HEAD coach Garry Monk has told his Leeds United players to free their minds ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Fulham after feeling the Whites were “playing with pressure” at Birmingham City.
Leeds further strengthened their promotion push with a 3-1 triumph at Birmingham on Friday but United rode their luck before leaving St Andrews with all three points.
And Monk feels his men would benefit from keeping to their natural, expressive game rather than over-thinking matters in an intense race to seal either a play-off place or even an automatic promotion spot in May.
United are long odds-on to finish in the Championship’s play-offs after Friday night’s victory at Birmingham which left the fourth-placed Whites just seven points behind second-placed Brighton and eight points clear of seventh-placed Fulham.
The Cottagers, though, have a game in hand and could significantly change the picture with victory against United at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.
The contest is arguably United’s biggest game of the season so far but Monk is keen for his men to play with free minds and freedom with 11 games left to go.
Monk reasoned: “The first 60 minutes wasn’t good enough from anyone (at Birmingham) but we spoke at half time and we just lacked that little bit of freedom.
“We looked like we were playing with pressure with us and we shouldn’t be.
“We are in a fantastic position and I said to the players at the end that we need to help free your minds a little bit more - you are in a fantastic position, you have earned the right to go and play your football and do the things that we know we are good at and that we have shown many times. It’s doing it from the start.
“But of course it’s difficult, every game is very hard and it’s great to have a magic wand and say that you can play for 90 minutes your best football but it doesn’t happen like that.
“But our mentality at Birmingham was brilliant.
“The second half as it grew on we got much, much better, we started to play the football we know we can and looked very dangerous and created chances and defended very well.
“We take that last 30 minutes as a real positive and obviously winning the game and obviously learn from the first 60 minutes that we know we need to get better which we will see it games to come that I am sure that we will.”