After messing up the first of what was effectively three “cup finals” it is now clear for Leeds United – win against Norwich City this Saturday or the play-off bid will definitely be over.
With a huge turn out expected for the final home game of the regular season it was meant to be a big celebration with fans expecting a top six finish to be just about completed.
Now it looks like being more of a wake and no amount of saying how much of a better season in has been for the Whites will make up for the feeling that it looks like being a huge opportunity missed.
Making the play-offs is now out of Leeds’ hands following four defeats in their last six matches – the worst run of the season at precisely the worst time, compounded by most of their rivals picking up a lot of points at the same time.
Not so long ago United were nine points clear of Fulham. Now they stand three behind them with a much inferior goal difference and only two games left.
They are five behind Sheffield Wednesday, six behind Reading and five adrift of Huddersfield Town, who were due to play a game in hand last night and who predictably did them no favours with their first half collapse against Fulham last Saturday.
It could be all over barring a football miracle this weekend for even if Leeds won – and that has to be doubtful after the way they have played, Preston game apart, since the last international break – wins for Wednesday and Fulham would seal their top six places.
Reading, meanwhile, must be strong favourites to get one point from their last two matches while Huddersfield only need two points from three games to ensure Leeds cannot catch them.
Leeds boss Garry Monk now has a big job to lift his players for the final two games, but vowed they would keep battling to the end of the season and would strive to put on a big show in Saturday’s game against Norwich.
He said: “We have a duty to fight for everyone and our fans with how hard this group has been working all season to fight to the very end.
“We have to give our maximum in these two games and try and win the two games or at least win the next game which is at Elland Road.
“And then who knows if you can go into the last game with half a chance? Hopefully we can get to that point.
“But it’s a still small opportunity and football works in mysterious ways.
“We will be ready in these next two games. We owe that to each other and to our fans.
“We want to finish on a high at Elland Road.”
Norwich come to Elland Road as an equally disappointed side after a season in which they have not fulfilled expectations.
With their squad they should have been much closer to promotion, but a mid season dive down the table put paid to that. They have recovered some form in recent weeks and their recent 7-1 hammering of Reading showed that they still remain a dangerous side.
They have Morley raised footballer Jonny Howson in their side and how ironic would it be if the midfielder who played such a huge part in getting the Whites into the Championship was to score the goal that finally ends Leeds’ play-offs bid. Stranger things have happened.
Revenge will also be on Norwich’s minds as they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by United on penalties and lost the league meeting at their ground to a late goal back in November.
Goals were plentiful in both previous meetings so there could be plenty of thrills for the big crowd to enjoy.