Leeds United are monitoring the fitness of captain Liam Bridcutt after an Achilles injury forced the midfielder to miss Saturday’s 3-0 win over Preston North End.
Head coach Garry Monk played down fears that Bridcutt might be facing his second extended absence of the season but admitted he was anxious to avoid losing him with the Championship season into its final stages.
Bridcutt, who missed much of the first half of the campaign with a fractured foot, was injured in last weekend’s defeat at Reading and Monk revealed that the problem had forced Bridcutt’s second-half substitution during Tuesday’s loss at Brentford.
Monk’s resources have been depleted in the past fortnight following an ankle injury to winger Hadi Sacko and a six-match ban imposed on centre-back Liam Cooper.
Cooper was hit with a stringent suspension for stamping in Leeds’ clash with Reading and will not be available until the final game of the regular season away at Wigan Athletic.
Second-choice goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, meanwhile, was absent from the bench after suffering knee ligament damage. The injury could end the Italian’s season.
Leeds were untroubled by the loss of Bridcutt on Saturday, claiming a victory which moved them closer to play-off qualification, but Monk is hopeful that his captain will put himself in contention for Friday’s trip to Newcastle United.
“Liam picked up a knock on his Achilles in the Reading game,” Monk said. “He played with it against Brentford but he wasn’t quite right and wasn’t ready (to face Preston).
“I don’t think it’s serious and it’s soreness more than anything, not a complete injury. But at this stage you need players who can give 100 per cent and push themselves physically and Liam wasn’t able to do that.”
Bridcutt’s season was halted by a foot injury in September, shortly after he completed a protracted transfer from Sunderland.
Monk was unable to recall him until December but Bridcutt has been largely ever present since returning to the side.
United’s midfield, however, had struggled in recent fixtures, failing to avert back-to-back losses to Reading and Brentford in the space of four days, and his decision to field a young pairing of Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira paid off against Preston.
The academy products were preferred to Republic of Ireland international Eunan O’Kane and succeeded in countering Aidan McGeady, the on-loan Everton winger.
“Those two showed me a really good response after Tuesday (Leeds’ defeat at Brentford),” Monk said.
“I trust all my players, even though they’re young boys and still learning. They were excellent and they typified what the team were about.”
United’s performance against Preston brought up a 14th home victory, the most the club have ever recorded in a single second-tier season since Howard Wilkinson led Leeds to promotion in 1990.
Monk praised his players for keeping their minds clear of the play-offs, saying: “You saw that. There was a team focused on football and a team focused on trying to do their best. They weren’t think of where they were in the league or where (a win) leaves us.
“The key with them is always focusing on what they’re capable of. If they focus on that they give themselves the best chance of winning games. We’ve shown for most of the season exactly how capable this group can be and what their potential is.”