News and Views from the Football League – Will Leeds fall at the final hurdle again?

With the season entering the final furlong, battles across the Football League are forming for the much sought after promotion places. It looks as if we will have an exciting end to the campaign in each division, but perhaps the most intriguing contest is unravelling at the top of League One. As things stand, Norwich look too strong and seem unlikely to be caught. The title is theirs to lose. The chasing pack appear to have separated from the best of the rest, with only Huddersfield currently outside of the playoff positions looking in with a decent shout of making the end of season lottery. The real question on everybody’s lips however, is whether Leeds are going to fall at the final hurdle again.

Simon Grayson’s side have performed strongly all season and were tipped as favourites from the outset of the campaign. Having lost out in the playoffs in the last two seasons to Doncaster and Millwall respectively, the Yorkshire side’s fans are still hoping that this will be the season that they begin to climb back up the football ladder. Last season saw a worrying mid-season dip in form under Gary McAllister, and many are questioning whether a similar slump is about to cost them again. Indeed, the Whites have not recorded back to back league victories since their final game of 2009. Hardly the form of a promotion chasing side. This season took a dramatic twist for the Elland Road club following their shock victory over arch rivals Manchester United in the third round of the F.A. Cup. Seemingly on the crest of a wave, the cup was not important to the fans, but a victory over United would hopefully prove to be the icing on the cake of a promotion campaign. Indeed it could still be, but some poor results of late, most recently against nearest challenges for the second automatic spot Millwall, have seen all concerned starting to look over their shoulders. It only takes one or two bad results and the nerves start to creep in. With nine games to go, now is not the time to panic.

There are any number of factors which could be contributing to the rut that Leeds find themselves in. Most notably perhaps, following the victory at Old Trafford, star striker Jermaine Beckford announced that he had handed in a transfer request. Despite reported interest from Newcastle amongst others, the 27 goal hit man withdrew his request. The stats clearly speak for themselves in this instance. His goals have been a massive factor in the club’s promotion push and any unhappiness he may have felt would undoubtedly have been felt by his team mates. More importantly perhaps, there is the simple fact that Leeds are not the only side fighting for points. Their famous victory in Lancashire has been followed up by such results as a home draw with Wycombe, an away defeat to Exeter, a draw at Hartlepool and a defeat at Swindon. All of these teams still have something to play for this campaign. Their fate is by no means guaranteed. No side is going to be rolled over and whilst it is certainly not this writer’s view that Leeds are expecting sides to crumble against them, with the season drawing to a close, every single point is of great importance and significance to all clubs.

If Leeds are to achieve promotion this time around, it seems they will have to do it without dependable full back Patrick Kisnorbo. The Australian defender was stretchered off during Tuesday night’s defeat at home to Millwall with an achilles injury, a setback which looks likely to scupper his world cup dream too. Kisnorbo has won many admirers since joining the club from Leicester, missing only a handful of games this campaign. His absence will be a big loss for Grayson’s side. They say that third time is a charm, and no doubt that Leeds fans will be hoping that their third season in League One will be their last. They have been at this level for too long now and should they miss out again, there is a danger of a rut setting in on a more permanent basis. With nine games left for the campaign, there is no more room for slip ups as the Yorkshire side seek to begin their assent of the English football ladder. Of course no one club has a divine right to play in any division, but the vast majority will feel that Leeds ought and indeed need to be higher than where they presently find themselves.

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