Portsmouth v Leeds United: Promotion chase is hotting up

Paul Connolly warned that the pressure on Leeds United's play-off position is rising steadily in the aftermath of Saturday's 2-2 draw with Portsmouth.

The defender said a point accrued at Fratton Park was a useful return for the Elland Road club, admitting the scramble for places inside the Championship's top six was "hotting up".

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Leeds twice fought back from a goal down to avert an eighth league defeat of the season, and the result allowed United to retain fifth position, two points ahead of a Nottingham Forest side who joined the play-off places for the first time on Saturday and are showing signs of ominous form.

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Connolly believes Leeds are holding fifth place "on merit" and backed the club to defend their current league position until the end of the season, but he insisted that the need for consistency was increasingly apparent with 29 games played.

"There's only a chunk of the season left now and we're still up there," the right-back added. "It's no fluke because we've been in this position for a while.

"If we win our home games and produce important performances away from home, like we have against Portsmouth, then we've got every chance of staying there.

"But the chasing pack are hotting up behind us and a couple of clubs are starting to move. You can see Forest coming on strong, and all of the teams in the top six are going to come under pressure. Every point is crucial. It's quite simple – we either keep the results ticking over or we fall out of the top six but I don't expect that to happen. We're up for a fight."

Connolly revealed that a scathing half-time team-talk from manager Simon Grayson had inspired United's recovery from a 26th-minute goal scored by Portsmouth midfielder Joel Ward.

The former Derby County right-back described Leeds as "totally flat" for 45 minutes but believed their second-half display, in which Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma earned United a point, had been convincing enough to merit a victory.

Saturday's fixture came less than 72 hours after United's FA Cup third-round replay against Arsenal, and Connolly said: "The gaffer was telling us all week how important it was to forget about that. I don't know whether it was a problem but we were totally flat and I thought we were very lucky to be only one-nil down at half-time.

"He gave us a right rollicking and basically told us 'don't be using the Arsenal game as an excuse'. We stepped it up straight away and only one team were going to win the game after that.

"It's a very good result and I guarantee you that if you look at Portsmouth's home record between now and the end of the season, they'll win a lot more games than they'll lose. To nick a point is good, and in the end I don't think we even nicked it. We were very poor in the first half but we were massively on top after that. We could have taken three points but we're happy to take one. It's a great result."

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