IF YOU are a defeatist then you could say Leeds United’s automatic promotion bid is over.
We saw real defiance from Sheffield United over the Easter weekend and Blades boss Chris Wilder was not happy at all with the way his side had perhaps been written off.
They responded unbelievably well.
From a Leeds point of view, they couldn’t have done much more against Wigan. They really peppered them and dominated the stats.
There was a ridiculous amount of one-way traffic but Wigan were more clinical and when Pablo Hernandez is missing from 12 yards you are really thinking that something could be in the water.
If you look at the Brentford game, I don’t know how on earth Leeds were not awarded a penalty for the foul on Patrick Bamford.
But again Leeds didn’t take their chances and this just shows the fine margins whereby this second automatic promotion place is going to be won and lost.
You can even look at Norwich at the top.
I’m not saying Sheffield United are going to leapfrog them into first place but, with the momentum that they have got, they will definitely have their sights on top spot.
You would obviously expect Sheffield United to beat Ipswich tomorrow because Ipswich have been unlucky in some games but nowhere near good enough this season which is why they will be playing in League One next season.
There’s also the fact that Sheffield United are playing first again this weekend with Leeds playing Villa on Sunday.
But none of this is a foregone conclusion and we all assumed before the international break after Sheffield United had won at Leeds that Leeds would be struggling. But they fought back and Sheffield United wobbled.
The galling and frustrating thing if you are a Leeds fan is that it’s so close, it’s just two games.
But it’s now going to take a Herculean effort as you have got to hope that Sheffield United slip up.
But there are positive noises coming from their camp. They ground it out against Forest, though playing against 10 men obviously helped, and they then found themselves 3-0 up and cruising against Hull City. Second place for them is very much theirs to lose.
Leeds just need to do what they can at their end and hope that Sheffield United slip up.
It’s a frustrating position to be in but that’s the position that they have found themselves in through performances and not being clinical enough at the most important times.
But I wouldn’t question the bottle of the players. What we have seen from the players over the course of a very long season is that they have been consistently better over a longer period of time which comes down to good coaching but also the desire of the players involved.
That’s also down to the feeling that Marcelo Bielsa has generated not just in the club but in the city and the expectation levels rose.
If you look at the teams that are up there, even though both Norwich and Sheffield United have had more recent experience of the Premier League, Leeds still have that weight of expectation because they are a big club.
They are a big scalp no matter what division they are in.
We have had three teams at the top pushing each other on which has just been phenomenal to watch and they have done it three different ways with three different styles of managers with three different styles of winning football matches.
Whoever misses out on second place, yes you feel for them but whoever goes up in the top two, my goodness do they deserve to be there because of the pace they have had to set and the pace they have had to keep with the other teams.
But I don’t think it’s a question of bottle. In the Wigan game Leeds were battering on the door for 80-odd minutes but Wigan were just more clinical on the day.
Pablo has been wonderful throughout the course of the season and you would have put your house on him to score a penalty.
You can’t legislate for stuff like that, sometimes there is just an off day and I think to question the character of the side is premature.
Whenever character is called into question I think you have got to quantify it with the competition that you are up against and they have been up against a set of teams of players that have pushed each other on.
If it is to be the play-offs then mentally and emotionally it will be the greatest challenge since Marcelo Bielsa has been at the club.Can he box off the league and say you have got a mini league here and if you get through three games you’re in the Premier League? Can he get his team to think that way as we all saw the emotional outpouring after the Brentford game which was sheer naked emotion?
The minus-15-points season really felt like it was players, fans and club altogether but this season more than ever it feels like it has all been brought together and the community and the fans have gone home and away every week and loved doing it.
The players have appreciated the fans and the fans have appreciated what the players have been putting in.
Bielsa has shaken the club from its slumber if you like and shown what it is capable of around world football with people looking at it and seeing what could possibly be achieved, though achievement has to go hand in hand with the crowning glory of getting back to the Premier League.
I have had experience of the play-offs and Leeds fans know all too well that it’s a wonderful day out if you win but if you don’t it’s not a wonderful day out at all no matter how many fans travel in numbers. The drama of going up through the play-offs would be wonderful and there wouldn’t be any fingernails left in West Yorkshire should it happen that way.
Sunday: Sky Bet Championship: Leeds United v Aston Villa, 11.30am Sky Sports Football.