Unbeaten run gives Leeds United New Year hope

Lewis Cook battles for the ball with former Leeds United player Bradley Johnson in Tuesday night's game against Derby County.
Lewis Cook battles for the ball with former Leeds United player Bradley Johnson in Tuesday night's game against Derby County.
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Leeds United go into the New Year in good spirits off the back of a battling display against one of the best teams in the Sky Bet Championship and on a six-match unbeaten run.

Another yuletide has come and gone without the Whites winning – their last victory between Christmas and New Year was at Stockport County six years ago – but they can be happy with their efforts this time, following up a 1-1 draw away at Nottingham Forest on Sunday with a 2-2 result on Tuesday night against a Derby County team that would have gone top with a win.

Skipper Sol Bamba, on his return to the side, and Chris Wood, with his eighth goal of the season, earned the Whites their latest point and meant they will go into 2016 in a healthier than expected 12th position.

United are back at home now on Saturday when they will be aiming to go further up the top half of the table with a game against MK Dons.

Leeds will be out to do the double over their visitors, having beaten them 2-1 in September, and they stand eight places and nine points above them in the table, but have been warned by head coach Steve Evans to expect a tough contest against a capable side who have a big incentive having never won at Elland Road before, either in their current guise or as previously before as Wimbledon.

Evans will check on the fitness of striker Wood before naming his team after the New Zealander was brought off as a precaution following his goal against Derby.

Wood will undergo a scan this week, but the Whites boss hopes his injury could be put down to fatigue more than anything serious and he will be able to start again on Saturday, boosted by his return to the scoring charts.

Souleymane Doukara, after some eye-catching displays off the subs’ bench in recent weeks, is the likeliest deputy should Wood not be declared fit while elsewhere there are a couple of big selection decisions for Evans to make.

At the back Bamba did well on his return to the side against Derby, but could have done better on the Rams’ first goal and the head coach has to decide is he did enough to keep his place in competition with Giuseppe Bellusci, who was left out after an error against Nottingham Forest.

In midfield, on-loan Liam Bridcutt is getting fitter with every game and more influential on the team and would be the least likely to lose his place, but Luke Murphy and Tom Adeyemi, who started against Derby, are under pressure from Lewis Cook, who was rested by being given a substitute’s role and should feel the benefit against the Dons.

Owner Massimo Cellino, meanwhile, backed down in his threat to ban the Sky TV cameras from Tuesday night’s match in protest at the number of games being chosen for live coverage this season and the loss of earnings and disruption it is causing the Whites.

But the club issued a strongly worded statement that read: “Leeds United season ticket holders have had enough of these fixture changes, the players and staff have had enough, and Leeds United has had enough.

“It is to be noted that the League threaten a disrepute charge against the club. It is the League who are bringing their own competition into disrepute by unfairly prejudicing Leeds by allowing Sky to unfairly disrupt Leeds United for their own commercial purposes.

“Recent good results have been achieved despite the alterations to the fixture list, but at great cost to the players’ fitness and a substantial injury list. The festive plans of supporters have also been entirely ruined by Sky’s live TV selections.

“Recent good results have been achieved despite the alterations to the fixture list, but at great cost to the players’ fitness and a substantial injury list. The festive plans of supporters have also been entirely ruined by Sky’s live TV selections.

“The League, despite the club having challenged them through the appropriate legal routes, continue to try and alter our schedule by insisting fixtures are changed to suit Sky, including Brighton away from a Saturday to a Monday in February.”