THE pressure is on for both managers as Leeds United take on Ipswich at Elland Road on Saturday, writes Tony Harber.
With just one win in seven for United and a run of six games without a win for Ipswich there is much at stake with points vitally needed for opposite reasons – for the Whites to climb back towards the play-off places and for the Tractor boys to pull away from the relegation zone.
Town boss Paul Jewell has found himself subject to rumours about his job in recent weeks after his side’s bad run while Leeds manager Simon Grayson has also had to answer some awkward questions following comments by chairman Ken Bates.
Leeds found themselves sliding down the Npower Championship table to 11th after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace, but they remain only one win off a play-off place and would be in seventh with a bit more luck in front of goal at Selhurst Park.
An early Chris Martin goal gave the Whites a tricky task, but after Palace lost Sean Scannell to a red card they played the entire second half with an extra man and predictably had the bulk of the chances.
Only two great saves by Julian Speroni denied United the victory they craved, although they did hit back to draw with a goal from Robert Snodgrass on his return as substitute after his appendix operation.
Snodgrass, who has scored seven goals in his last nine appearances, is now expected to return to the starting line-up, but it will be interesting to see who makes way with on-loan winger Andros Townsend likely to keep his place and switch to the left where he looks more comfortable than on the right.
Ross McCormack was chosen ahead of Ramon Nunez at Palace and the fact he was not substituted suggested he did enough to impress the manager. But the return of Snodgrass will add more competition for places with a tricky choice as well to decide who partners Adam Clayton in central midfield.
Michael Brown and Mika Vayrynen have played there in recent weeks, but have failed to convince. Danny Pugh has also spent time in the middle and could be the option with his left wing place likely to be lost since the arrival of Townsend.
Where Robbie Rogers – signed last week subject to work permit permission – fits in all these plans, only Grayson knows as he is also essentially a wide player.
Next opponents Ipswich also have their problems, mostly in defence where they have conceded 51 league goals this season to have comfortably the worst defensive record in the Npower Championship.
However, they have looked to improve in this area by signing goalkeeper Alex McCarthy on loan and he will make a quick return to Elland Road following his spell on loan at Leeds at the end of 2011.
Like Leeds they were left kicking themselves last weekend after surrendering a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 by Blackpool. This left them sixth from bottom.
The Whites could have a new player in their ranks in time for Saturday’s game as they have admitted to having “one or two” irons in the fire.
They have been linked with a loan move for former player Fabian Delph and have taken 25-year-old South African midfielder Matty Pattison on trial along with winger Craig Jones, from Welsh Premier League side TNS.
But it looks like United will be losing captain Jonny Howson after agreeing a fee to sell the England under 21 international to Norwich while Bolton are keen on Adam Clayton and Wigan are after Ross McCormack.