Leeds United boss Brian McDermott saw grounds for optimism in his side’s display and unlucky defeat to leaders Leicester City on Saturday – but after five straight losses the pressure will really be on when the Whites are at home again in their next game.
United are left without a game this weekend as they are out of the FA Cup, but they play the second of three successive matches at Elland Road when they take on Ipswich Town next Tuesday (7.45pm).
Another defeat and rather than looking upwards towards the play-off positions it could be a relegation fight the Whites are looking at.
Results at the weekend left Leeds closer to the bottom two than the top two as they have plummeted from fifth at Christmas to 12th place, although they are still only six points behind Reading in sixth so can cling to some hope still that the season is still alive.
They can also take some renewed confidence into the Ipswich game by the way they tackled their big task last Saturday against top of the table Leicester. In a display far removed from the timid efforts in the previous two matches, they ripped into their opponents in the first half and could have scored six goals in the first 26 minutes.
They were made to pay for all the missed chances when Leicester pinched the points late on with their only shot on target, but there was definitely some encouragement as McDermott reflected on.
He said: “The performance was chalk and cheese from last week but we still lost. They get a break right at the end, but we could’ve been three up at half-time.
“They’re top of the league and they got the break but we deserved to be in front, as from the first half we were much, much better.
“The players showed the character and the supporters appreciated the character shown, but we are devastated that we haven’t got the result.
“It was very cruel. When you lose games like that, it makes you appreciate it when you win.
“We had good shape, worked really hard and I just do not know how we have lost it.
“The most important thing for me – obviously you want to win and I’m used to winning games in this league – was to restore pride in that shirt and I think the players did that.”
McDermott promised a back to basics approach after the recent horror shows and the players did as he suggested with a no frills 4-4-2 formation that was not perfect, but brought more stability to United’s play.
Luke Varney in particular took his chance to impress after being one of four changes to the starting line-up and he was rightly given a standing ovation when substituted near the end.
He looks certain to keep his place up front and McDermott may decide to stick to the same side for the Ipswich clash, although he is hoping to get a player in this week.
He said: “I met with a player on Friday, but I cannot go into details about it because it is quite complicated. But we are trying to do a deal.
“We want it to go through and we are working hard to complete it.”
McDermott, meanwhile, reckons it is vital for the club’s pending takeover by Sport Capital – a consortium led by the club’s current managing director David Haigh and Andrew Flowers, the managing director of main sponsors Enterprise Insurance – to be completed as soon as possible.
He added: “I would say it is the number one priority to get that over the line,.
“The people who are coming in to take charge of this club are spot on for it.
“The only things they think of are for the good of Leeds United.”