Simon Grayson denied that he and Leeds United were facing a crisis as he backed his squad to arrest their poor form over the next 72 hours.
Leeds are looking to end a run of three games without a win this weekend, and Grayson claimed clashes with Barnsley and Burnley either side of New Year were an ideal opportunity to restore public confidence in his squad.
United travel to Oakwell for a 1pm kick-off tomorrow before hosting Burnley at Elland Road on January 2, and the club are in need of a profitable spell having dropping out of the Championship’s play-off positions after their Boxing Day defeat to Derby County.
Grayson sought to deflect talk of pressure in the wake of a 1-0 loss at Pride Park, and United’s manager has repeatedly defended his players amid a period of disappointing results and performances.
But he underlined the importance of preventing greater concern developing, saying: “Whenever you lose a couple of games you want to stop that run quickly and get back into a winning habit.
“That goes for us and for other teams in the division too.
“We’ll be looking to win tomorrow and again on Monday, and our target is promotion and the play-offs at the very least. We still maintain that.
“We’ve not won in three which is a major, major crisis – not.
“Everyone can go on a poor run but it’s not like we’ve got five games to go. There are 20-odd left.
We’ve given ourselves an opportunity and I hope by the end of the season we’re talking about promotion, rather than the little wobble we’re on at the moment.”
Barnsley inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Leeds at Elland Road in November – one of a number of results which saw criticism aimed at Grayson and his team – but the Tykes are also out of form after three straight losses to Ipswich Town, West Ham United and Blackpool.
Keith Hill’s side conceded nine goals in those three fixtures and the Barnsley boss described his injury-hit squad as “down to the bare bones” ahead of tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby at Oakwell.
Grayson said: “It’s the nature of the division that clubs go on these runs.
“One minute you’re cast as promotion certainties or play-off certainties. Then you have a couple of bad results and everyone is pessimistic. You just have to keep believing in what you’re doing and Keith with be doing that. We’re doing exactly the same.
“Many teams who’ve been top of their division over the Christmas period have dropped right out of the play-offs, never mind winning automatic promotion. I still think everyone will be looking at the top two places (in the Championship) but you’d need to go on a decent run to achieve that.”