David Prutton: Leeds United still capable of reaching the play-offs

Pontus Jansson.

Pontus Jansson.

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I STILL think Leeds will be all right in terms of getting in the play-offs.

The euphoria of that last-minute equaliser at Newcastle was obviously tainted by the Wolves result but it’s not really one where you can point the finger at a slump from Leeds’ point of view.

Garry Monk.

Garry Monk.

It’s just so competitive and you have seen the results that Huddersfield, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham are getting.

Leeds have just concertinaed at the most important time.

I remember speaking a few weeks ago about being home and hosed for the play-offs and that’s obviously not the case.

Looking at the Newcastle game, I thought Leeds were resilient in certain ways and to get that last-minute equaliser just showed the kind of resilience they have got.

Liam Cooper.

Liam Cooper.

You could tell how proud Garry was of his players and he talks about the young squad and the mental strength that they have shown.

If they are going to get back into the top six, they are going to need that.

It’s going to be a real test for them because when you look at the teams they are playing against – Burton are a real toss-of-a-coin-type team who are fighting for survival.

Norwich, perhaps, are the ones where the players are still trying to perform to show that they should stay at Norwich for another season or two.

And if Wigan are dead and buried by the last day of the season then you just never know what kind of team you are going to get.

Sheffield Wednesday, obviously, host Fulham on the final day and that game is going to be massive.

If that game is a draw and Wednesday and Fulham win their other two games then Leeds will need three wins and that’s what it might well take.

It would be a shame if they don’t do it, because of how well they have done – to be where they were for so long.

To dip out in the last couple of weeks of the season would be more than gutting, it would be devastating for the squad.

But you have got to balance it with perspective and nobody expected this – whereas after then doing so well we just assumed it would happen.

But Garry has said the same thing in good spells and he has said the same thing in bad spells, he plays the long game with it and it’s borne success.

Now it’s just in these last three games which it could all hang on. I think it’s looking like Leeds will need all three wins and it’s hard to contemplate it in any other way.

Three wins obviously guarantees a play-off place. There are other ways around it, if other teams drop points, but it is never as straight forward as that. And while Fulham have a tough game at Huddersfield Town tomorrow, I can see them going there and winning.

They were very good against Villa, obviously aided by the fact that they had a man advantage for over an hour.

But Fulham play at real pace. They play with real confidence and energy and it’s ironic that as much as there’s been a bit of spite and edge in the games between Leeds and Huddersfield, suddenly Leeds will be rooting for their neighbours slightly along the M62. But Leeds know that three wins will put them in the play-offs and, absolutely, I think they can get them.

Garry is good at focusing the team and focusing the players and he understands where he stands with the players in terms of commanding respect from them all.

And for the younger lads this is now a test of their mettle.

They could look back on this in 10 years’ time and think ‘we did what we needed to at that moment in time and we proved it to ourselves to people that we were watching. We got in the play-offs’. Pontus Jansson is now just one yellow card away from getting a three-game ban and in the Newcastle game he was everywhere.

He was clearing it off the line, he was blocking, he was having a good phyisical battle with Mitrovic. But I would be intrigued to see with his bookings how many he could look back at and say ‘that one and that one could have been avoided’. It’s a doubled-edged sword because when he came here everybody instantly loved him because he is physical, aggressive. He doesn’t take any prisoners and it feels like he doesn’t give a damn towards the other team. He just does it for his team.

But you have got to temper that with being able to play every single game that you possibly can.

It’s one of those where would you get the same type of player without that edge? Probably not, and were Leeds lacking, not a hard man, but someone who was able to intimidate you? Yes they were and great Leeds teams were built on defenders that were horrible, and he fits into that mould.

It’s tough, but when you are one booking away from a ban, it’s got to focus the mind.

You have got to get on with it but with Pontus it could be the situation where he gets Leeds into the play-offs but then can’t play in the play-offs which would be a tough one, especially when Liam Cooper would have been out for a decent period of time.

Pontus just has to put it out of his mind and he has got to play his normal game because his normal game helps Leeds win matches.

Upcoming Sky-televised Championship fixtures include:

Tonight: Norwich City v Brighton & Hove Albion (Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm).

Monday: Newcastle United v Preston North End (Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm).

Garry Monk

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