Leeds United face three tests of nerve as they bid to make play-offs
After more than four months spent in the top six Leeds United are waking up to being outside the play-off places and with a real fight on their hands now to prolong their season in May.
In traditionally poor Easter pickings, the Whites picked up just one point, courtesy of a last-gasp goal at Newcastle on Friday, at the same time as rivals Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham all won both their games, leaving Garry Monk’s men in seventh place with three matches remaining.
United’s play-off fate is still in their own hands with three victories guaranteeing a top six finish as Wednesday, who are two points ahead of them, and Fulham, who are ahead of them on goal difference, cannot both win all their three as they are due to meet at Hillsborough on the last day of the season.
Fulham’s run-in also includes a trip to fourth-placed Huddersfield Town who still need points to guarantee their play-offs place and still have an outside chance of automatic promotion.
Leeds fans will become Town fans for a day, perhaps, as picking up nine points looks a tall order for United unless they can improve on their poor display and 1-0 loss at home to a Wolverhampton Wanderers side with little but pride to play for on Monday afternoon.
Just one effort on target told the tale of a disappointing attacking show just over a week after the three goals banged in against Preston had made it look like the Whites were getting their sharpness back.
It was doubly disappointing as it was thought the heroic rearguard effort and late goal to bring about a 1-1 draw at Newcastle would give them the impetus to go on and clinch a play-offs place. In fact it seemed to have the opposite effect as Leeds played with fear in the first half and could have no complaints about going behind.
True, they had a couple of big penalty shouts fall on deaf ears, but for all their huffing and puffing in a second half they dominated possession wise they did not create any clear cut chances, just mostly headers under pressure that were sent off target.
Head coach Garry Monk now has a big job getting his players over the disappointment of dropping out of the top six and back up for the task ahead, beginning this Saturday away to a Burton Albion side still scrapping to stay up.
Burton boss Nigel Clough will take great delight in putting one over the Whites, but also knows his side probably need another victory to be sure of staying in the EFL Championship – no mean feat considering the budget they are working under.
Leeds boss Monk is confident his side are capable of winning all of their remaining games.
He said: “We are of the mindset now that we have to go and win the three games.
“It is simple, if we win the three games, we have a place in the play-offs.
“It isn’t going to be easy to win all three, but it is something we believe we can achieve.”
Remaining fixtures for Leeds United and their play-off rivals:
LEEDS UNITED (73 points)
Apr 22 Burton Albion away
Apr 29 Norwich City home
May 7 Wigan Athletic away
FULHAM (73 points)
Apr 22 Huddersfield Tn away
Apr 29 Brentford home
May 7 Sheffield Weds away
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (75 points)
Apr 22 Derby County home
Apr 29 Ipswich Town away
May 7 Fulham home
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (78 points)
Apr 22 Fulham home
Apr 25 Wolves away
Apr 29 Birmingham City away
May 7 Cardiff City home
READING (79 points)
Apr 22 Nottingham Forest away
Apr 29 Wigan Athletic home
May 7 Burton Albion away