlesbrough.
The north-east club picked up their first points of 2013 thanks to Curtis Main’s 81st-minute header, condemning the Whites to another miserable away day this season.
Not for the first time, supporters chanted “Warnock, time to go” at their veteran boss, angry at a failure to take chances as they slipped eight points adrift of the play-offs.
But Warnock insisted it was a string of open-goal misses and not a fault on his part that was causing the problems, with Ross McCormack the guilty party last night.
“Unless I run on the pitch and put away the chances, I don’t know what to do,” he said.
“It’s frustrating. The last three open goals (in games against Cardiff, Wolves and Middlesbrough) are not difficult chances. I thought Middlesbrough were there for the beating.
“We had a great opportunity to take the lead and don’t know how we didn’t take it. We should be talking about three wins and be right in there.”
When it was put to Warnock that he last month sanctioned the sale of 19-goal Luciano Becchio, he responded: “That’s a ridiculous statement.”
But he vowed to fight on despite crowd unrest, saying: “Its a natural thing. If we’d taken that first chance they would have been chanting our names.
“It disappoints me when I see some of the comments (about Becchio) but you can only do your best as a manager. I think we’ve had a good season.”
It was Boro’s first win over Leeds at home since 1992 and their first ever at the Riverside, although the significance of a victory at all dwarfed the gaining of local bragging rights.
Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray said: “It’s nice to get a win. It’s been a while for us in the league and we need to keep the points ticking along.
Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn handed Mowbray’s sixth-placed men a four-point buffer over the play-off chasing pack.
He said: “It’s nearly 20 years since we won at home against Leeds. It’s a good achievement for this team and we deserved to win.
“We competed against a team that you have to compete with and on the balance of play it was right we came out on top.
“Other games can be more of a football game but Leeds put you under pressure, don’t allow you to keep the ball and it becomes more of a physical battle. But we came out on top of that.”
Main’s goal was a moment of rare class in the game, a header back across Paddy Kenny’s goal after a brilliant cross from Ishmail Miller.
Before that, two bits of superb defending from Jonathan Woodgate were the highlight, with the former Leeds defender twice denying McCormack, once on the line and once racing back towards his own goal.
But Main’s moment was ruined when he was sent off for a handball/dissent combination and Mowbray said: “Without being over critical of the official, he got it wrong.
“Curtis is a young boy who is starting his career off. He came to us as a free transfer from Darlington and some of the things he can do are breathtaking at times.”