Date:Sunday February 21 2010
Leeds United boss Simon Grayson has admitted that he faces his toughest task in his fourteen-month reign as Leeds boss.
Leeds looked like certainties for promotion going into the New Year, they sat at the top of the table, eight points clear of Charlton in second place and eleven points clear of Norwich City in third place. They had lost just the one league game all season and were still involved in two out of three domestic cup competitions.
Since the turn of the year though, whilst they have grabbed the media attention with the win at Manchester United and a draw at Spurs in the FA Cup, the league form as deteriorated at an alarming rate.
Leeds have picked up just seven points in nine games and two of these have been down to equalising goals deep into injury time.
Maybe the goals that have earned Leeds draws in the last week against Leyton Orient and Brighton deep into injury time do actually show the character of the side and their desire to keep going until the very end.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson admits, "This is the biggest test I`ve had since I`ve been at the club because we`ve not won too many matches."
The whites are now out of the FA Cup after losing the replay against Spurs, they also came very close to earning a place at Wembley in the Johnstone`s paint Trophy final but lost to Carlisle agonisingly on penalties in the Northern Area final.
Maybe the cup is finally taking its toll on the players, they are going to play a minimum of 59 games this season and even with a big squad for the third tier of English football Grayson has liked to stick with the same fifteen or sixteen players throughout the season.
When Leeds entertain Oldham Athletic on Tuesday, it will be Leeds tenth game in a month.
After two very lacklustre performances at Elland Road in the past week against Walsall and Brighton, where they have picked up just the one point, the fans have started to question Simon Grayson for the first time during his reign with chants ringing around Elland Road on Saturday, asking what had gone wrong.
Grayson remains positive though despite the recent poor form when saying, "We are still in a good position in second place with 15 games left."
The chasing pack, led by Colchester United are now breathing down Leeds neck and if results don`t improve in the next week Leeds could be out of the top three next Saturday.
The thing is, teams like Colchester and Swindon who have been enjoying a good run of form recently haven`t had to handle the pressure of a top two place. If either of them do go above Leeds just how will they handle the pressure?
Norwich have suddenly started to feel the pressure and have lost two of their last three games whilst Charlton who were in the top two for much of the first half of the season won their first game in six on Saturday.
Even successful clubs have seen a dip in form during some part of the season. Just look back at Leeds last two title winning sides.
When Leeds won the old second division in 1989/90 they suffered a run of results that saw them win just one game in six between the start of February and the middle of March.
They suffered an even worse run between March and April winning just one game in seven, yet they still went up as Champions, winning their last two games under tremendous pressure.
When they won the Division One title in 1991/92, in the space of five games between March and April, they let in four goals at both Queens Park Rangers and Manchester City and picked up just the one win.
They followed this up with just one defeat in their final nine games to lift the crown as the champions of England.
There are still certainly going to be a lot of twists and turns between now and the end of the season, we have fifteen games remaining starting with Oldham at home on Tuesday.
I personally believe that even seven wins could be enough to guarantee promotion as all clubs chasing a top two-spot will feel the pressure between now and the end of the season and start to drop points.
I still expect Leeds to be toasting promotion in early May and we will all have long forgotten the league form of the early months of 2010.
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Date:Sunday February 21 2010
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