WITH results falling well for Leeds United this week they are seemingly back in the play-off race, but they are still in must-win territory when they host Watford at Elland Road on Saturday, writes Tony Harber.
After the midweek horror show that was the record-breaking 7-3 midweek defeat to Nottingham Forest a clean sheet and a 1-0 win at Millwall revived United’s hopes again and now they must put their home form right if they are to make up further ground.
With just one win in their last six home games it has been far from fortress Elland Road and in all they have lost eight league games there over the campaign. They have won as many away games as at home and have only beaten one side currently above them at Elland Road this season.
The remaining four teams to be hosted by United are below them in the table, however, and should therefore provide the Whites with a chance to pick up vital points if they can finally match performances at home with results.
Even with the victory at Millwall the Whites are still in tenth place, although they have cut the gap to three points on Birmingham in sixth and five points on Brighton in fourth.
Quite what the fans can expect in the next game is anyone’s guess in a season when they have been thumped four times only to bounce back in the very next game with a hard earned victory, often against the odds.
That sort of inconsistency ultimately did for Simon Grayson and it has continued under Neil Warnock, but he was delighted with the attitude shown by the players and determination to bounce back from the humiliation against Forest.
He said: “I asked the players to come off the pitch knowing they could not give any more. I asked for a response and I felt they gave everything.
“It’s important to bounce back from a humiliating result.”
Attention now turns to the game against Watford, who have successfully ended any fears of relegation in recent weeks and are now within three points of Leeds.
Sean Dyche’s side beat in-form Ipswich last Saturday to even give themselves an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, although they will probably have to win just about all their remaining fixtures to do so. With both teams desperate for victory then it should make for a good game.
In the match at Watford in December, Alex McCarthy’s penalty save earned United a draw and keeper Andy Lonergan kept out another spot-kick at Millwall to preserve a clean sheet the defensive effort deserved.
Manager Warnock brought back Alex Bruce at centre-back to try to stiffen up the back four after the Forest debacle, with Tom Lees moving to right-back and he thought the switch had worked. The same defence cannot take the field against Watford, however, as Darren O’Dea is set to sit out the first of a two-match suspension after totting up 10 bookings during the season so it may be a quick switch back for Lees with Paul Connolly returning at right-back.