LEEDS UNITED director David Haigh basked in the glow of a heartening start to the GFH Capital era as the Whites ended their seven-match winless streak in fine style with a 2-1 victory over Championship form side Crystal Palace.
United ended a roller-coaster week in exhilarating fashion, much to the delight of GFH deputy chief executive Haigh and executive Salem Patel, who were sat in the East Stand on Saturday.
Haigh was appointed to the board in midweek after GFH finalised the first stage of their buy-out of United. Completion of the takeover from owner Ken Bates is due on December 21 and Patel will become a club director next month. The pair watched as goals from Luciano Becchio and Paul Green saw the hosts inflict a first defeat in 15 games upon Palace who were deposed as leaders.
The duo met Neil Warnock after Saturday’s game, with transfer business in January top of the agenda. GFH had already made a statement of intent on Thursday by providing additional loan funds to enable the United manager to bring in Jerome Thomas and Alan Tate, who were influential in the weekend victory.
Haigh, a lifelong United fan, said: “What an atmosphere and what a result.
“The fans were amazing and so was the football. It is a cracking win and a great start on the field in our first week as owners.”
Warnock praised the support given by GFH to enable him to raid the transfer market ahead of the emergency loan deadline, while adding that Wednesday’s dramatic takeover development has reinvigorated him and the club’s campaign.
Warnock, who ahead of the game spoke about the ‘season starting now’ with United having five months to produce a promotion ‘miracle’, said: “It alters everybody’s outlook. Ten days ago, you would think I was thinking of chopping my head off. Ten days later, I am thinking of other things. That’s football.
“Even at my age and with my experience, you do get yourself down a little bit. But these people have given me a massive lift. We have got to take advantage.
“One of them is a massive Leeds fan, so he knows what type of club it is. More days like Saturday and who knows? It’s such an early part of the season.
“In fairness to the new owners, they were instrumental in the Jerome Thomas deal. There was a hitch late on and it looked like it was not going to go through, but within five minutes, they made it go through. I am delighted that we won for them. It is a big plus for them.
“We have shown that with two or three additions, we are as good as anybody in the league when we play like we did on Saturday, home and away.”
West Bromwich loan winger Thomas, starting his first competitive match since April 28, and Swansea City centre-half Tate were praised by Warnock as United produced their most complete Championship performance of the season.
Warnock, whose side host Leicester City tomorrow, said: “The two new lads really made the difference. If I had not got them over the line, then I do not know what would have happened.
“Tate was fantastic. I do not mean to be disrespectful when I say he played with a fag in his mouth, but he had that calming influence on us.
“Jerome, on his day, is as good as anything in the Premier League, let alone the Championship. I am delighted to have got them both until January.
“We coped well with a strong side. We have got to build on this.
“It was our best performance by a mile (this season). The two lads came in and played like they had been with us all year. But one swallow does not make a summer.”
Palace, who were knocked off top spot by Cardiff, victors at struggling Barnsley, head to Hull City, who will also be looking to bounce back tomorrow night.
Having won four of their previous five games, Hull lost 1-0 at home to bogey team Burnley, whose scorer was former Tigers player Dean Marney, and manager Steve Bruce admitted defeat was difficult to stomach.
With fellow play-off chasers Middlebsrough also suffering a shock home defeat to Bristol City, Bruce said: “The Championship has wrecked a few coupons. It’s a really difficult league because of the inconsistency of it.
“When you analyse things, we haven’t had a proper shot on target, even in the second half, so we deserved what we got.
“You have to give credit to Burnley, but we had too many of our good players not playing as well as they should have been, and that caused us a problem.
“We’ve got to rid ourselves of that Achilles heel and start taking something out of games in which we don’t play well.”
Huddersfield Town remain in the hunt and they did well to take a point at Charlton after having Keith Southern sent off in the first half – a decision which manager Simon Grayson will appeal.
Former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Ben Marshall plunged his former club deep into the relegation mire after helping Leicester City cruise to a 2-0 win at Hillsborough.
Marshall set up Danny Drinkwater and netted the second as Dave Jones’s side dropped into the bottom three in the Championship.
Wednesday never looked like scoring and left manager Jones to state: “We didn’t help ourselves because we were out-thought and we didn’t create the chances that we normally do.
“The better teams in this division will pick you off when you are not at your best.”