Leeds United: Next two games crucial to United’s January plans

Steve Evans.
Steve Evans.
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Steve Evans expects Leeds United’s next two games to crystalise their plans for January after revealing that Massimo Cellino agreed to back him in the transfer window if the club stayed within six points of the play-offs.

Evans said United’s owner had promised to make funds available next month provided Evans delivered on his aim of involving Leeds in a promotion battle – an ambition which the Scot said Cellino called “bonkers”.

The club were 18th in the Championship when Evans replaced Uwe Rosler as head coach in mid-October and their squad slipped back to that position after a goalless draw at Charlton Athletic earlier this month.

But a five-game unbeaten run saw Leeds move into the top half of the table for the first time since September after a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest yesterday and Evans described tomorrow night’s match against Derby County and Saturday’s clash with MK Dons as “big, telling games”.

United were seven points short of sixth place after the weekend’s fixtures and Evans’ hopes of recruiting new players next month hinge on the club trimming that gap.

“I had an agreement with the president and I’m never one to break mine,” Evans said. “I don’t know if Mr Cellino is or not but I’ve never been the sort to have an agreement and then break it purposely.

“When I was first appointed, I spoke about the play-offs and talked about trying to get near them, to give Mr Cellino a problem in January. He said I was bonkers. I must admit I looked twice –the president telling me I was bonkers!

“He wanted me within a reasonable distance of the play-offs. I said six points, he said ‘yes’ and shook my hand. If we took three or four points from the next two games then I think we’d be within the six points. If we beat Derby, it sets MK Dons up to be enormous.

“We’ve got two big, telling games coming up and I know what I have to deliver points-wise for me to be able to look at it and say ‘I’ve delivered on my side.’”

Evans, who is expected to target a new striker and another centre-back in the FIFA window, said his plans were in “good shape” with the market set to open later this week.

The United boss, however, voiced frustration after his team failed to take two glaring chances to claim a late victory at Forest, admitting too many points had gone begging in his time in charge.

“If you look at (the results) since I came in, we’d be fourth or fifth and in the play-offs,” Evans said.

“We should have beaten Fulham and we should have beaten Bolton. If I’m honest we sneaked past Preston and maybe got two points more than we should have done but we should have beaten Rotherham with the chances we had. So we probably should be around the play-offs.

“Some of our players have come back to the top levels of their form and I’m going to work really hard to get the two or three in who could take us to the next level.”