Leeds United are in great shape going into Christmas – Ritchie

Souleymane Doukara.'Leeds United v Reading.  EFL SkyBet Championship.  Eland Road.  13 December 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Souleymane Doukara.'Leeds United v Reading. EFL SkyBet Championship. Eland Road. 13 December 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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I WOULDN’T say that Friday night’s 2-0 loss at Brighton was a particularly damaging or significant defeat – especially when you lose a player to a sending off that early.

Kalvin Phillips was obviously sent off in the 23rd minute for handball on the goalline so you are then playing catch up and you are trying to limit the damage really.

Leeds then came back strongly the other night against Reading so I wouldn’t say it was a damaging loss.

Leeds are having a great time at the moment and I think head coach Garry Monk would just be very pleased with what’s happening at the moment.

Garry will not be saying ‘we are going to do this and we’re going to get there’ but ‘let’s just keep going and playing as we are.’

He’ll be saying that to the players – that you don’t get anywhere further than where you are at the minute because you can get knocked off your pedestal very, very quickly.

I would think he will be just keeping their heads down and getting on with it.

Newcastle and Brighton are now eight and nine points clear of the chasing pack and in terms of can they be caught, I think you will probably know more after this Christmas period and getting into the new year and the transfer window.

If Newcastle suddenly significantly strengthen then it’s going to be very difficult to catch them but we all know that the Christmas period is an absolute killer.

It can be one that upsets the form books because of the games coming so fast and furious and it’s the big squads that can take that on the chin. And probably you are looking at Newcastle in terms of who has the biggest squad.

But I just think Leeds will be happy with where they are and they will want to stay where they are.

They won’t want the slip ups that they have had in past seasons where they have threatened to get into the play-offs but fallen away towards the end of the season.

I think they will just be concentrating on keeping the position they have got and I think if they ended up in the play-offs I am sure that everybody involved with Leeds United would be absolutely over the moon.

I know that Chris Wood came off the other night with a tight hamstring and let’s hope that’s all it is and it’s nothing more than that.

Because at the moment he is really looking the part.

He is learning the position of playing up front on his own as well which is not easy to do at times.

You have to learn that position, you have to learn where to run and how to get into things and I think now United are using his strength and his physique. He’s a big lad and I think it’s a case of getting to know how to use that. He’s playing really well at the moment and it would be a pity if anything did happen to him.

And then we’ve got to keep the centre-halves fit as well.

But even without Wood I think Leeds have got a great chance of beating Brentford today. Brentford have not had a bad start but they have fallen away a little bit now and Leeds have got every chance.

It depends how Garry wants to play it and how he wants to go.

I personally think he that he might go with Souleymane Doukara up front because he’s a bit like for like.

He’s got pace, he’s got strength, he’s a big lad and I think he will try and keep the same sort of system going forward so I would expect that would be the way he would go.

But there’s no doubt that they can beat Brentford, especially at home. I wouldn’t say Elland Road is becoming a fortress yet but it’s becoming a better place to play football matches for the home team.

Leeds had been through a spell for quite some time where maybe it was a bit easier to play away from home for some of the players.

But they seem to have got that under control now I think and they seem to be producing at home.