Garry Monk said his Leeds United squad were rapidly overcoming any fear of playing at Elland Road after a battling performance brought up a fourth successive home win.
Leeds fought through a tense finish on Saturday to seal a 2-1 victory over Barnsley and further enhance a home record which was causing Monk concern in the early weeks of the season.
The club’s head coach believed his players were constrained by “apprehension” initially, an observation backed up by Leeds taking one point from their first three league games at Elland Road.
One of those fixtures, a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City, led an angry Monk to demand that his side show more “mental toughness” in front of their own crowd.
Leeds’ form has improved since then, resulting in four back-to-back wins at Elland Road, and Monk credited a crowd of 27,000 with helping United see out Saturday’s victory as Barnsley pressed for a point in the closing stages.
“You’re seeing that relationship really growing now,” Monk said. “I talked after the Birmingham game about seeing apprehension in the players and apprehension in the crowd. That was no fault of anyone’s. It was just the way it was.
“Of course performances help with that but in that last 10 minutes, when we had to defend, there was nothing negative from the crowd. Extra energy comes out of you when you feel the backing of almost 30,000 people.
“We work a lot on attitude because this is a tough league. Mentally you have to be strong but you saw the character and fight in us. It all counts but on top of that there’s quality too.”
A strong run during the past four weeks and a tally of five wins from seven games was helped by a sizeable improvement in United’s defensive organisation. Their progress in August was badly hindered by five goals conceded from corners. Leeds’ opener on Saturday was scored from a corner of their own, with Kyle Bartley arriving to side-foot home Pablo Hernandez’s cross.
“It was nice to see us score from a set-piece offensively,” Monk said. “We’ve corrected a lot of things defensively at set-pieces but I felt we had the players to be effective offensively as well. To score in that situation is pleasing.”
Monk plans to give his players a short period of time off after a busy spell of seven fixtures in 21 days. Pontus Jansson, Stuart Dallas and Chris Wood are among those who are departing for international duty.
Monk said: “We’ve had a really busy period physically so there will be rest but we’ll do exactly what we did in the last one – we’ll work as well.
“We saw in the last seven games the benefit of having that time with them (at the end of August) and as I said then, the more time I get on the training field the more benefit there is for the team. If we can do the same sort of work, maybe in different areas, we’ll hopefully see the same sort of reaction coming out of the break.”
Monk, meanwhile, revealed that the Football Association has written to him over his dismissal in last week’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol City. The United boss was sent to the stands by referee Keith Stroud shortly before full-time at Ashton Gate but is yet to face any formal disciplinary charges from the FA.
“There’s a letter come through,” Monk said. “I’ll read it and see what the situation is.”