Leeds United in need of a Toon up in cup tie

Matt Smith heads in his first goal at Elland Road against Burnley. Picture: IAN HARBER
Matt Smith heads in his first goal at Elland Road against Burnley. Picture: IAN HARBER

It is fair to say the honeymoon period is very definitely over for Leeds United manager Brian McDermott.

With three defeats in their last four games the promise of the Whites’ start to the season has suddenly evaporated, leaving Leeds already nine points off the top of the Sky Bet Championship and in need of a boost again as they now face back to back away games once more.

Tonight’s third round Capital One Cup tie at Newcastle has taken on extra significance as a third defeat in eight days would send out a few alarm signals that the quiet McDermott revolution is coming unstuck.

When the draw was made it seemed there would be no pressure on Leeds up against a Premiership side with nothing to lose, but after defeats, albeit narrow ones, to Reading and Burnley the need to produce a performance has increased.

Perhaps more important is Saturday’s return to league action at a Millwall ground where Leeds have never found it easy. A third straight Sky Bet Championship loss would be hard to recover from and really for the first time this season the pressure will really be on .

It will be a clash that shows what a difference a week can make in this division. After a shaky start the outlook appeared bleak for Millwall, but two wins in five days at the same time as United were going down to an injury-time goal defeat at Reading and a somewhat unlucky 2-1 home reverse to Burnley have put a completely different complexion on things.

Indeed if Millwall can win again they would go level on points with the Whites and they ought to be confident if past records are anything to go by, having beaten United in five of their last six visits.

Leeds have a more mixed record at Newcastle, but have not gone to St James’ Park for a competitive game since January 2004, making tonight’s visit more eagerly anticipated than most third round ties in this competition.

Manager McDermott is likely to make changes after admitting his side had not been good enough in the first half against Burnley.

Stephen Warnock could return at left-back in place of Aidan White after serving his one match suspension following his sending off at Reading while fellow defenders Tom Lees, Lee Peltier and Sam Byram face fitness checks.

Right-back Byram started his first senior game of the season against Burnley, but was taken off early in the second half after feeling a bit sore.

Matt Smith is in line to start up front after impressing off the bench last Saturday while there are several options to make changes in midfield, including teenager Alex Mowatt, impressive on his debut in the last round at Doncaster.