Leeds United: Mac will shuffle his pack for busy run

Michael Tonge.
Michael Tonge.
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Brian McDermott is preparing to utilise his squad resources over a strength-sapping schedule of four matches in the space of ten days – starting with the Championship trip to Blackpool.

The Whites boss must make one enforced change with Luke Murphy serving a one-match ban after accruing five yellow cards, with Michael Tonge the favourite to replace him.

Tonge’s 45 minutes on Saturday represented his first taste of league action since the 3-1 reverse at Derby on October 5.

The former Sheffield United midfielder is one of a number of senior players who have found themselves on the periphery for spells during the first half of the campaign, with others to cool their heels on the bench for significant chunks of 2013-14 including Paul Green, Michael Brown and El-Hadji Diouf.

Between them, the quartet have started just 16 league between this term, with Luke Varney and Stephen Warnock also on the fringes for stints.

McDermott has consistently said that players will get their opportunities when the chances arise, with the recent elevation back into the first team of Danny Pugh proof that the door remains open to all his first-team squad.

Meanwhile, Scott Wootton is standing by to replace Marius Zaliukas if he misses today’s game with an ankle injury.

McDermott, whose side face games at Blackpool, Nottingham Forest and Rochdale along with a January 1 home clash with Blackburn to negotiate in just under ten days, said: “It’s a tough spell and this is a period where you need all of your players.

“It’s why you have a squad and why you need the squad to be strong enough to cope with the games because they come at you so quickly.

“We’ve got players who are ready for a game and wanting to play. Look at Tongey. He came on against Barnsley and made a difference. That’s what I’d expect people to do. Sam (Byram) came on and so did Dominic (Poleon) and you’re looking for lads like them to make an impact.

“I’ve spoken a lot about the importance of the group and the fact that everyone who’s here is involved and has a chance. I mean it.

“Over the years, you get used to Christmas and the turnaround. But you do need to be careful with players and you do need to think carefully about your teams. I always give lots of thought to my line-up – usually at about two o’clock in the morning – but it is one of those times where you might have to make changes and think about the players’ condition.

“Recovery is everything at this time of year. It’s just as important as training.

“There’s a lot of pressure on everyone at Christmas, but I don’t not enjoy it.

“I love being involved in football and you don’t get more football than you do over Christmas. It’s a good time.”

While Murphy sits out today’s game, his midfield colleague Alex Mowatt, on four bookings, also has the threat of a one-match ban looming if he picks up another caution before the new year.

In general, United’s discipline has been another of the redeeming features of a positive 2013-14 and McDermott wants to keep it that way.

McDermott, who substituted Mowatt on Saturday to protect him from another caution, said: “It’s important to be disciplined. You want to keep players on the pitch and suspensions can cost you.

“You’re going to get yellow cards, that’s part of the game, but what you try to avoid is stupid bookings or needless bookings.

“One or two here and there come at a cost if it means you end up getting suspended.

“Obviously Luke’s missing Boxing Day but he’s the only one (to have reached five bookings) so we’ve done well in that respect.”

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