His old club were guilty of a motoring offence. So Rotherham United boss Neil Redfearn made sure it cost them three points.
He had served Leeds United with distinction for seven years, but when the new Millers manager returned there for the first time they wouldn’t even let him use the car-park.
Word had come through on Friday that he was being denied a pass by Massimo Cellino, a chairman lacking the dignity Redfearn had shown when he was head coach at Elland Road last season.
But on a day of memorable firsts, he enjoyed his first win since taking charge of the visitors and his first clean sheet, saw his side go in front for the first time since his appointment on October 12 and engineered a vital victory through Joe Newell’s first goal for the club as the Millers did battle for the first time with their former manager, Steve Evans, now in the Leeds hot-seat.
“Childish,” Redfearn called Cellino after watching his team perform as men. “It’s his problem.”
The Millers showed all the heart and resilience which had been lacking in the first half of the 5-2 loss against Ipswich Town a fortnight earlier. This was a real team effort, with every player giving their all as they moved themselves off the foot of the table and within touching distance of a place above the drop zone.
Redfearn used his time cleverly in the international window to make two signings and both had a significant impact on his side.
Stephen Kelly was a sharp, assured operator at the back, reading the game so well and always alert to danger, while up front, Leon Best, until his sending-off in the second half, gave the home defence all the trouble they could handle with his top-flight class and physicality.
They improved the team and, crucially, brought more out of the players around them.
Redfearn was quick to point out that the win was “one swallow and it doesn’t make a summer”, but its significance went beyond the simple accumulation of three points. It was a big, big victory, the manner of it offering hope for the future and a degree of vindication for the new man after a tough start to life with the Millers.
“There are going to be a lot of twists and turns but we have got to put a lot of performances like that together more often than not,” he said. “If we do that, we will start picking points up.
“If I look at the run of games we have had, in our previous six we had played six sides in the top 10, and that is a tough run of fixtures. Never once did I get down on it because I knew there had to be some perspective and we had to realise what we were up against.
“It was sweet because it was the three points we needed and in the end it was the three points we deserved. Throughout the 90 minutes we wanted it more than them and I thought that was apparent.
“People put their bodies on their line, running hard for the cause, and we have got our just rewards. This can be a good catalyst for us.”
If you want it more than an Evans side, you’re doing something right, and 905 away fans chanting “There’s only one Neil Redfearn” certainly liked what they were seeing.
Redfearn refused to let the car-park issue affect a great day. Just as he had devised a way to nullify a Leeds side which had been edging up the Championship table under Evans, he’d come up with a plan.
Fitness coach Paul Warne produced a decoy run he would have been proud of in his Millers playing days to slip one past the Cellino hierarchy, in much the same way Newell did Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri later on
“Warney drove my car in and parked in his name,” the Rotherham boss revealed. “So they’re not that clever!”
With no need for his sponsored BMW, Redfearn might have tried parking the bus instead. But he didn’t.
Rotherham were organised, and had to be, as Leeds applied the pressure at times, yet the visitors got the ball forward quickly, were always keen to attack and could have added to their lead in the second half through Lee Frecklington’s header and Grant Ward’s shot.
Best shot over after a quick turn on seven minutes, Millers keeper Lee Camp’s stunning save at his far post kept out Alex Mowatt’s shot in the 26th minute and Richie Smallwood hit the Leeds post with a 20-yard free-kick five minutes later.
Mirco Antenucci was a whisker wide just seven seconds into the second half before Newell ghosted on to Smallwood’s 54th-minute cross from the left to perfectly place his header beyond Silvestri’s despairing dive.
You sensed it might be Rotherham’s day when Luke Murphy went clean through for the home side five minutes later. Harry Toffolo made a terrific last-ditch tackle but the ball looped up and over Camp and appeared to be heading in.
There were let-offs as Antenucci was off target again from Chris Wood’s knock-down in the 65th minute and Wood headed straight at Camp from close range in the 90th.
In between, the Yorkshire derby reached boiling point as Gaetano Berardi reacted furiously to Best’s challenge, shoving the centre-forward to the ground with both hands and also pushing the assistant referee.
A red card for the Leeds man was an obvious decision. Less so was the one for Rotherham’s debutant, but TV replays confirmed him using an elbow and the referee got it right.
That means a three-match ban. It seems a strange thing to say about someone who has played only 73 minutes for his new club, but his influence will be missed.
Berardi departed with a bloodied nose not nearly as painful as the metaphorical one Redfearn’s battlers would go on to give the left-back’s team.
Frecklington was one of nine changes as Redfearn decided old heads were required in Rotherham’s hour of need and the contribution of the midfield man - the club’s longest-serving player and last link to the double promotion of 2013 and 2014 - with his energy and combative nous can’t be over-stated.
The last 20 minutes were all about commitment and desire. Frecklington, running on empty in his first match for two and a half months but somehow still finding something in the tank, produced the block of the game five minutes into time added on to deny Lee Erwin, while there’s no-one I’d rather see in a Millers shirt leading a defiant late stand than Kirk Broadfoot.
“We have had injuries and we have had people come back in. We’ve had Frecklington come back in and for me he was outstanding,” Redfearn said. “The signings came in and played their part. Kelly was outstanding at the back with Broadfoot and Besty led the line well, so there were some real plusses.”
Evans, who spent a long time in the referee’s room afterwards, handled the occasion with grace. Defeat bit deeply, but he made a point of shaking hands with the entire Rotherham bench at the final whistle.
“It hurts. I always take defeat in a bad way,” he said. “To lose to a club you served with real pride for three and a half years ... you take it twice as bad. I had some great times there.
“Neil has got his first win. We congratulate him. I hope they win some games, I really do.”
According to unreliable reports, Rotherham’s fitness coach drove home in luxury.
Meanwhile a middle-aged figure was spotted at a bus-stop outside Elland Road an hour after the match wearing a Millers-issue tracksuit over his ‘Cellino out’ T-shirt, a coat initialled ‘NR’ and a very satisfied smile.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Silvestri 6; Wootton 6, Bellusci 5, Cooper 6, Berardi 6; Dallas 5 (Botaka 67, 5), Cook 5 (Erwin, 85), Murphy 5 (Adeyemi 67, 6), Mowatt 5; Antenucci 5, Wood 6. Subs not used: Horton, Byram, Buckley, Doukara.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Camp 8; Buxton 8, Kelly 9, Broadfoot 8, Mattock 7 (Toffolo H-T, 7); G Ward 6, Frecklington 8, Smallwood 7, Newell 7 (Collins 90); Clarke-Harris 6 (D Ward 80), Best 7. Subs not used: Collin, Andreu, Barker, Derbyshire.
Goal: Newell, 54.
Sent off: Best, 73 (Rotherham), Berardi, 73 (Leeds).
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).
Attendance: 25,802 (905).