Neil Redfearn began his latest spell as caretaker boss with a morale-boosting victory as Leeds United battled to a 1-0 success against Bolton Wanderers at Elland Road.
Stephen Warnock’s 18th minute goal proved enough to seal all three points for the Whites, but they were also grateful to a string of impressive saves by goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, including an amazing double stop in injury-time when he denied United favourite Jermaine Beckford.
Caretaker Redfearn made several changes to the side that lost at Bradford City on Wednesday, bringing in Casper Sloth for his debut in a new look midfield alongside teenagers Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt and Tomasso Bianchi. Up front Italian striker Mirco Antenucci was recalled as was Guiseppe Bellusci at centre-back.
There was a freshness about the early play with Cook running the show in midfield, Mowatt adding more steel and Bianchi enjoying his best game in a Leeds shirt.
Bolton had the first real chance, however, when Joe Mason ran onto a fine through ball from Jay Spearing only to see his shot finger tipped onto the crossbar by Silvestri.
Leeds responded and went ahead in the 18th minute as their fine passing play was rewarded with Warnock finding space on the left edge of the box. It looked like he aimed a low cross, but the ball flew into the bottom corner of the net to give his side the start they needed with confidence so brittle.
Craig Davies fired wide from the edge of the box as the visitors still looked dangerous at times, but Leeds came close again when the hard working Billy Sharp sent in a looping header that was saved by Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan.
Bogdan then saved comfortably from Mowatt when the midfielder’s shot was deflected and Sharp shot wide after making space with a clever turn outside the box.
The hosts survived again on 39 minutes when Mason ran onto Davies’ flick on only to shoot straight at Silvestri from close range.
Mason’s cross-shot in injury-time required a second attempt to save by Silvestri and half-time arrived with the Whites narrowly ahead.
The second half was largely dominated by Bolton and United found themselves pushed back, struggling to produce the fluent football of the opening 45 minutes.
Silvestri could only parry a well struck Spearing shot from outside the box and was grateful to a great block by Bellusci that prevented a goal from the follow-up. Davies’s free-kick soon after was deflected wide and Matt Mills headed wide from the corner.
Silvestri came to United’s rescue on 65 minutes when saving from Lee Chung-Yong after a corner was only half cleared before Leeds finally got in the other half with Cook’s 25-yard shot being deflected wide.
Again it was Bolton doing the attacking as Mason shot over and Neil Danns’ free-kick was tipped wide by Silvestri.
At the other end substitute Zan Benedicic fired a shot into the side netting and Antenucci got free in the box to hit an angled shot wide. But Leeds were hanging on at the end with Beckford adding to Bolton’s strikepower.
In the fourth minute of what was to be more than six minutes of added time the visitors had one last big chance to snatch a point as Beckford was left free in the box to get a header in, but to the home fans’ relief Silvestri saved superbly. The ball fell to Chung-Young, but the United keeper was able to keep the ball out again to make sure of his side’s second league win of the season.
Caretaker boss Redfearn was obviously happy afterwards.
He said: “I thought we played some good stuff in the first half.
“We were hanging on a bit at the end, which is a little disappointing. But I thought we deserved it and we worked hard for each other.
“The players were brave in a lot of aspects.
“The keepers made half a dozed saves that were out of the top drawer and his handling was excellent.
“Lewis Cook was excellent. His range of passing was great and I told the president at the start oft he season that he wouldn’t be overawed playing at Elland Road.”
“For me it wasn’t a gamble to play him. I know how good he is. I thought he was the best player on the pitch.”
Leeds United 1
Bolton Wanderers 0
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Pearce, Warnock (C Taylor 55), Bianchi, Cook, Mowatt, Sloth (Benedicic 78), Antenucci, Sharp.
Bolton: Bogdan, White, Mills, Wheater (Dervite 7), Ream, Chung-Yong, Kamara (Feeney 82), Spearing, Danns, Mason, Davies (Beckford 78).
Referee: Simon Hooper.