Leeds United: Sixth-place Reading right in firing line for play-off chasers – Lorimer

Luke Murphy in action against Reading

Luke Murphy in action against Reading

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Reading hold sixth place in the Championship league table and, when you’ve got the last play-off spot, you’re the automatic target for every team below you.

They’re due at Elland Road in a couple of weeks’ time and if Leeds United are to make the top six in May, it’s imperative that the advantage Reading have over us doesn’t increase in that period.

The gap is, at the moment, eight points and that’s a sizeable difference.

It’s a lot of ground to make up at this stage but getting there is not beyond us. It’s perfectly obvious, though, that a big run of form is needed – and needed very soon.

We’ve got a very tough period coming up now – Middlesbrough away in what almost passes as a local derby followed by QPR away.

Then we’ve got back-to-back home matches against Bolton and Reading and a trip to Burnley.

It looks like make or break time to me and I’m sure Brian McDermott will think the same. To my mind we need at least four points from the next two matches coming up.

That would give us every chance of making the most of our home fixtures and using Elland Road to our advantage.

The last thing we want is Reading coming to Leeds with a big lead over us and the belief that they can afford to lose the game.

The trick when you’re chasing the play-offs is to keep the pressure on and make the sides above you twitchy.

If they cope and make it to the plays-offs then fair enough.

But quite often you find that players begin to lose their nerve when they’ve got other teams breathing down their necks. For Leeds the situation this year is slightly different to how it was 12 months ago.

At this stage in 2013 we were in a similar league position but potentially threatened by the clubs fighting to get away from the relegation places.

It was a much tighter and dangerous division last season and you knew in February that it could go either way for us.

In the end it almost went badly wrong and we were fortunate that Brian came in to steady the ship in the nick of time.

This time around the players can go out there without worrying about what’s behind them and without needing to look over their shoulders.

Charlton are third-from-bottom at the moment and they’re 18 points behind us.

I simply can’t see them or any of the other sides in trouble putting enough results together to drag us into the danger zone.

And in any case, I fully expect us to move well clear of 50 points and maintain our focus on the top end of the table.

For that reason Brian’s squad can play with a little bit of pressure off.

They’re not going down – that’s already abundantly clear – and they can still get in the mix if they put their foot on the gas now.

The league’s been made difficult by the fact that Reading, Derby and Nottingham Forest have all had very decent patches of form and catching them won’t be easy.

But I’m not prepared to give up and say that Brian and his squad have given themselves too much to do.

I think we’re all agreed that the biggest priority for the club is to get some certainty off the pitch and stability again behind the scenes.

But it would do everyone a favour if the focus turned to football again.

Get back in the running for the top six and all of a sudden the off-field situation doesn’t seem quite so all-consuming.

It’s still massively important, obviously, but you’d at least feel like the football side of things wasn’t secondary. That’s how it’s been too often recently.

My own philosophy when it comes to the league table is that there’s no difference between finishing 10th and finishing 18th.

What you want is to finish sixth or higher and you might as well throw caution to the wind to make it happen.

The fact that Leeds are well clear of the bottom three means they can afford to take risks and go for broke.

I really hope that they do.

After a pretty tough time it has to be said that, as far as this season goes, we’ve got nothing to lose.

Kyle Bartley. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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