Leeds United: “Big, big week” in quest for play-off place - Evans

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Leeds United head coach Steve Evans wants to make the Championship “sit up” for the first time this season by shading a “massive” game at Ipswich Town tonight.

Leeds United head coach Steve Evans wants to make the Championship “sit up” for the first time this season by shading a “massive” game at Ipswich Town tonight.

Steve Evans.

Steve Evans.

Evans admitted that United had entered a “big, big week” and said the retention of a nine-point gap to the play-offs was the “absolute minimum” target for his players.

Ipswich hold sixth place in the division and have maintained a substantial lead over Evans’s squad by producing a run of five wins from seven league games.

United’s trip to Portman Road is the first of two away games in the space of five days, the second another crucial fixture away at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon, and Evans made no secret of the importance of both fixtures.

Leeds have clung onto an outside chance of reaching the top six during Evans’ three-month reign as head coach but an unbeaten run of seven league matches has failed to carry them closer to a play-off spot.

Evans, whose side travelled south yesterday morning and trained at Shaun Derry’s Cambridge United ahead of this evening’s clash, said: “Our results have been good but they could easily have been better. The gap’s still there and I’m not hiding from the fact that this is a massive game for us in a big, big week.

“As an absolute minimum – an absolute minimum – we have to come out of this week no further back than nine points. We’ll have three homes games in a row after that and our form is picking up at home. I’d back us to take a good number of points of those.

“I’ve said before that if we get on a roll then the teams above us will start looking at us and taking notice. This is about as tough as it gets, Tuesday night away to an Ipswich side who are in form, but a result would make the division sit up. We’ve not really made anyone do that yet.”

Evans will take a late decision on the fitness of striker Chris Wood, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring strain, but his side will return to near-full strength following Saturday’s FA Cup win over Rotherham United.

United’s boss made four changes for that fixture, resting Stuart Dallas and Lewis Cook, but a 2-0 victory extended the club’s undefeated sequence in all competitions to eight games.

Ipswich, whose manager Mick McCarthy made a total of seven changes in the FA Cup’s third round, drew 2-2 with League Two side Portsmouth on Saturday.

Evans said: “I obviously had an eye on this week because I had to prioritise the league games but I was never going to make eight or nine changes against Rotherham. That wasn’t going to happen.

“It’s my job to win matches and last thing I wanted was for us to lose 3-0 to Rotherham and the crowd to go home feeling disillusioned. We got another good result, we’re going along nicely and we’ve come into this week in good shape.

“Six points would be outstanding, four would be great and three I’d settle for. I’d like us to close in but the main thing, the first priority, is to make sure we don’t fall further behind.”