David Prutton: Promotion hopefuls Leeds United cannot afford anymore slip-ups

TODAY’S clash against Millwall is a must-win game for Leeds United who cannot afford any more slip ups.

Saturday, 30th March 2019, 5:00 am
Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

The Sheffield United defeat was a kick in the teeth but there are plenty of games left for Leeds to keep their end of the bargain and hope that the Blades slip up.

There are eight games remaining and it’s not completely unheard of for a side to win eight in a row.

The momentum that Sheffield United have got and the confidence they will have taken from the win at Leeds will propel them forwards.

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Kalvin Phillips

But it’s great looking at the overall picture from a title race perspective with Leeds and Blades punching away at each other and hoping that Norwich City might slip up.

As much as you say you concentrate on your own results, Leeds will have to keep an eye on what the other ones are doing because it could just give you that little bit of a boost, as even if you get into second place by the odd point, come the end of the season you are done and dusted if you stay there.

It’s definitely not out of the question to say that Leeds might need to win all eight games to finish second. We have seen unbeaten runs over the course of the season – though not with as many wins as that in them.

This is the time of the season when a team needs to put a run together and it’s one hell of a carrot that it is being dangled at the end of it which is automatic promotion to Premier League football.

Liam Cooper

The pressure is on because Sheffield United are in second spot but also because of Leeds’ vast amount of time away from the Premier League and the fact they have been up with the frontrunners all term.

I’m sure that Blades boss Chris Wilder is revelling in his side’s position and he likes to class his side as plucky underdogs.

But they are one hell of a team when they get going and Leeds are just going to have to push them all the way.

There will be at least one change against Millwall with Kiko Casilla suspended meaning that Bailey Peacock-Farrell will get another chance in goal.

Chris Wilder

That’s huge for him, the pressure is on for his spot and what we have seen from Casilla that he is a very confident and competent goalkeeper which is exactly what Leeds have been crying out for. Peacock-Farrell has the ability and the characteristics to be a very good goalkeeper, but younger keepers need a bit of time.

He is in the spotlight and I don’t think it helped when Marcelo Bielsa made a definite statement about Peacock-Farrell being dropped and then suddenly needed to put him back into the side.

Mentally he would have had to deal with that at the time and since then, with the fact he was no longer first choice.

When you are on the bench as an outfield player then statistically you have got a better chance of getting on the pitch.

But with a goalkeeper your chance usually comes about because of an injury or a suspension, as in this case, and Peacock-Farrell could play a major part in what is the most vital time of the season.

There’s also light at the end of the tunnel with United’s injuries as Pontus Jansson and Adam Forshaw are back fit and Kemar Roofe due to return for next weekend’s clash at Birmingham.

If you look at what a tough ask it is to get back into the automatic promotion places then you give yourself the best chance by having a fully fit squad which is exactly what Bielsa is about to have.

From here on in, no excuses from Leeds.

They have got to do everything in their power and everything that they can control to make sure that they are in that second spot in that first weekend in May.

They just need to hope that the pressure and the ability to keep that pace up behind Sheffield United tells on the Blades and just hope that they drop that point or two which means that Leeds can leapfrog them back into second.

Forshaw will surely only be looking at a place on the bench against Millwall as the form of Kalvin Phillips has been reflected in the wonderful accolade of being named in the EFL team of the season.

That’s really reflective of a player that has attained a standard of football and consistency and maintained it.

We knew it was there, we knew he was a versatile player but he has shown it in abundance and he has been an integral part of what Leeds have done. Liam Cooper also made the team of the year but there was no Pablo Hernandez which was a surprise because of how well he has done and what he brings to the Whites.

He has been a genuine match-winner on more than one occasion and Leeds are a poorer side when he is not playing. I was surprised that was not in the team of the year but on the flip side Coops has done well to get in it.

I was surprised that none of the Sheffield United defensive line got in as they have been tremendous but the play in a way that perhaps belies the way these mythical ‘teams of the year’ are set up.

Overall, it was a great accolade for Phillips and Cooper, who has led the team with real authority.

He has been one of many who has benefited from having a coach of this calibre coming in and making every player better.

It sounds very simplistic and straightforward but Leeds have not gone hell for leather and chucked a load of money at it in a gamble to get to the Premier League.

They have spent money on Patrick Bamford and odds and sods here and there but other than that it has been testament to bringing in the best coach available – Bielsa – and what he has got from the guys.

They just need to make sure that between now and the end of the season what they have done so far is maintained and perhaps even improved on.

Sky Bet Championship on Sky Sports today: Middlesbrough v Norwich City, Sky Sports Main Event, 5.15pm.