Leeds United desperate for points against Blackpool
With their cup exploits now over following a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City it is back to the bread and butter for Leeds United tonight.
A home game against Blackpool in the Npower championship might not have the glamour of a trip to the Etihad Stadium to play the Premiership champions, but it still carries importance with the Whites now desperate for points to bring life back into their season and to stave off slipping into a relegation dogfight.
With Leeds only seven points ahead of third from bottom Wolves they need to end their four-match run without a win before a blip becomes a bona fide crisis and tonight’s match could carry extra significance with some predicting it may be the last at Elland Road for manager Neil Warnock.
Leeds supporters who made the trip over the Pennines for the cup tie made their feelings known with more “Warnock time to go” chants and sarcasm aimed at players who looked out of their depth against the champions.
The gulf in class was clear from the outset and it all left Warnock with a big job to lift his players for the Blackpool game and selection problems as he tries to find the right balanced side following January’s comings and goings.
The transfer window has proved less than successful so far with the loss of top scorer Luciano Becchio and his replacements still to find the net.
New signings Steve Morison, Stephen Warnock and Habib Habibou have struggled to make any impact so far while Ryan Hall and Michael Tonge, who signed on permanent deals last month, have only been fringe figures and loan midfielder Ross Barkley has gone back to Everton.
The pack is likely to be shuffled for tonight’s game with midfielder Paul Green back in the frame after an ankle injury kept him out of the City match.
Manager Warnock called for fans to get behind the team.
He said: “I have spoken with the owners about the future. I have always said all along that I want to get promotion and nothing has changed. If I do not get promotion, I won’t be here next season, so I cannot be fairer than that. It’s not like I have signed a 10-year contract so it’s not going to cost a lot of money for me to go.
“I did not want a long contract, I just wanted one year to have a go at it and while we have got an opportunity, we have got to give it a go.
“That is why I am asking the fans to get behind the lads, because they are a genuine bunch. It is a lot different to when I came through the door 12 months ago. I cannot fault the attitude of any of the players.
“We are lacking a bit of quality in certain areas, but I think they have done well overall during my 12 months.
“We have got to win games, simple as that. If we don’t win games, you have got to accept what is coming.
“It is an intimidating place to come when they get behind you at Elland Road, we have got to use that – two of the next three games are at home.
“Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves. We are all disappointed that we are not above Middlesbrough now, never mind chasing them.
“We have got to have a right go and I know the players will do that. If we get beat by a better side, there is nothing we can do about that.
“The next five or six fixtures are possibly our hardest batch of fixtures this season. We need to try and get maximum results in our home games and there is no reason why we can’t if we’re top of our game. We don’t want any negativity around the place, so let’s give it a go.”
For visitors Blackpool it will be their first game since the appointment of Paul Ince as new manager and he is looking forward to a classic Elland Road battle.
He said: “Elland Road, especially with the punters there, is a tough place to go and it’s always a battle. I remember going there last year when we beat them 5-0 but they had a man sent off early doors so it can look a bit false in a way.
“But, I don’t think this team fears anybody because they’ve been in the Premier League and they should have got there again last year, I don’t think they are fazed by going to places like Leeds.
“The lads know what to expect and you know what Neil Warnock’s teams are like. You have to earn the right to play.
“You aren’t going to just be able to get the ball down and play at our own tempo because they are going to be right in our faces. So, we have to put a team out that is going to battle, win the battle and then hopefully later on in the game allow us to go and play the football that we like to play.”