Club Focus – Leeds United – The Whites to blow automatic promotion after another dismal performance?

The Whites have officially thrown away the opportunity to eliminate Millwall from the race for second place and along the way plunged into a mini-crisis following a display lacking in terms of passion and fight. The visiting Lions showed tremendous grit and often took the game to Leeds whose players looked a pale shadow of the early season version which dominated League One action until the end of 2009.

The Whites did not play as a team, did not fight for each other and were forced to chase around the visiting players who were simply better on the night. The Whites were outclassed and Simon Grayson had nothing to add except to congratulate the visitors on their solid performance which firmly puts them back in the race for automatic promotion. A campaign which started so promisingly for Leeds United could end in failure if the free-fall is not put to hold by Grayson’s charges. The absence of the club’s main threat and top scorer Jermaine Beckford cannot be used an excuse while the injury suffer to inspirational defender Patrick Kisnorbo only makes matters worse. The absence of the Australian centre-back will be hardly felt as the final stretch of the season looms large. It is a big blow for the defender who plays with great passion and immense commitment to the Leeds cause. Paddy is now likely to miss on the opportunity of representing Australia at the World Cup in South Africa.

The most alarming feature of the current stretch is the disappointing statistic of having won only three games from the last 14 matches in the division. Such a record will not allow any team to gain automatic promotion and if it were not for the blistering start to the season by the Whites then the club would surely be looking at another year in the League One. The Whites are unlikely to miss on the play-offs in the worst case scenario but this system has often signaled the doom of Leeds United as evident in recent years. The greatest strength of the squad was the ability to grind results even when the players are not performing to their best. If Robert Snodgrass was below par then Luciano Becchio would step-in to fill the void and so forth yet since the beginning of 2010 the Whites have failed to perform well collectively or on an individual basis for any reasonable stretch. For the umpteenth time the only exceptions were the FA Cup ties with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur but those matches do not offer the club the League One title or pave the way for the rise to the Championship.

At this stage of the campaign it does appear as if the manager is not able to get to the players despite his early season successes. The congested fixture list and the players missing through injury as well as the expected number of squad members carrying various niggling injuries from a season’s worth of work and matches are all factors which work against the betterment of the team. The Whites appear to be lacking in terms of imagination, pace and flair which is the main reason the likes of Max Gradel and Gary McSheffrey were brought to Elland Road. Since making his move to Leeds a permanent one Gradel has failed to impress unlike his loan spell which was punctuated by some positive performances which endeared him to the Leeds supporters. Gradel has performed below par but perhaps Grayson has not given him enough opportunities to shine with both Snodgrass and McSheffrey preferred to start ahead of him. As for McSheffrey he was dropped to the bench and an unused substitute against the Lions after some unflattering displays in recent games.

Next up for the Whites on the fixture list is none other than division leaders Norwich City who are probably itching to face Leeds at this inopportune moment for the club so they can achieve victory and almost guarantee winning the title. The dramatic slide witnessed by Leeds has unfortunately coincided with the strong runs made by both the Canaries and the Lions. Norwich overtook Leeds for the leadership in the table while Millwall are a game away from snatching the all-important second place. Grayson must issue a stern warning to his players and clearly convey the message which simply is the Whites must win or else they will not be promoted. The players appear to have lost some sense of the grave consequences behind the failure to start winning again.

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