LEEDS United boss Neil Warnock was left criticising a referee again after another controversial display from an official robbed his team of 11 players for a second successive week.
With centre-back Jason Pearce sitting out the visit to Millwall after receiving a harsh red card against Watford there was more misery for the Whites with forward Luke Varney this time given his marching orders in the 47th minute of United’s 1-0 defeat to Millwall.
Mark Halsey – no stranger to controversy this season after his handling of the Manchester United – Liverpool game – issued a straight red to Varney for what he saw as an elbow to the head of Millwall’s former Leeds loanee right-back Adam Smith.
Replays showed there was contact, but a sending off was harsh and Smith made a meal of the challenge, much to the anger of the Leeds manager, whose mood was made all the more angry as the referee missed other incidents, including a strong penalty appeal when home defender Shane Lowry rugby tackled Tom Lees.
Warnock said: “The red card was harsh. He has put his arms up, but not gone up with his elbow.
“I am disappointed a referee as experienced as that saw fit to come up with that decision.
“That’s not a proper sending off. I don’t know what the game’s coming to.
“I thought we were very short-changed. The amount of effort that’s gone into the game and we’re talking about a refereeing decision - it’s scandalous.
“When you watch the sending off again, we don’t have thousands of Millwall fans screaming at us. It’s not caught him where he’s holding when he’s gone down.
“I wish we did it more - you might call it cheating, but I’ve seen Adam Drury get topped and keep going. He should go down and roll, shouldn’t he? We don’t get free-kicks, and we wonder why.
“Referees aren’t as consistent - they’ve gone backwards, I think. I didn’t think someone of Mark Halsey’s quality and experience would have gone straight for his red card, and I think he’ll be disappointed when he sees it, but that will do us no good.
“We thought we had a clear penalty. But you don’t get those decisions sometimes.
“I thought we did all right in the circumstances - we tried to win the game. At half-time we changed it a bit and it lasted two minutes.
“I’ve no complaints over the effort of the team. We gave them a good game.”
In the end the game came down to the one good chance that was created in the whole match, Lowry’s cross finding the head of striker Chris Wood, who made no mistake for the winning goal five minutes from time.
Millwall winger James Henry hit the top of the crossbar in injury-time, but that would have been even more cruel on a Leeds side that battled throughout and looked to have done enough to earn a point.
But although they were much more solid than against Watford they created precious few chances and only managed one shot on target throughout.
A goalless first half saw plenty of endeavour, but little in the way of goalmouth action. Leeds were unlucky when El Hadji Diouf was put through only to be hacked down on the edge of the box by Mark Beevers, who was booked and fortunate to stay on the pitch by the standard of the previous week’s decision to red card Whites defender Pearce.
Diouf headed another half-chance over while Luciano Becchio saw a shot blocked when well placed in the area, Luke Varney headed over and Ryan Hall – on his first start for United – saw a 20-yard shot saved by keeper David Forde.
Millwall went closest through ex-Leeds striker Andy Keogh, who fired just wide from the edge of the box and saw an angled shot comfortably saved by Paddy Kenny.
The sending off of Varney did not help the flow of the game and Leeds were rarely seen in attack after this, although Michael Tonge did send a volley wide and fluffed a great chance near the end when wildly shooting over from a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Millwall were largely restricted to shots from outside the box with Wood, Chris Taylor and Henry all hitting efforts wide. Keogh and Taylor sent difficult headers wide and Kenny was not forced to make a single save until Wood’s header beat him for the winning goal.
Leeds United 0
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Millwall: Forde, A Smith, Shittu, Beavers, Lowry, Feeney (Henry 58), Wright, Trotter, C Taylor (N’Guessan 82), Keogh, Wood.
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Peltier, Drury, Hall (McCormack 65), Green, Tonge, Varney (sent-off 47), Diouf, Becchio.
Referee: Mark Halsey.