Leeds United aiming to stay positive on tricky Tykes trip
With an eight-point gap opened up on the sides outside the play-off places it is getting harder for Garry Monk to play down talk of a real promotion push for Leeds United now.
The head coach is refusing to be drawn on talk of going up, but his team did the talking for him with probably their best all-round display since he took over when they beat Derby County at Elland Road last Friday night.
It may only have finished 1-0, but United simply dismantled opponents with a bigger budget, an ex-England manager at their helm and who were only five points behind them at kick-off.
If it had been a boxing contest it would have been stopped long before the end and the only disappointment was that Leeds’ sparkling attacking display did not bring more than their one goal that came from Chris Wood’s header from a corner.
It was the perfect answer to worries about a defensive problem going into the game with United having to field three right-backs across their back four with Pontus Jansson, Charlie Taylor and Liam Cooper all unavailable.
In the end there was not that much defending to be done, such was the domination at times, although Luke Ayling could not be knocked in his makeshift centre-back role and the inexperienced Lewie Coyle showed that he is a first teamer in readiness now.
Monk spoke of his pride in the performance against a strong Derby side.
He said: “There was a lot of talk before the game about the league and putting distance between Derby, but the most important thing was the three points.
“I challenged the players to put everything we have been working for and the values we have and I wanted them to put it on the pitch, in front of the cameras, for themselves, against a very good opposition.
“We did that from start to finish and I am very proud of the players, it is an important three points.
“These young players are getting a different test in every game and they are coming through them, we are getting better and better with each match.
“Everything’s positive for the club right now. We look at it as three points but we killed ourselves for those three points and we’ll do that again for the next three.
“Nothing’s won in January. I’m not playing it down, that’s the truth. We focus like that and it’s served us so well.”
Monk emphasised the part the supporters are playing with increased attendances and the atmosphere generated resembling glory days at Elland Road.
He added: “The fans were fantastic, the atmosphere was unbelievable and that is what I love about this ground.
“It is an old school, atmospheric ground which really creates a buzz, a massive sound and it really pushes the players to the limit, everybody did this together.
“The supporters can see how committed the players are on the pitch, we want Elland Road to be a fortress and at this moment in time, it is.”
Now the trick is to keep the mood and performance level going with next up for Leeds a traditionally tricky trip to Barnsley this Saturday for another of their teatime specials.
Their hosts have done well since coming up to the Championship and stood in eighth place before their 2-0 loss at Fulham last Saturday.
That came on the back of their disappointment at losing star striker Sam Winnall to Sheffield Wednesday for a potentially bargain price and they will be working hard to bring in a replacement this week.
Leeds will once again be without the suspended Jansson.