Big crowd set to back Leeds United in key home game

Liam Cooper, banned for six matches.
Liam Cooper, banned for six matches.

DESPITE the setbacks at Reading and Brentford, which have knocked promotion hopes, Leeds United continue to be backed by the fans with another huge crowd set for Elland Road this Saturday.

Garry Monk’s men face another key clash in their bid to seal a play-off place in the EFL Championship as they take on a Preston North End team hovering just below the top six.

Following their draw with Nottingham Forest last Saturday and 5-0 win over Bristol City on Tuesday, the Lancashire side stand in eighth place, eight points behind Leeds, but only five behind Sheffield Wednesday in sixth.

They will be desperate to take three points home from their Elland Road trip to aid their late play-offs push, but United have a chance to deal what could be a knockout blow if they can add to their impressive home record of recent months.

The fact that Preston are managed by former Leeds player and manager Simon Grayson adds spice to the match and it is attracting plenty of interest among home fans with tickets reported to be flying out of the Elland Road ticket office.

Sales were already well past the 25,000 mark by last weekend with the East Stand Upper Stand being opened due to the big demand.

Leeds will be looking to do the double over Preston, having beaten them 4-1 on Boxing Day at Deepdale and they also came out on top in the last meeting between the teams at Elland Road in December, 2015, when an Alan Browne own goal gave United a 1-0 victory.

Head coach Monk has vowed that his side will bounce back after their successive defeats in the south.

He said: ‘It’s not often we have had to face back-to-back defeats this season, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“We are still in a strong position, the same as we were two games ago.

“At the start of the season, nobody would have thought we would be where we are now. This group isn’t prepared to let all of the hard work put in throughout the season go to waste.

“We’ve got another opportunity on Saturday and I know already from speaking to the lads that they’ll be ready to put on a performance.”

Monk could have defensive problems ahead following the six match ban handed out to Liam Cooper for his stamp on Reading’s Reece Oxford.

Cooper, who began his suspension during last night’s 2-0 loss to Brentford, pleaded guilty to a charge of violent conduct in the hope of limiting the length of his absence. But the FA, who failed to take any action against Reading’s Tyler Blackett for an elbow assault on Chris Wood in the same game, took a tough line with the Leeds player, which will rule the defender out until the final game of the regular season.

His six-match ban includes an extra game because Cooper was previously sent-off at Sutton.

His absence leaves Leeds with only two regular centre-backs plus full-back Luke Ayling, who can move inside, but was not successful there in his last appearance in the position at Barnsley.