David Prutton: How Leeds United have dug deep to find right character to close gap on rivals

SUPERB: Leeds United's Pablo Hernnandez celebrates his stunning free-kick equaliser. Picture: Tony Johnson.
SUPERB: Leeds United's Pablo Hernnandez celebrates his stunning free-kick equaliser. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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WHAT I thought was impressive about Leeds United’s win at Burton Albion on Boxing Day was the fact that they were able to come back from a goal down.

They hadn’t previously been able to do that and that showed their character is emerging. There is a sense that they know they can do it now.

Over the course of the season it’s about learning and getting your head around the fact that adverse things will happen but you can come through them.

In football, you can go behind and still win a game and you can also lose a few games and go on a winning run.

Hopefully, what’s happened so far this season gives Leeds a nice, balanced perspective.

Looking at comparing themselves to Burton, who are just a point above the relegation mark, that’s when they know their quality has to stand out.

Pablo Hernandez’s free-kick was absolutely stunning and then Kemar Roofe’s finish was that of a man who has got the confidence of playing in a position that he looks like he enjoys. He’s getting the goals which his ability and work-rate deserve.

Leeds are now five points behind the automatic promotion places and I think that they can claw back that deficit.

We have seen how good leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers have been and we see how close it is for second place now between Bristol City and Cardiff City.

If it was a five-point gap with five games to play that would be different but five points at the turn of the year is infinitely ‘doable’.

CONFIDENT: Leeds United's Kemar Roofe battles with Burton's Jake Buxton on Boxing Day. Picture: Tony Johnson.

CONFIDENT: Leeds United's Kemar Roofe battles with Burton's Jake Buxton on Boxing Day. Picture: Tony Johnson.

When Leeds fell out of the play-offs, it looked like they were floundering slightly but it now feels that there has been a real growth of the team together with players coming in at different times and performing in ways that has made them look more comfortable.

If you take the Boxing Day game at Burton for example, Albion scored against the run of play with a goal that was debatable in terms of whether it was offside or not – it looked very touch and go. But coming back from perceived injustices in a football match allows a team to grow.

Leeds now go to Birmingham City tomorrow and that is a game that you would have to expect them to win.

You have got to prefix it with the fact that no game in the Championship is a sho0-in at all in any way shape or form but manager Steve Cotterill has got a hell of a job on at the bottom club.

If it was a five-point gap with five games to play that would be different but five points at the turn of the year is infinitely ‘doable’.

YEP columnist, David Prutton

It is one that if he gets it right he will deservedly get recognition because of his approach and his ability to work with players.

But you don’t know whether the dressing room dynamics are right at Birmingham.

Their problems stem all the way back to Gary Rowett leaving but I hope Steve gets it right.

From Leeds’ point of view, however, they have got to be going into the game full of confidence.

It’s the type of game that can help them stretch their run and one in which they can show the mettle to turn over the teams that – looking at the form guide – they should be beating.

Leeds then welcome Nottingham Forest to Elland Road on New Year’s Day and are going into these next two games in good form and in good spirits.

DESPERATE TIMES: Leeds goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald found himself at full stretch in a last-minute, goalmouth scramble at Burton.  Picture: Tony Johnson.

DESPERATE TIMES: Leeds goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald found himself at full stretch in a last-minute, goalmouth scramble at Burton. Picture: Tony Johnson.

They have found different ways of winning with different players coming in and you have to look at the fact that Samuel Saiz has not even been in the side.

Pawel Cibicki has come in and while he didn’t particularly stand out on Boxing Day, he didn’t necessarily do many things wrong.

As a footballer, as long as you are not doing things wrong, if the team is winning then you are doing okay.

Leeds have got to be believing that they can march into the new year with six points from two games.

There were some chants from Leeds fans about former coach Garry Monk at the Burton game (after his sacking by Middlesbrough) and we saw from the first game of the season at Bolton that the fans were quite vocal about him.

They certainly were when we did the Leeds and Boro game for Sky. I think with Garry there will be part of him that will be taken aback by that because of how much he enjoyed being at Leeds.

But I think there will be another side of him that knows that is just the very nature of the rivalry in football.

I feel for him as I think he is a very good manager. I think he did a cracking job at Leeds and, whatever the politics involved, he felt it was the right thing to move on when he did.

In the grand scheme of Leeds United, one season is nothing but Garry had to deal with issues off the pitch yet he still brought a semblance of belief back to the team.

He did a very good job of silencing the white noise from above and letting everyone enjoy their football. But, as we very well know, those moments in football can be fleeting and his stay certainly was.

Hindsight is obviously a wonderful thing and there is perhaps an element where he’s thinking ‘what if?’ had he stayed at Elland Road.

But you strike while the iron is hot and with his stock very high, he went to Boro who – only because of where they were last season – looked to have a more realistic chance of getting into the Premier League this time.

That’s the way you have got to quantify it and, sometimes, it is all in the lap of the gods.

Pontus Jansson.

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