HISTORY has taught us that a new Leeds United manager’s first home game is not always the best indicator as to how a reign will pan out.
Terry Venables and Dennis Wise, for instance, both presided over dramatic declines inside their first few months at the helm and yet both won on their Elland Road bows.
Dave Hockaday did the same a little over six weeks ago so maybe reading too much into last night might not be overly wise.
Nevertheless, what the goalless draw against Reading did underline is just how much work Darko Milanic has to do if he is to turn United into a genuine Championship force.
Neat and tidy on the ball in a first half that saw the Slovenian’s new charges exude confidence, Leeds totally lost their way after the interval. Only a combination of some wasteful finishing on the part of the Royals and the ever-reliable Marco Silvestri in goal prevented the visitors from claiming what would have been a deserved three points.
The manner in which United lost their way was perhaps best illustrated in how Milanic patrolled his technical area.
Before the break, the club’s new head coach followed play at a relaxed pace – moving gradually towards the South Stand as Leeds charged forward and then retreating to the halfway line the moment Reading regained possession.
Not overly demonstrative in his actions, the Slovenian kept his counsel for much of those opening 45 minutes with his most animated reactions being reserved for referee Tony Harrington if a decision went against the home side.
After half-time, however, Milanic exuded anxiety, his marching round the technical area being that of a man frantically trying to stem the tide. He also had much more to say from the sidelines and it will no doubt have come as a relief to see Leeds claim a point in the end.
Clearly, the new United head coach wants his players to pass the ball out from the back.
Early on this may have led to Reading being gifted possession from time to time but, on the whole, Leeds fizzed the ball around with a pace and poise in the first half.
And while this may not have translated into any real saves of note for Adam Federici to make until Billy Sharp tried his luck at the death, there was still plenty of attacking intent from the hosts in the first half.
Much of that danger was posed by Alex Mowatt, playing in a midfield diamond but possessing the knack of finding plenty of space in what was often a congested part of the pitch.
The teenager hit two shots just over the crossbar in the first half, while he also won a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area that deserved better than Giuseppe Bellusci thumping the ball high over the crossbar.
Considering how United had tried to get forward in numbers during the first half, it was perhaps inevitable that Reading would enjoy their own threatening moments.
Many of these involved the quick feet of Nick Blackman, the former Sheffield United man who from the start sensed an opportunity to get at Liam Cooper in the centre half’s uncustomary position of left-back.
Blackman brought a flying save from Silvestri in the eighth minute before later appealing for a penalty in vain after hitting the deck under a challenge from Cooper. Silvestri also had to show safe handling to prevent dangerous drilled crosses from Glenn Murray and Chris Gunter culminating in a tap-in for the visitors.
A solid first half should have been the prelude to United pushing on after the restart. However, it was the visitors who seized the initiative. Helped by some sloppy passing from Leeds the Royals had three excellent chances.
First, Michael Hector side-footed wide from close range. Then, from an Oliver Norwood corner, Hector got his near-post header on target but Silvestri blocked. The ball was then returned to the six-yard box by Norwood but this time Alex Pearce was unable to get even the slightest touch on the ball as it fizzed across goal.
As the game entered the final quarter, Leeds were still struggling to get out of their own half and they had a big let-off when referee Harrington waved away what seemed a strong appeal for a penalty when Jake Taylor was upended.
That finally triggered a response from MIlanic, who brought on Sharp and the striker brought the first save of note from Federici five minutes from time to ensure the new Leeds chief was at least able to claim a point from his first home game.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Byram, Pearce, Bellusci, Cooper; Bianchi, Cook (Murphy 59), Mowatt (Austin 67), Sloth; Doukara, Antenucci (Sharp 83). Unused substitutes: Taylor, Warnock, Wootton, Morison.
Reading: Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Hector, Obita; Blackman, Norwood, Akpan (Guthrie 71), Taylor (Mackie 77); Cox (Robson-Kanu 75), Murray. Unused substitutes: Pogrebnyak, Andersen, Long, Cooper.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).