David Prutton: Leeds United can salvage their season with wins from next two games

Pontus Jansson went close with a first-half header at Sheffield United last time out. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Pontus Jansson went close with a first-half header at Sheffield United last time out. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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IT’S going to be extremely tough for Leeds United to finish in the play-offs following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United, a result which left the Whites eight points off the top six.

I still thought there was enough there to show there is fight in the team and quality in their team but they will just have to learn from the game.

You have got to expect what you got from Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, especially with it being a big Yorkshire derby and in regards to where they are in the league – fighting to get back in the top six.

It was always going to be tough for Leeds but again there were those elements of indiscipline and cheap bookings and stupid free-kicks.

For the one that led to Billy Sharp’s goal, Pontus Jansson had his arms around Billy’s neck and that is always going to be a free-kick.

It’s little things like that which need to be eradicated and worked on really.

Liam Cooper. PIC: Tony Johnson

Liam Cooper. PIC: Tony Johnson

I was reading something about the penalty being open to debate but to me it was an absolute stonewall penalty.

I have read Dermot Gallagher’s take on it which is that it was not a penalty whereas one of his colleagues said it was.

But while Eunan O’Kane tried to take his foot out of the way, he quite obviously caught John Fleck who then goes down as a result so there is no real room for any protestations there.

And Leeds need to play to striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s strengths which is by putting balls into him where he can score like he did with the header. Other than that, he seemed fairly isolated.

Eunan O'Kane, back from suspension and wearing the captain's armband against Sheffield United. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Eunan O'Kane, back from suspension and wearing the captain's armband against Sheffield United. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

O’Kane was made captain on Saturday and there is quite a bit of debate about who should wear the captain’s armband.

Out of all of them, you look at Pontus perhaps because of his obvious physical size but can you rely on him to stay on the pitch for long periods of the season?

He is on nine yellow cards so one more and he will get a two-game ban so there’s that.

From a personality point of view, I think Liam Cooper has got a bit more of the leadership qualities but again you are looking at someone who is not on the pitch because of suspension.

There will be certain things that new head coach Paul Heckingbottom has to work out such as who should be doing what and who should be taking charge of what parts of the pitch. Leeds started better in the second half on Saturday but you would have to say that clear-cut chances were at a premium. There was the wonderful header from Jansson and good save in the first half, Lasogga’s goal and then his long-range effort but other than that there was not much else really and I thought Sheffield United looked fairly comfortable.

But you can sense the obvious pride that Paul has coming into the job at Leeds. He is really excited about having this opportunity and I think they have got the right man in the frame to leave no stone unturned.

They have just got to try and make the play-offs and if not then you have got to build for next season.

I think from the way we have seen the squad perform, Leeds would have to over-achieve to get into the top six.

When you look at the size of the squads and the financial capacity of the squads farther up in the top six then Leeds have been outspent, not only on the people that they are bringing in but also when you are talking about the relative wages of the players available. Maybe that is food for thought going forward and the fact that Andrea Radrizzani came out and almost apologised for appointing Thomas Christiansen means that he is taking some responsibility.

On one hand, I thought that was a bit of a below-the-belt hit but on the other side of it you have got to admire someone that has taken it on the chin and said ‘look, it’s my fault, we should never have done that’.

With regards to the teams in and around the top six, obviously Wolves have gone big, Villa have gone big and Derby have always been going big and you can carry on down after that through the top six, seven or eight. And the likes of Fulham have just been more consistent over a longer period of time.

Leeds don’t deserve to be there but they have still got a chance to be there.

Following Sunday’s clash with Bristol City, Samuel Saiz will be back for the game at Derby next Wednesday and that is a huge boost as long as he keeps his head on and stays on the pitch.

I was speaking to Eddie Gray about Saiz and Eddie was waxing lyrical about him. He thinks he is a terrific player and from what I have seen of him I would have to agree.

The temperament side of it is something that Leeds need to work on but when Saiz is not on the pitch, Leeds lack that creative spark and I think Gjanni Alioski plays better when Saiz is in the team.

It’s not just a case of one player, it’s also a case of what he brings out of the other players and to the rest of the team.

It’s just a shame that Leeds are also going to be without Tyler Roberts who has cracked a bone in his shin. It’s tough to say how long he will be out for with an injury like that and it all depends on how an individual heals. I was really looking forward to seeing Tyler under Paul, knowing how good Paul is with young players and what he can bring out of them.

I think he is a manager who can bring out the best of Tyler but we will have to wait and see as and when he is ready to go.

Upcoming Sky-televised Championship fixtures:

Tomorrow: Birmingham City v Millwall (3pm).

Sunday: Norwich City v Ipswich Town (noon), Leeds United v Bristol City (4.30pm).