Positive vibes return for Leeds United
It was as if a weight had been lifted from the players’ shoulders last Saturday as there were smiles again at Elland Road and the three points collected against Blackpool all but ensured that the Whites will be playing in the Sky Bet Championship next season.
While it was not exactly an exhibition of football and Blackpool looked like a team with relegation hanging heavily over them there was no doubt United were good value for their 2-0 win and the players at last looked like they wanted to play at Elland Road.
Striker Noel Hunt even managed to contribute to a goal and midfielder Luke Murphy will certainly have plenty of reasons to remember the game as he came up with his first goal for the club since the opening day of the season then scored again to remind everyone just why he cost £1 million from Crewe last summer.
He had been left out of the previous three games after a run of ineffective performances and he has had a few false dawns since making the step up a division so his job now is to back up this promising display this time.
It helped him that he was given a more advanced role than in previous games in a midfield three and the way he stepped up to the task suggests he would like to play in this position more.
Murphy and his team-mates’ task now is to keep the new feel-good factor going until the end of the season with the last four matches offering the Whites a chance of climbing the table from the 16th place they currently occupy.
There is certainly plenty to still to play for, not least as many of the players who have under performed for so long are playing for their places in the team next season when there are likely to be new faces coming in if new owner Massimo Cellino flexes his financial muscles as fans are hoping.
It also appears that manager Brian McDermott has until the end of the season to persuade Cellino that he is the man to take the club forward and only good results are likely to argue the case for him.
It probably does not help him then that Leeds’ next game this Saturday is against a Barnsley side they have struggled against in recent years at Oakwell.
Barnsley always seem more up for the Yorkshire derby and will be backed by a vociferous home crowd for who this is one of the biggest days of the season.
There is even more at stake than usual for the Tykes as they are desperate for points in their battle to avoid relegation. An unlucky 1-0 defeat at Bolton – when United favourite Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal – dropped them to the bottom of the table ahead of their game at Charlton last night and they are running out of matches to save themselves from the drop.
Leeds are also in action on Monday when they host Nottingham Forest in their penultimate home match of the season. Kick-off is 5.15pm with the game chosen for Sky coverage no doubt when they thought one or both of the sides would be pushing hard for promotion.
Forest have matched United in the way their season has tailed off and they head into the Easter games down in 11th place after a run of 13 matches without a win.
Leeds manager McDermott is hoping the club is set for a period of calm and stability now.
He said: “It was a big result for us (against Blackpool), at the end of a really important week.
“We are on 50 points and that should be enough, but you can’t think like that. I can only think about our next match at Barnsley.
“But it feels like a new time for the club. I dread to think what might have happened if the takeover hadn’t gone through, but there is a sense of stability here now.
“Thank God we have got Massimo Cellino in charge because I didn’t know where this club was going.
“The fans gave him a really good reception and I am delighted for him. We’ve all got paid and this club feels like a different, more secure place.
“It’s been a tough period, but now we want to finish the season on a high.”