Leeds United aim to be Christmas climbers

Giuseppe Bellusci
Giuseppe Bellusci

After a welcome change of fortune allowed them to earn a valuable point at Nottingham Forest last Saturday Leeds United are now looking to climb the table with two games over the Christmas period.

Going into the double header with Wigan Athletic and Derby County, the Whites remain down in 18th place in the Sky Bet Championship, but with morale boosted by the way they battled to a 1-1 draw after going behind at the City Ground.

Billy Sharp marked his return to the starting line-up with an equaliser from the penalty spot after Matty Fryatt had put Forest in front in first half injury-time.

The game marked a definite change of luck for United as it was the first penalty they have been awarded this season and a couple of other big decisions went their way with home striker Fryatt putting the ball in the net a further twice only to see his efforts ruled out for offside decisions that looked wrong on television replays.

Head coach Neil Redfearn believed his side had deserved to bring a point back up the M1, however, and that the performance had shown that his side were heading in the right direction.

He was also pleased to have more options up front with Sharp making a successful return to the starting line-up after being selected ahead of Souleymane Doukara.

The latter came on as a substitute and almost scored himself while the return to fitness of Steve Morison – another sub at Forest – gives Redfearn further room for manoeuvre.

In defence there are less options and the head coach will be hoping for a return to fitness from Guiseppe Bellusci, who has missed the last three games.

United now return home for a Boxing Day game against a Wigan side surprisingly languishing second from bottom with just three league wins all season. Their home defeat to fellow strugglers Rotherham last Saturday has left them seven points behind Leeds despite them still having a number of big name players from their Premiership days still in their squad.

On Tuesday, United are in action again when they go in search of a rare and quick double over Derby County, having beaten Steve McClaren’s promotion chasers 2-0 at Elland Road only in late November when ending a long run of failure against the Rams.

Leeds, meanwhile, have confirmed that Italian defender Bellusci will contest a Football Association charge of misconduct for allegedly using racist language towards Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during their Championship game on October 21.

Bellusci, who joined United in the close season for £1.6m from Catania, has until January 2 to appeal against the charge for allegedly using abusive and/or insulting words towards Jerome. It is further alleged by the FA that the breach is an “aggravated breach” as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.

Bellusci strongly denied using any racist language, with United backing the player in a statement that said: “The player has consistently made it clear to the club that he did not use racist language.

“The club understands that there is no third party evidence supporting Mr Jerome’s allegation. Accordingly, the player will be contesting the charge.”