There aren’t many ways of buttering up Leeds United’s performance at Swansea City.
The penalty that wasn’t cost us dearly and it could have changed the game - just as a 45th-minute goal dug Norwich City out of a hole at Elland Road – but I’m not blind to the reality of the defeat. Leeds got what they deserved, as Simon Grayson admitted.
It’s hard to remember the last time when one of Grayson’s teams played so poorly and I’m sure he’ll have taken the display as absolute proof that he needs one or two extra players to help his squad though the last 12 fixtures of the season. If he was in two minds about improving his options, that afternoon in Wales must have given him clarity.
Up until United’s loss to Swansea, I could have understood if Simon felt reluctant to add fresh faces to the group of players at Thorp Arch.
In the main, his existing side were doing well – drawing too many games, perhaps, but rarely dicing with defeat.
There are stages of a season when you have to show loyalty and appreciate the job that’s already being done for you. But equally, certain results make you realise that the time has come for a tinker.
That doesn’t mean wholesale arrivals but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one or two players are on the way. Automatic promotion might be a big ask – not an impossibility but fairly unlikely after the result in Swansea – but the play-offs are there for the taking. For me, that was always going to be the highest target for Leeds this season.
A top-six finish was ambitious; the top two was asking an awful lot. More established Championship clubs than Leeds are struggling to make second place their own.
The question I’m always asked is whether it’s better to chase sixth place or defend it.
Personally, I feel that scores on the board are a huge advantage. How many games in hand held by other clubs have come to very little this season?
I remember occasions in my own career when you counted on spare fixtures, only to find that your rivals ultimately benefitted from already having extra points.
Burnley are a good example.
In comparsion to Leeds, they have two games in hand and four points fewer. I doubt very much whether Burnley’s squad are 100 per cent confident of turning those matches into wins.
They also know that they’re due at Elland Road for United’s last home match of the season. Points always go begging at this time of the year, at all levels of the league.
As things stand, sixth place is ours to lose. That’s not a bad position to be in at the start of March.
It’s a guarantee of nothing, of course, but I don’t think our run-in is horrendous. It’s a tough sequence that this squad in the main can handle, with a bit of outside help.
There’s been a sense for a while that Leeds needed fresh blood. The loss at Swansea basically confirmed it.
In the next two months, a small amount of strengthening could go a long way.