WOOD’S LATE STRIKE SEALS A VITAL DRAW
LEEDS goalkeeper Rob Green says his side must stay cool as the white-hot chase for a playoff place reaches boiling point.
Chris Wood’s last-gasp leveller cancelled out Jamaal Lascelles’ header to keep the battling Whites three points clear of seventh-placed Fulham.
But with Leeds, Reading, Sheff Wed and the Cottagers separated by just three points in the fight for the final three play-off spots, defeat to Wolves tomorrow could yet dump Garry Monk’s side out of the top six for the first time since November.
“It’s about being brave now,” said 37-year-old Green, chasing a fourth promotion from the Championship after previous successes at Norwich, West Ham and QPR.
“About having the courage to play your football without pressure. We were in the bottom three after six games. That’s pressure. I’ve been in relegation battles down the bottom of the Premier League, and that’s pressure.
“Up at the top of the league, the rewards are great. But, realistically, what’s the worst that could happen? That’s what I’ll be trying to get across to the younger lads.
“I lived in fear at 22. I grew up amongst senior pros who, with the best will in the world, didn’t want to make mistakes. They did play in fear.
“But football has changed. I look at the young lads now and I want to give them the confidence to go out and play. I’ll have a go at you for not trying. I’ll have a go for not showing the workrate, the effort for the shirt.
“But wanting to go out and play, wanting to be brave – I’ll never criticise that. So go out, play with freedom. That starts from me playing out from the back, up to the lads up top taking people on. Do that, and more often or not you’ll give yourself a chance to win.”
Green – like the rest of stupendous back four – was nigh-on impermeable on a night when Newcastle dominated possession and chances.
The Magpies registered a mind-boggling 22 shots and 19 corners but netted just once, Lascelles heading home after Aleksandar Mitrovic had nodded Yoan Gouffran’s deep centre across goal.
Rafa Benitez was eventually made to pay – both for his side’s profligacy and his own negative substitutions – when Kemar Roofe crossed for an unmarked Wood to volley his 28th goal of the season. Isaac Hayden, influential on his return from injury before being withdrawn, summed up the frustration of everyone in St James’ Park. “He is Leeds’ best striker and one of the best goalscorers in the division and he was
DRAMA: Leeds United’s Chris Wood scores the late equaliser INSETS: Jamaal Lascelles scores Necastle’s goal and, right, Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey look dejected at the end STAR MAN PONTUS JANSSON Leeds FOILED: Ayoze Perez is stopped by Leeds’ keeper Robert Green