Marcelo Bielsa admitted a five-point gap to third place in the Championship could prove a “big difference” for Leeds United after his side recorded a fourth straight win at home to Queens Park Rangers.
Bielsa challenged his players to keep up their form and take advantage of their initiative with daylight opening up between the division’s automatic promotion places and the chasing pack.
Leeds remain second in the league after leaders Norwich City snatched an injury-time victory over Bolton Wanderers but third-placed Derby lie five points back following United’s impressive streak of results.
Bielsa’s players have responded to a 4-1 thrashing at West Bromwich Albion on November 10 with four wins in a row, the latest earned by a Kemar Roofe brace against QPR at Elland Road.
Leeds fought back from a first-half Nahki Wells goal to strike twice through Roofe either side of half-time and seal a 2-1 victory.
Roofe’s winner came from a 53rd-minute penalty, the first awarded to United in 59 matches. It broke a run stretching back to October last year.
Asked if the advantage over Derby was significant, Bielsa said: “This depends on the capacity we show to keep this difference.
“If we show we are able to keep this difference then it would be a big difference. If you lose the capacity to play at the same level, the difference won’t matter.
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“But it’s very difficult in this Championship to win four games in a row. It’s also difficult to deserve to win the games too. These 12 points came after an important loss and it allows us to forget this feeling of having lost by such a difference (at West Brom).
“It's important when you have a positive cycles of wins and we’ve won the last four games. But many things that didn't happen could have happened and we'd be in a different situation.”
Roofe took his tally of goals for the season to 10 by turning home a Pablo Hernandez effort in first-half injury-time and then converting from the spot after QPR defender Tony Leistner was penalised for handball.
Hernandez and Roofe both moved to claim the ball for the penalty but Roofe took responsibility for it after a short discussion. Hernandez had missed United’s previous award in a 1-0 defeat to Reading in October 2017.
Bielsa said: “I saw them exchanging words. If you take into account the fact that it’s a long time since we last had a penalty, it’s a good thing to see that more than one player wanted to take responsibility.”
QPR manager Steve McClaren, however, described the penalty decision as “very, very poor”, claiming referee Peter Bankes could not have seen the incident clearly from his position on the pitch.
“It’s cost us a result I think,” McClaren said. “Toni was adamant that it never touched his hand and the referee’s position from what I’ve seen on the replay - wow.
“He’s got fantastic eyes. He can see through people to see that handball. There was a lot of influence behind the goal.”