Neil Warnock admitted today that Leeds United would need a final tally of 75 points if they were to achieve the improbable and fight their way into the Championship play-offs.
Warnock acknowledged the scale of the task facing his squad as a pivotal match against another of the league’s promotion candidates loomed large.
Leeds will travel to in-form Middlesbrough tomorrow with their manager believing a haul of 25 points from 11 remaining games is required to force the club side into the play-offs on the last day of the season.
United moved onto 50 after their midweek draw at Hull City but the loss of five points during that fixture and last weekend’s meeting with Championship leaders Southampton left Warnock stressing the importance of their visit to Tony Mowbray’s fourth-placed Middlesbrough.
The game is the first of five away fixtures awaiting Leeds before the end of the term, with six more to come at Elland Road, and Warnock conceded that United had no breathing space with 75 points now a realistic benchmark for play-off qualification.
“I don’t think it’ll be far away from that,” Warnock said.
“It means we’ll have to win every home game and do well away from home.
“If we can take a point a game away from home and then win our games at home, that’ll leave us not too far away. We’d be very close.
“Having said that, I do think we need to win one of those away games. It would be nice to do it at Middlesbrough. It’s not necessarily a ‘must-win’ game but it’s one we’d like to win to put that to bed.”
Warnock has steadfastly refused to rule Leeds out of the running for sixth place, despite the sizeable deficit facing his side and the games in hand held by other clubs.
Warnock said: “Whatever other teams have got, it’s going to be down to us to decide whether we get in the play-offs or get anywhere near them.
“I reckon that’ll be decided in the next three or four games but no-one’s running away with sixth position. It’s up in the air and that is why it’s disappointing not to have got more points from the run of fixtures we’ve had.
“Even before I came here, there were two or three fixtures where we missed out on points. That’s frustrating more than anything. Whether we’re good enough for the play-offs at the moment is another matter but you don’t let opportunities go it you can help it.”
Leeds are still to claim a victory or score a goal with Warnock in charge but he is unlikely to make major changes to the team which started Tuesday’s draw at Hull.
Aidan White is expected to be available after recovering from injury but defenders Alex Bruce and Leigh Bromby remain on the sidelines, and Warnock is not yet ready to involve Andy O’Brien.
O’Brien has been training for over a month since receiving treatment for depression, but despite appearing as substitute in a 2-1 defeat to Coventry on February 14 – his first outing for three months – United’s medical staff have now advised Warnock to delay the centre-back’s selection.
The Leeds boss said: “We were hoping to get a game for Andy this week but that didn’t materialise. The physios don’t think he’s quite ready yet.”