WOOD’S LATE STRIKE SEALS A VI­TAL DRAW

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

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

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

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

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