Leeds United put new toughness to test against top five Bees

Rudy Austin, still at Leeds United.
Rudy Austin, still at Leeds United.

Leeds United boss Neil Redfearn praised the new toughness in his team after they ended January in a completely different manner to the way they came into the month.

Back to back defeats over the holiday period against Wigan and Derby had left the Whites staring at a real relegation battle, but with two draws and two wins in their last four league matches suddenly things have looked up as United go into February with a bit of breathing space again.

Redfearn himself would be quick to point out that Leeds were not out of the woods just yet and needed to maintain the momentum in February as well if they were going to breathe easy come April.

But ensuring they did the double over leaders Bournemouth and West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town is certainly a good start to winning back the fans’ confidence and give players belief that they can begin climbing up the Sky Bet Championship table.

After the 2-1 victory at Huddersfield last Saturday – when a 90th minute header by substitute Billy Sharp added to a seventh minute Sam Byram goal to clinch the win – Redfearn was delighted in the manner of the way his side dug out the success.

He said: “The lads kept going and if you look at them, there is now resilience and toughness about them.

“I now look at them and they are reacting well to things and sorting things out on the pitch and there is a good smell about them.

“We are now toughing things out, there is a togetherness about them, we have good shape, we are competing and we look different. We now look a big and physical side and we can cope whilst still playing our football.”

Leeds will test their new found togetherness when they play host to another top five side in Brentford at Elland Road on Saturday.

The surprise promotion challengers play a brand of no nonsense British style football that has made them hard to beat this season. They are well organised with former United midfielder Jonathan Douglas one of their mainstays and proved too good for a frail Leeds side at their place in September when they ran out 2-0 winners.

Saturday will be a good test of how far the Whites have come in the last month and they can expect to be challenged physically. But they have more players in there now that can cope with that side of the game, the likes of Steve Morison and new signing Sol Bamba, who earned praise for an encouraging debut at centre-back at Huddersfield and will be keen to impress again with rival for his spot, Giuseppe Bellusci, back from suspension after this game.

Another new signing Edgar Cani comes into contention for a place in the squad after completing his move on Monday. The tall striker may have to wait for a starting spot with Morison in good form, but a place on the bench looks likely with Redfearn suddenly having real competition for places in attack and currently only one out and out striker being employed.

In the end it was more about who did not go from Elland Road than who did or who was signed on the final day of the transfer window.

United completed just one signing with Cani arriving on loan from Catania for the rest of the season, but let two midfielders go with Michael Tonge going on loan to Millwall and David Norris having his contract terminated by mutual agreement.

A possible deal to bring in winger Martyn Woolford from Millwall fell through and nothing came of all the speculation that Rudy Austin was joining Wigan with United issuing a firm hands off.

Leeds fans were also relieved that they did not lose any of the young stars in this window.