GREEN FOR GO IF LEEDS FIND THE BOUNCE

Keeper Rob not pan­ick­ing af­ter two losses

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

DE­SPITE a re­cent wob­ble, Leeds look good bets for a play-off place and a shot at re­turn­ing to the Premier League af­ter a 13-year ab­sence.

Man­ager Garry Monk has done an ex­cel­lent job in mould­ing a team that has ar­guably been greater than the sum of its parts.

Head­ing into the week­end, United were fifth in the Cham­pi­onship, with a five-point cush­ion over sev­enth-placed Ful­ham, the side di­rectly out­side the play-off spots.

Bar­ring an end-of-sea­son col­lapse, Leeds should make it to the post-sea­son, but are they good enough to make it back to the big time?

One ques­tion mark is about an over-re­liance on striker Chris Wood. The New Zealand in­ter­na­tional has been in the form of his life this sea­son, notch­ing a Cham­pi­onship-high 24 goals pre-week­end.

That ac­counts for al­most half of Leeds’ tally (they’d net­ted 52 ahead of yes­ter­day’s visit of Pre­son) and is a gen­uine con­cern. If the 25-year-old is in­jured or snuffed out, as he was by Brent­ford skip­per Har­lee Dean in Leeds’ 2-0 mid­week de­feat, then where are the goals go­ing to come from?

The fact that striker Souley­mane Doukara (five), mid­fielder Pablo Her­nan­dez and cen­tre-back Kyle Bart­ley (both four) are the next high­est scor­ers sug­gests there are not many other op­tions.

Op­tions

In­deed, Her­nan­dez’s set­pieces, look­ing for the big men, ap­peared their most promis­ing pos­si­ble source of goals against the Bees.

Yet keeper Rob Green isn’t con­cerned about Read­ing striker Yann Ker­mor­gant’s claim last week that Leeds have ‘no plan B’ if Wood is in­jured.

“Those com­ments were taken out of con­text,” the 37-year-old told The FLP af­ter the Brent­ford game.

“He was say­ing it in jest and the writ­ten me­dia had a field day with that.

“The truth is that Chris has been great for us. I don’t know what his ra­tio is in terms of goals to chances this sea­son but it must be very high.

“He’s a fo­cal point of the team. In that re­gard, ev­ery­one’s de­lighted he’s hav­ing a great sea­son. He’s borne the fruits of what has been a re­ally pos­i­tive sea­son for the club.”

Pre-week­end, Leeds were only the 11th high­est scor­ers in the sec­ond tier (52 goals), but de­fen­sively they are strong. The Whites had con­ceded just 39 goals in 40 games be­fore yes­ter­day, the third best record in the divi­sion along with As­ton Villa. New­cas­tle 33 and Brighton 34 have been the stingi­est.

Monk has got Leeds very well or­gan­ised and dif­fi­cult to break down. Green pro­vides bags of ex­pe­ri­ence in goal, cen­tre-back pair­ing Bart­ley and Pon­tus Jans­son are a for­mi­da­ble ob­sta­cle, while skip­per Liam Brid­cutt does a good job just in front of them.

In many ways, it suits Leeds to keep games tight, graft hard and try to en­gi­neer chances for Wood, who has been in such a rich vein of form.

Vi­brant

How­ever, they found it dif­fi­cult to cope with a vi­brant Brent­ford side who carved them open time and again with their fluid, pacy foot­ball in mid­week.

Yet for­mer Eng­land keeper Green has been around the block long enough not to worry about a cou­ple of de­feats (Read­ing’s Ker­mor­gant net­ted the only goal against them last Satur­day).

“A cou­ple of games ago, we were say­ing that, if we won ev­ery game, we could per­haps sneak into the top two, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen,” he said. “We’re look­ing at it now and say­ing we need to win the ma­jor­ity of games we have left (to reach the play-offs).

“Noth­ing’s changed. We’ve given our­selves a fan­tas­tic chance and our pri­or­ity now is to bounce back. As dis­ap­point­ing as tonight is, that’s the over­all pic­ture.”

So, what do Leeds need to do to get back on track?

“Not con­cede and score more,” smiled Green.

“I think first goals in games are crit­i­cal. It re­ally gave Brent­ford a lift and set us back. And it was the same on Satur­day night.

“You go into games in this league and you gen­uinely don’t know who is go­ing to win. You look at re­sults like Bur­ton beat­ing Huddersfield. It’s that sort of league and the first goal can be even more crit­i­cal.

“We went on to beat Brighton the other week af­ter scor­ing first and took real con­fi­dence from that.”

Leeds are def­i­nitely on the way back un­der Monk, though per­haps they will need an­other sea­son in the Cham­pi­onship and to strengthen their squad again in the sum­mer to be ripe for a Premier League re­turn.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

EX­PE­RI­ENCE: Goal­keeper Robert Green is up­beat about Leeds’ prospects

GOAL-DEN TOUCH: Chris Wood

ARE Leeds United good enough to win pro­mo­tion back to the Premier League for the first time since 2004?

The FLP’s John Lyons re­ports…

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