Encouragement for Leeds United ahead of six-pointer with old foes

Leeds United defender Sol Bamba takes on Reading's Oliver Norwood during Tuesday night's game at the Madejski Stadium. Bamba has helped United tighten up at the back in recent games.
Leeds United defender Sol Bamba takes on Reading's Oliver Norwood during Tuesday night's game at the Madejski Stadium. Bamba has helped United tighten up at the back in recent games.

In normal circumstances the visit of Millwall to Elland Road would not be anyone’s idea of the biggest match of the season, but that is exactly what Saturday’s fixture is brewing up to be.

With three wins in their last four matches the Whites have given themselves some breathing space in the relegation scrap they have found themselves in, but they can get sucked right back in if they lose to London opposition for the second Saturday running at Elland Road.

Third from bottom Millwall hold the key to the relegation battle as if they start to string some wins together it will make as many as a dozen clubs in the Sky Bet Championship – Leeds obviously included – extremely nervous.

United certainly cannot afford to concede ground to them when they meet directly, especially as they have already lost to the Lions, going down 2-0 at The Den on the opening day of the season.

It will be much changed line-ups from that day on both sides as a season of struggle has seen the respective managers make changes to try to find a winning formula. In fact only six of the 14 players used that day by United were in the squad for the Brentford game last weekend to show how the changes have been rung.

There is evidence that the alterations are working for both with United taking 11 points from their six league games in 2015 and Millwall achieving victories in their last two away games.

While Leeds were winning 2-0 at Reading on Tuesday night, the Lions were also keeping a clean sheet to beat Birmingham City 1-0 and will be looking to keep up their new found stubborn streak.

However, they will come up against a United side buoyed by their more consistent performances since the turn of the year, which have been based on improved defence as they have only conceded four goals in their last six matches.

United hope to have Rudy Austin back in midfield after he missed the Reading game through illness, but they appear to have lost another midfielder, Tommaso Bianchi, for the rest of the campaign after he picked up a cruciate ligament injury in Tuesday night’s game.

At the back Sol Bamba - captain at Reading - and Giuseppe Bellusci look set to continue their new central defensive partnership with Liam Cooper expected to be out for a couple of weeks with a dead leg.

Head coach Neil Redfearn wants his side to kick on now after praising them for their performance at Reading.

He said: “From one to 11 we defended really well and the goals were the icing on the cake. We countered so many times towards the end of the game.

“It’s taken us up to 17th and that looks a lot better, a lot healthier.

“But the more important thing is that we’re up to 35 points, much closer to that 50-point mark. A lot of clubs are bunched together and a lot are floundering.

“The season’s still well alive for us and in the last six or seven games we’ve been playing proper Championship football. We’ve been difficult to beat and we’ve come out the right side of most of the games. We’ve got go on from here now.”