United boss Garry Monk says the end of season permutations don’t interest him as he is sure Leeds will win their final three games making what their rivals do irrelevant. Lee Sobot reports.
THERE were signs earlier on in the Spring that Leeds United might have already sealed their Championship play-off place heading to this weekend’s trip to Burton Albion.
Instead the Whites are not even in them.
But United head coach Garry Monk knows three wins from three more games would seal the deal with the head coach arguing that the new situation is actually easier to comprehend.
Having been eight points clear of the teams outside of the play-off places, Leeds slipped out of the division’s top six for the first time since November when falling to a 1-0 loss at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Bank Holiday Monday.
Not for the first time this season, almost all of United’s play-off rivals won, with the seventh-placed Whites now trailing sixth-placed Fulham on goal difference, with fifth-placed Sheffield Wednesday two more points clear.
But Monk knows that if Leeds can fulfil their end of the deal then nervy checks at the full -time scores will not be necessary over the next three weekends.
United might have been jettisoned out of the play-offs places but Monk knows the fact that Wednesday host Fulham on the final day could provide Leeds with a crucial saving grace.
Even if the two sides win both of their next two fixtures and share a final day draw, nine points out of a possible remaining nine would definitely see United finish at least in sixth.
It’s a situation that sits fine with Monk who has full faith that his side can sign off the regular season with three crucial wins from three hugely important games.
“It’s very clear,” said Monk, whose side face Burton away, seventh-placed Norwich City at home and then second-bottom Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on the final day.
“We have the mindset now of we have three games and we have the mentality that we have to win the three games.
“We have to go into it with the best possible frame of mind and best way to try and win those three games.
“That’s our mindset, that’s what we said straight after afterwards on Monday and that’s been the message all week. I actually said to the players afterwards that it’s actually, probably, in a funny way, it’s a bit easier.
“Previous to the game on Monday, there was a lot of talk about how many points you would need to make the play-offs and there’s also a lot of talk about what the opposition results were and stuff like that as to what’s been going on.
“It’s very simple now, we win our three games and we make the play-offs.”
Leeds already have 73 points which in previous seasons has been enough to seal a place in the top six.
Monk knows the bar is going to be raised notably higher for May 2017.
“You look over probably the last 15-20 years and 73 points has been the average that would get you into the play-offs,” said United’s head coach.
“It just shows you how competitive this year has been.
“I guess it’s a little unfortunate that we’ve hit a year that has been ultra competitive and it’s kind of strange to think.
“Of course, our mindset is to win these three games but we could actually win these three games and end up on 82 points and just make the play-offs by one or two points.”
Leeds could even net 80 points and still miss out should Fulham and Wednesday win their next two games and share a final day draw – but Monk’s plan involves there being no need to check how United’s play-offs rivals fare.
Fulham will visit fourth-placed Huddersfield Town on Saturday before welcoming 11th-placed Brentford to Craven Cottage next weekend.
Wednesday entertain ninth-placed Derby County this weekend before travelling to 15th-placed Ipswich Town the following Saturday.
The bookmakers are finding it almost impossible to split the chances of Fulham and Leeds finishing in the top six with United 8-11 having been 1-16 when holding an eight-point buffer.
Fulham are 4-6 to finish in the top six with Wednesday 1-5 while third-placed Huddersfield and fourth-placed Reading are massively long-odds on and considered home and hosed.
Asked if he thought Leeds would need three wins to seal a play-off place, Monk reasoned: “That’s our mindset. Our mindset is to take care of our own.
“We are not going to be sat there looking and watching and hoping for anything else, we have to take care of our own business. Our mindset is to win our three games.
“It has to be that way and we have proven that we can win three games in a row already this season and we have to go and do it again.
“We know it’s there. Is it easy? No. But is it achievable? For sure. 100 per cent So our mindset is to win our three games.
“We know that if we win our three games then we are in the play-offs.
“The cynical part of you just thinks that 73 points, which we have already achieved, has been the average for the last 20 years.
“The fact that we might finish on 82 points and only just get in there, it just shows you how competitive it is.
“But inside we are thinking about the three games and that we need to win all three and that won’t change no matter what the situation is.”