Simon Grayson turned his mind to another crucial meeting with Norwich City after victory in Bristol effectively confirmed Leeds United’s Championship status for a second season.
Grayson admitted he was free to concentrate on the pursuit of promotion to the Premier League with Leeds beyond the threshold of 50 points.
United crossed that mark – generally seen as the total required to avoid relegation – with a 2-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday, and Grayson reiterated his previous claim that retaining a place in the Championship was “always my main aim.”
But his squad remain in the thick of the division’s play-off positions after their victory at Ashton Gate and they will undergo an important examination at the hands of another promotion candidate at Elland Road this weekend.
Norwich maintained a two-point advantage over sixth-placed Leeds with an injury-time win over Reading, and Saturday’s match in West Yorkshire brings together the two clubs who contested the League One title last season.
Both United and Norwich have surpassed expectations since their return to the Championship but Grayson said the guarantee of survival had not fulfilled the full list of ambitions set for his players at the beginning of August.
“We’ve got enough points to suggest that we won’t get relegated,” he said. “That was always my main aim.
“Only time will tell where we finish but we set ourselves ambitions and goals at the start of the season and they haven’t changed. Eventually I want us to get back to the Premier League, whether it’s this year or next year. We’re doing well but I want us to do better.
“A lot of teams will still think they can get automatic promotion or into the top six. All I want us to do is fulfill the ambition we set out with at the start of the season.
“My main focus now is to get the players ready for Norwich. It’s going to be a fantastic, hard game for us and they’re a team we know a lot about.
“We had two cracking games against them last year and they’re doing well like us. I hope I’m speaking about the same result.”
Ashton Gate recorded its second highest attendance of the season on Saturday, and the game was marred by brief instances of crowd trouble in the first half.
United’s players were unaffected by the atmosphere and Grayson claimed the performance in Bristol was evidence of players’ ability to manage with the pressure of the run-in. Goals from Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel sealed a deserved win inside 50 minutes.
“Whenever we go away from home, we find ourselves playing at grounds which have a full house for the first time this season,” Grayson said.
“We seem to be able to handle it. There’s a lot of spirit among the players and they realise what it means to play for this football club and to play for the shirt.
“Bristol City had a great result at Preston last weekend but our performance was really professional. We controlled the game in the first half and we could have had a few more goals with a bit more composure.
“They were always going to have a go at us and there were moments when we had to make saves, blocks and put bodies on the line, but that’s part and parcel of the game.”
The result in Bristol upheld Grayson’s decision to make a key change to his line-up before kick-off, replacing in-form striker Davide Somma with Australian midfielder Neil Kilkenny.
Somma dropped to the bench after a midweek outing in an international friendly between South Africa and Kenya, and Grayson said: “With him playing (against Coventry City) last Saturday and then 80 minutes on Wednesday, starting against Bristol City was always going to be a big ask.
“He understood why we made the decision and I also felt that away from home we could shore up midfield by getting Kilkenny on the ball. The system we played worked very well, especially in the first half.”
Grayson also revealed that the group of trialists brought to Thorp Arch last week – including former Manchester United midfielder Michael Stewart – will continue to train with Leeds during the early part of this week.