This is the time of the season for sides with ambitions for bigger and better things to kick on, not retreat into their shell which is, unfortunately, what happened to Leeds when Wolves came to Elland Road on Easter Monday.
An expectant holiday crowd of 32,351 turned up hoping to see Leeds cement their place in the play-offs. Instead, their heroes lost 1-0 in the lamest of fashions. Few before the game saw that result coming. It was a head-scratching performance from Gary Monk’s men who could have lost by more than Nouha Dicko’s strike and have now just picked up just four points from five games.
When they needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, Leeds just let it pass them by particularly in the first half – the worst 45 minutes of football seen for a while. The desire was there, Leeds fans wouldn’t let them have it any other way, but a lack of quality was evident in everything they did.
Victories for Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham confounded their problems and, with three games of the regular season to go, Leeds find themselves out of the play-off positions on goal difference. But all is not lost. United’s remaining three games are against sides who are all beatable: Burton (away), Norwich (home) and Wigan (away).
Most bookies now have us as 5/1 in terms of promotion back to the Premiership. If you’re brave and still like the look of these odds, you may want to check out these free betting tips before putting down a few quid.
In any case, matching the seven-point return that Leeds managed the first time they met these sides this season is well within their capabilities and that should be enough for them to edge out play-off rivals Sheffield Wednesday or Fulham.
Dicko’s match-winner was only the fourth goal Leeds had conceded at Elland Road since November. But with two of their final three league games away from their fortress, United need to find answers, and quick, to the reasons why they have been so fragile on the road.
The lack of goals from sources other than star striker Chris Wood has handicapped the team all season. Their return of 46 is the lowest of any of the sides in the top 10 and Kiwi hitman Wood has contributed 25 of them - 54 per cent. No player in the Championship has a bigger proportion of his side’s goals than Wood and none of his team-mates are close to double figures in the League.
Wood bagged one of United’s two goals, from the penalty spot, when Burton were beaten 2-0 at home back in October. The Midlands side proved a tough nut to crack then – it was 83 minutes before United went ahead – and there’s no reason to suggest Saturday’s return game will be any easier.
It will be important to see what sort of response Monk gets out of his players. To drop out of the play-off places after 25 consecutive matches inside the top six at this point of the season won’t have done anything for confidence within the camp, And, unless Monk can get his players up for the fight again, it may be close but no cigar for the Yorkshiremen in terms of the play-offs.
The saving grace might yet be the fact that Wednesday and Fulham meet at Hillsborough on the final day.
Welcome to Marching on Together
19 Apr 2017 01:34pm, by Shields53
10 Apr 2017 10:19am, by Shields53
The Championship is inundated with fallen giants, many of whom have struggled to regain their top flight status in the ultra-competitive Premier League era. This number includes Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, who managed to win three European Cups between them in just four years between 1979 and 1982.
Then we have Leeds United, who were relegated from the Premier League 13 years ago and have even plumbed the depths of League One during this time.
The Yorkshire club has also won five major honours and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups in its impressive history, while they remain the fifth best supported side in the Championship despite having spent more than a decade in the wilderness.
Can Leeds Make Their EPL Return This Season?
This year could mark Leeds' return to the EPL, however, with the club remaining in fifth place after an impressive 3-0 win over Preston at the weekend.
Monk's men are now three points clear of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday (who recently kept up the pace with a thrilling 2-1 win against promotion favourites Newcastle), while more importantly they have maintained a five point lead over Fulham in seventh place.
The Cottagers are the only side that can realistically deny Leeds a play-off place, with the team 10 points clear of eighth place Derby County with just five matches to play.
However, it’s important to note that securing a play-off place is still far from guaranteed. Leeds host Newcastle in the next game, for example, and the Magpies will be keen to bounce back from their recent defeat at Hillsborough and resume their title charge.
A home game against free-scoring Norwich City on 29th April will also be testing, as will the season finale at Wigan (the Latics are currently fighting to retain their Championship status).
In contrast, Fulham will fancy their chances of garnering points from their next four games, before steeling themselves for a final day clash with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
What Do the Bookmakers Think? Is This Leeds' Year?
Even allowing for the competitive and unpredictable nature of the Championship (and the form of fellow promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham), Leeds have a clear advantage that should see them confirm their play-off place. The bookmakers have certainly recognised this. We can be backed at 1/12 to finish in the top six and are priced at 7/2 to achieve the ultimate goal of promotion. If you’re going to put money on the Whites, Bonus Codes' offering of free bets may be worth a browse.
Of course, it is impossible to predict how Leeds will fare during the play-offs, particularly given that just five points separate sixth place from third. One thing that cannot be denied is the fact that the club's fans feel as though they are long overdue a return to the Premier League.
This could definitely be Leeds' year, although much will depend on how the players handle the expectation of the fans and imposing weight of history.
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