Dave Hockaday believes his maiden league win as Leeds United head coach goes a long way to vindicating Massimo Cellino’s decision to appoint him.
Hockaday emerged from nowhere in the summer to take one of the most high-pressured jobs outside the Premier League and had made an inauspicious start with defeat at Millwall on the opening day.
But a debut goal for Billy Sharp three minutes from the end of an evenly-contested Yorkshire derby with Middlesbrough gave Leeds their first win of the Championship campaign and Hockaday the first significant positive of his brief reign.
“I just want to prove the president right,” said Hockaday, whose rise from obscurity owes everything to the faith paid in him by Leeds’s Italian owner Cellino.
“The president’s done his homework and he’s picked a British coach and we’re great knockers of ourselves, but there are great coaches in this country if they’re given a chance.
“I’ve been given a chance and I want to prove the president right.
“I want to be positive. I want to make the Leeds fans proud of their team which they should be (against Boro) and I’ll work as hard as I can to get as much out of them as I can.
“I’ve been in football for 40 years so pressure’s my middle name.”
Cellino reacted to Leeds’ insipid defeat at Millwall by strengthening the squad at Hockaday’s disposal, most notably with the midweek signings of Sharp and Chesterfield defender Liam Cooper.
Both made an impression on their debut, Sharp particularly with his late winner, and Hockaday says there are more signings to come.
“The players we’ve brought in have added to the mix and I’m happy with them, but we need to strengthen and we’re looking at certain positions,” said Hockaday.
“I’m not going to name names or positions. We need more strength in depth so we’ll keep looking. To be fair, I get quite a bit of say. We each (Cellino and Hockaday) come up with names and that’s my job done and I’m happy with that.
“I’m very comfortable and the players we’re getting in are decent. Between us, I think we’ve got a good eye for a player.”
On the performance, Hockaday added: “I’m delighted with the clean sheet but I am really proud of the output of the players.
“They’ve worked so hard and it’s great for them to reap the rewards of that.
“In the second half, we upped it, made it very difficult for Boro, the work ethic was super and to get the goal at the end from a new signing was great.
“We attacked as a team and defended very hard as a team and, I keep going on about it, but we worked so hard that everyone in Leeds should be proud of their players.”
Long before Sharp’s winner, Leeds were grateful that referee Stuart Attwell ruled in their favour when disallowing Albert Adomah’s overhead kick for a high foot.
Middlesbrough chief Aitor Karanka said: “I can’t understand why the goal is not on the scoreboard. I think it was a good height (Adomah’s foot) if you see the replay.
“The referee was the person who saw the foot, but the replay does not show this decision in the first second; he was waiting four, five, six seconds as we were running to the middle of the pitch.
“I didn’t see the incident, but if you have a foul you have it on one second not six.”
Kieran Agard, who refused personal terms with Leeds on Friday, returned to Rotherham United and came off the bench to replace former Elland Road winger Ryan Hall, who took a knock scoring what proved the winning goal in the Millers’ first home Championship match in nine years, against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The clubs had agreed a fee approaching £1m for last season’s Millers top scorer, who is in the final year of his contract.
Sheffield Wednesday’s fine start to the season continued with a goalless draw against last season’s beaten Championship play-off finalists Derby County, but Huddersfield Town, under caretaker-manager Mark Lillis, suffered a 3-1 defeat at relegated Cardiff City.
Hull City’s Premier League campaign got off to a winning start at promoted Queens Park Rangers.
James Chester’s second-half header was enough to earn the Tigers all three points at Loftus Road after QPR striker Charlie Austin saw an 84th-minute penalty saved by Allan McGregor.
Football reports: Pages 2-4.