Leeds United set to be tested by festive schedule

Steve Evans, unhappy with Christmas schedule for his players.
Steve Evans, unhappy with Christmas schedule for his players.

They are heading for a testing holiday period with three games in six days, but Leeds United players can enjoy whatever they are allowed for their Christmas dinner this year after making it three wins in four matches in the Sky Bet Championship.

The timely four-match unbeaten run and back to back victories at Wolves last Thursday then at home to Preston on Sunday have lifted the Whites to within five points of the play-off places and suddenly fans are daring to look up the table instead of down.

There is still a lot of improvement needed if United are to become genuine promotion challengers, but that Christmas dinner will taste all the better for the team having finally found some consistency in terms of results and to be talked about positively after all the negative stuff round Elland Road this autumn.

They rode their luck to beat a Preston team down to 10 men for an hour after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was sent off, only winning 1-0 courtesy of an Alan Browne own goal.

Disappointingly United failed to force rookie goalkeeper Matt Hudson into making one decent save although the 17-year-old looked understandably nervous on his first team debut after coming on following the red card for Pickford.

But the Whites were more impressive in beating Wolves 3-2 earlier in the week, turning round an unpromising beginning to play some of their best attacking football of the season and showing that head coach Steve Evans’ ideas are certainly getting through to the players.

Evans is now giving the players a little time off to keep them as fresh as he can for the three games ahead over the holiday period.

The Whites are not in action on Boxing Day this time because of Sky choosing their match at Nottingham Forest for live coverage on Sunday, with a 4.30pm kick-off.

They then have little time to recover before another TV game against promotion-chasing Derby County at Elland Road next Tuesday (7.45pm) and complete the trio of matches the following Saturday with another home encounter with MK Dons (3pm).

Head coach Evans is unhappy with the schedule his players have been asked to follow, largely because of Sky screening so many Leeds games this season, and he is expecting a tough game next up for United at Forest after seeing them beat MK Dons last Saturday.

He said: “The schedule is absolutely disgraceful, that is the bottom line.

“Our supporters have the right to turn up and see a fresh team.

“I will give them a day or two and they will have certain things they have to follow and they will be fresh for after Christmas.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure we’re ready for when we go to the City Ground.

“I went down there and saw a very impressive Forest performance – two teams slugging it out and Forest came out on top. It’s going to be a tough game.

“We can’t get carried away, but we’ve got to within five points of the play-offs.

“It’s great we ground it out (against Preston) and let the supporters sit down for Christmas Day thinking their team are still alive in the Championship.”