Leeds United: Grayson right to play Brad - Matteo

Former Leeds United captain Dominic Matteo expects Bradley Johnson to keep his starting place at Burnley on Saturday and says Simon Grayson should not bow to pressure to drop the midfielder from his team.

Johnson's position is under scrutiny after he was booed from the field during last weekend's 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, a response to his decision to turn down a new contract at Elland Road.

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Talks aimed at extending Johnson's career with Leeds ended in failure last month and are unlikely to be resurrected, despite the 23-year-old's insistence that he wants to resolve the impasse and commit himself to a fresh deal with the Championship side.

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His current contract ends in June and Leeds have transfer-listed Johnson with a view to selling him next month.

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Grayson has made his intentions clear by including Johnson in his starting line-up for three successive games since the collapse of negotiations, but the Elland Road crowd showed their displeasure on

Saturday by jeering the midfielder when he was substituted midway through the second half of United's defeat of Palace.

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Grayson, however, has given no indication that the former Northampton Town player will be pulled from the firing line at Turf Moor and Matteo insisted there was no reason for a change of personnel or strategy after seven matches without defeat.

The ex-United captain said: "I don't think Simon should drop him and I don't think he will. He's shown in the past that his decisions aren't influenced by other people.

"It's obviously a problem when one of your players is taking that amount of criticism but Simon's paid to pick the team and the team he's using at the moment are in decent form. There's no reason to tamper with a plan that's working well.

"They're on a good run and it's difficult to justify changes when the results are coming. You leave yourself open to criticism if it goes wrong. I'm a great believer in keeping a settled team for as long as the people in it deserve their places.

"The fans were entitled to express their opinions on Saturday but I thought the reaction to Bradley was harsh. He's always honest with his performances."

United's fightback against Palace – completed by two goals in the final nine minutes of an end-to-end game – came after Johnson's substitution, but Grayson said afterwards that he would not be forced into replacing him by criticism from the club's supporters.

The Leeds boss has few other central midfielders to consider as replacements for Johnson, though Amdy Faye is fully recovered from a recent hamstring strain and has been an unused substitute in Leeds' last two league fixtures.

Matteo said: "I thought he (Johnson) handled the criticism well. He took it on the chin.

"It's an awkward situation and the club could do without it but I don't go along with dropping players because of their contracts. It has to come down to form and you can't say he hasn't contributed to the unbeaten results."

* United's youngsters enjoyed an impressive 3-0 victory over Scunthorpe United in their FA Youth Cup third round tie at Elland Road last night.

It was a game to remember for Whites' Dom Poleon who scored a hat-trick for Neil Redfearn's side.

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