‘Must win’ is a term overused in football and one that has been thrown about a lot over the past month or so in relation to Leeds United FC. Leeds United seldom take note of these occasions however and have developed a tendency to do things the hard way.

Gillingham away last week was a good example of Leeds United ignoring the ‘must win’ game scenario. A win was the only way to guarantee we’d remain second, and failure to do so would make the home visit of MK Dons and trip to the Valley look a little more complicated than was perhaps necessary.

As it turned out, Leeds United remained second anyway, thanks to the unpredictable nature of League One which left everyone else failing to capitalise on our failings. It really does seem that no matter how hard we try to mess it all up, the other teams are doing that little bit better at it. Not a bad thing, granted, but with another ‘must win’ game at Elland Road tomorrow, Leeds really do need to be at their best.

On paper, you could argue that Leeds United have the toughest fixture of those fighting for automatic promotion when taking relative league positions into account. Take the situational positions into account however, and Leeds probably have the best one – with the possible exception of Millwall who host an almost safe Leyton Orient (I’m also ignoring Huddersfield. Although mathematically possible, it’s highly unlikely).

The other two teams in the hunt, namely Charlton and Swindon both travel away to teams deep in the relegation battle. Swindon travel to Wycombe, who are five points from safety but unlikely to give up until the maths rules consolidation out and Charlton head to Exeter who could just about secure their place in League One with a win. Another weekend of movement at the top seems inevitable.

The game Leeds United fans should really be keeping an eye on this weekend is definitely Charlton. If Leeds lose at Elland Road tomorrow and Charlton win in Exeter, they’ll move level on points with Leeds with everything on the line next weekend. However, if Charlton lose and Leeds United win, that would leave Charlton six points behind Leeds United next weekend with two games left and a vastly inferior goal difference. In other words, Charlton would have very little left to play for and would simply be waiting for the play-offs to get under way.

Leeds fans have a lot to be optimistic about ahead of the game. MK Dons are a team that have never won at Elland Road, and overall, Leeds United have a very good record against them. The Dons have also been struggling for form over the last couple of months and failed to win any of their last eight fixtures. With absolutely nothing left to play for, Milton Keynes seem happy to draw a line under the 2009-10 season and look ahead to next season.

  • TheReaper08

    Ah the joys of being a new father mean I am up plenty earlier enough to post first on your new topic.

    Make no mistake there can be no excuses here, the MK franchise is in disarray. They are short on players, short one manager and short on confidence. They will undoubtedly raise there game as everyone does but I am expecting a win.

    • timm

      Congrats Reaper. Another Leeds supporter enters the world! I’ve just taught my 4 year old lad that Manchester’s where the naughty people live! & told him that red can’t be his favourite colour!

      • TheReaper08

        Good man timm, last time I visited ER I purchased a crawling on together baby grow. It’s a bit too big at the moment but as soon as possible it will be installed as the must have item of 2010.

        • TSS

          My brother had his first kid last year, which was also my first nephew, so I’ve made sure he’s brought up a Leeds fan with replica kits, baby-grows and so forth. Got to teach them young.

  • LSD&2Es

    MK have “lost” their manager too remember. Not that we’re likely to capitalise on their problems. If we couldn’t open up 2 youth/reserve team players last week, what hope of beating an MK Dons shaped bus parked in front of the goal?

    I fear the worst (but expect nothing less than the best!!)

  • May I be the shining light of optamism? Granted 33 mins of madness cost us dearly at the Gills but instead of a complete collapse the boys dug deep and battled to get us back into the game, all I ask is we keep the level of graft we showed during the last few games and the latter stages of last weeks game and we should be able to break MK down! Let’s not take half an hour to ‘settle’ this time though or we will be punished…. Come on Grayson, get the boys playing from the whistle this week! If we can’t learn from our mistakes we don’t deserve to go up!! MOT

  • brad

    i spoke to simon this morning and he confirmed beckford will be starting on saturday, if you dont trust me wait and see.

  • Oliver Gough

    I didn’t speak to our Gray son this morning, but I’m sure he will start Beckford instead of Gradel.

    • TSS

      Would agree, although, that could potentially cause problems. I’ve been impressed by his attitude from the subs bench in the last few weeks and think he’s more than deserving of a return – well rested, ready to pounce and looking confident. That said, there’s far too many idiots in Elland Road these days that insist on putting him down regardless of merit, so it could create an unwelcome atmosphere.

      • Can you drop Gradel after one iffy performance? Considering Beckford was given many games whilst underperforming it seems a little unfair to me. Beckford had many chances but failed to show the desire, I would keep him benched and hungry to come on with 30mins to go and hopfully devistate a tired MK defence. MOT

        • Oliver Gough

          I would personally like to think that Gradel will start, but as our Gray son stuck with him throughout the rest of the season he obviously thinks he can do the business(which he can).

      • TheReaper08

        So you would start him then TSS ? I think I would be inclined to stay as is and either change half time or early second half.

        Not sure what message it would send to Becchio/Gradel that Beckford can have several off games and not be dropped, I have one and am immediately canned.

        As you know I am a big fan of Beckford and I still think he has a role to play before the end.

        • Hit the nail on the head here! Team moral is more important than any one player. Dropping Gradel for JB sends out the wrong message to the squad. Beckford may still have his time to shine but for me it’s from off the bench for now.

        • TSS

          Not sure what I’d do Reaper. I never actually said either way, I just think Grayson will start him. As I say, I’ve been impressed by his attitude and the fact he’s well rested and seemingly raring to go has to be a good thing for us.

          I was playing devil’s advocate by mentioning the potential unrest amongst the crowd and that may well be the deciding factor for Larry. Might be better off taking the 30 minute sub option and waiting until Charlton (away) to put him back in the starting XI.

          Who’d be a manager hey?

          • TheReaper08

            I got your post, that’s why I opened up by asking you the question, oh and playing devils advocate is my role so stop pinching my job !

            In answer to your final point I would be a manager, as someone mentioned yesterday it’s one of the few jobs you can be a total failure yet walk straight in to a better job, Brian Laws anyone ?

          • timm

            Did anybody see the formula the Burnley owner used to appoint Laws? He appointed Deloittes to do a study to work out which manager has consistently made a profit on player sales & purchases, regardless of on the pitch results! Deloittes came back with Brian Laws! Bizarre!

  • Benjamin Bunny

    Well i’m sure that unwelcome atmosphere will be cheering him once again as soon as he bangs a goal in, isn’t it funny how people quickly change their opinions.
    Defo a must win, please god damn it were 3 games away from the Championship, MOT!!!!

  • derbyshirewhite

    Of course if we Leeds fans weren’t so damned cheerful, and always full of optimism we might reflect that MK will have a temporary appointee as manager tomorrow who will be looking to impress. Add to that the inverse law of Elland Road – bigger the crowd worse the performance – and we could still be biting our nails at 4.35. Do we ever do it the easy way?

  • Hunter’s Boots

    “Make no mistake there can be no excuses here, the MK franchise is in disarray. They are short on players, short one manager and short on confidence. They will undoubtedly raise there game as everyone does but I am expecting a win.”

    Trouble is Reaper, you have just described exactly the sort of team we always seem to lose against! There is something about our team that smacks of ‘just turn up and we have won against this lot,’syndrome;Gillingham was a team in turmoil, or so it seemed.

    Time to get Watt on from the off and start using the flanks to get behind them. We tend to try and break these teams down by going through the middle at E.R and eventually resort to the long ball when frustration sets in. Why did SG take Watt on loan if we aren’t going to use his strengths? Out of all the loans SG has signed this season this one baffles me the most. Why did the lad even come here to sit on the bench?

    • TheReaper08

      I agree in the main but Gillingham do have an excellent home record having not lost to a top 6 team all season, plus we have a bit of history with them stoked up by our ever forgiving chairman.

      This will be tough make no mistake, firstly because we insist on doing things the hard way, secondly because teams raise there game at ER and I suspect you may be able to smell the nervous tension in the home crowd.

    • Craig

      Looks like Grayson read your post regarding including Watt for this afternoon.

  • Mark R

    It has to be a 10 man defence and Beckford up front.

    …Pass the dandelion & burdock !

    • TheReaper08

      Quality Mark, I think I might need a drop of that as well as I was considering Higgs at the back and 10 up front !

      • Mark R

        For a bit of Billy B’s Magic I’d like us to wear the 70’s numbered sock tags tomorrow as well !

        • paul (whinmoor)

          MARK, THAT IS A SPLENDID IDEA

  • paul (whinmoor)

    I CANT BELIEVE WE ARE SAT HERE WITH 3 GAMES TO GO WORRYING ABOUT WHAT IF THIS ? AND WHAT IF THAT ? IF SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THAT AFTER SCUM GAME I WOULD HAVE LAUGHED AT HIM ( OR HER )

  • raph

    congratulations reaper!

    • TheReaper08

      Thanks Raph, first child as well so I am knackered. Looking on the (football) positive side I have two weeks to get up early and chat with everyone (providing TSS keeps the articles coming !) and I have watched about every live and repeated game available on Sky this last couple of days.

      • Pete

        Reaper, as a father to a 10-month old little boy, congratulations and good luck (you’ll see what I mean…)

        He’s being raised Leeds (in Chingford) and he’d like to see promotion, as I’m sure your little one would too :)

        • TheReaper08

          Absolutely Pete, promotion all the way. I live in not so sunny Swindon and after having to endure a home and away stuffing and the associated humiliation from them lot I need something to cheer me up !

          Thanks for the kind words and cautionary good luck.

          • TSS

            Let’s just hope Leeds finish second so you get the ultimate bragging rights.

  • timm

    I have a feeling he’ll revert to Beckford & Becchio tomorrow. I just hope that negativity from the crowd doesn’t creep in as soon as we miss a chance? It’s not just the players who need to raise their game tomorrow. Let’s hope they turn it on & get that goal difference back too!

  • Matt BB

    I would really like to see us push the envelope and play something like 4-3-3 so beckford gradel and becchio. I think we were so nervous last week against gillingham that it caught us out we need to go at them right from the whistle.

    • Oliver Gough

      I’m sure we tried this once before but we ended up reverting to 4-4-2 with Gradel disappearing into midfield (or was it a black hole?).

  • Mikelufc

    10 up front is a top idea if they could hold the ball and dribble like old fashioned players,if we could only bring back eddie gray as a 22 year old.
    I would put casper in goal though.
    I havent done the maths but suspect higgs has now conceded more goals than casper already.

    • timm

      I suspect that dribbling is something Reaper’s going to learn all about over the next year or so?!

    • TheReaper08

      An intersting one, Higgs or Ankergren. Well I thought I would produce the stats and then we can compare. The following is for all competitions played this season :

      Higgs – Played 19 Conceeded 13
      Ankergren – 39 Conceeded 40

      For me it’s Higgs in goal not just because of above but because in his best form his overall game is better.

      • TSS

        Total agreement. Ankergren is a better shot stopper, but Higgs deals with the problem before it is a problem usually. Too many spills and punches from Ankergren for my liking.

    • Craig

      This post and its response from Reaper illustrates perfectly how opinion can be based on such fickle factors.

      Whilst admitting he doesn’t have the facts Mike suspects Higgs has conceded more than Casper. The facts show that Higgs has actually conceded less than half the number of goals and has a better average in the games he has played.

      So where did the initial feeling come from? Maybe the same place as Mike’s insistence that Grayson has to be sacked every time we have a bad or indifferent game? I’m glad the poll shows that only 1% of Leeds fans agree with him.

  • brad

    i just spoke to simon again and becks has picked up a groin strain in training and therefore will not be available for the weekend.

    • TheReaper08

      How do you know Simon then brad ? Not calling what your saying into question just interested if this is an avenue we can use for even more sneaky bits of info.

  • Mikelufc

    fed up fan kicked him in the bollocks have they?

  • Sorry to be the harbinger of doom but I think we well and truly blew our chances at Gillingham. We had the perfect opportunity to open up a four point gap and the players showed they were not up to it. They bottled it basically. I fully expect Millwall to overtake us not this weekend but next. They will then go on to beat Swindon and we will spend another fab season in League 1.

    That said, I will cheering on the lads tomorrow and if Beckford plays, I will be cheering him on too…. To anyone going with the intention of booing the lad, I would just say one thing…..FUCK OFF TO HUDDERSFIELD AND BOO.

    Comon the Whites

  • Matt BB

    my favoured formation tomorrow 4-3-3, Higgs in goal, then rightback Bromby, Naylor and Collins in the centre, parker at left back. Midfield of Howson, Doyle, Snodgrass, and gradel, becchio and beckford up front.

  • West Stand Rebel

    I see the Yorkshire Heroes are at ER on Saturday. Last time they used blanks when firing into the directors box. Anyone out there with army influence?
    Oh and congrats to you Reaper. Both my kids (now grown up) follow the whites. Sadly they cannot afford season tickets but get to matches when they can or Dad pays.
    Let’s win tomorrow and get out of this god forsaken league once and for all.
    M.O.T.

    • TheReaper08

      Cheers West Stand Rebel, appreciate your kind words although I suspect TSS might ban me soon for straying off topic with all this baby talk.

      With regards to the season tickets I guess it’s the same for a lot of folks these days, still at least you brought them up properly !

      MOT

  • Irving08

    I too will be there tomorrow, but I do not think we will go up. Having seen the top six, I think both Milwall and Swindon are better than us: they have better managers and better players in key positions. I like and respect Simon as a man, but I don’t rate him highly as tactician or judge of players. However he can learn, but only with someone better than Snodin as his coach. Sorry, to deflate hopes, but 54 years of watching us has given me a certain detachment from my emotions about these things.

    • Craig

      I really can’t understand this and the post from Marc above. This isn’t a sign of detachment from emotion, rather a choice of only one emotion – probably a sign of defensive fatalism aimed at protecting you from disappointment were the unthinkable to happen. By all means keep everything in perspective – I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been helping a relative who has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer – but remember that we support our team in order to get the maximum enjoyment from a beautiful game. Yes it is beautiful and yes it is only a game.

      We are second with 3 games to go and in the driving seat. At this stage of the season we have at least as much chance as any other team and they’d all love to be in our position.

      • Craig, it is simply realism that I am displaying. The fact is that at the moment, Millwall an Swindon are playing MUCH better than we are. My only hope is that we will benefit from the fact that they both play relegation threatened teams this weekend as we did last weekend.

        And sorry to hear about your relative m8. I dad suffered lung cancer a good few years back so I know that as well as having to deal with the physical cancer, there is also the emotional cancer that spreads throught the entire family. It is a tough, tought time and as you said…it really puts football in its place. It makes you realise just how unimportant football is in the big scheme of things. Good luck m8 to both you and your relative.

        • Craig

          Thanks Marc. The responses to this most recent article has truly touched the highs, lows and everything in between!

          There is nothing like the truly human events to help us put things into some kind of perspective. I have supported Leeds since 1970, just after our decline set in during the Revie era. It was watching the Cup Final with my Dad that introduced me to the beautiful game and I soon realised that the minute I wanted the ‘white team’ to win it changed the way I viewed the game. In recent years I have tried to achieve some kind of emotional balance upon realising that the need to win had become more important to me than appreciating the whole experience that is football.

          It is in this spirit that I consider the next three games and insist that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN – even our maintaining second place.

  • Chris from Wakey

    I agree with Irving08 – we are not going up. This season we should have been crowned champions by now but instead we’re scratting for results. The frustrating thing is that we were good enough to beat ManU and good enough to give Liverpool and Tottenham a run for their money yet now we’re playing like farts. There must be something more to this than player confidence or poor selection by the manager. Winning at Old Trafford should have made us better not worse.

    At least several more seasons in the third division will be easier on the chairmans wallet and, if the financial reports are to be believed,we will struggle to afford the cost of promotion anyway.

    Too many disappointments have just made me more cynical I’m afraid.

    • TheReaper08

      Chris you make me want to buy you a pint mate, if I was a little closer than 200 miles away I would.

      I do understand the cynicism but I think we need to think positively, it’s just as likely this weekend that results will go with us and we will all be smiling Saturday night.

  • Mikelufc

    This time tomorrah it’ll be smiles all round.
    The next two games I don’t want to think about yet.

    • Mikelufc

      1 up thanks to Becchio

  • Mikelufc

    Looks to me very much like we are going up.
    2 1 up at the moment if things stay the same we will be 4 points clear with 2 games to play. this could mean we are capable of only drawing 1 more game and losing one and we can still go up on goal average……
    IF things stay as they are, prayers time I think.

    • Craig

      Yeah, it was looking very good until the last 20 minutes or so. Oh well, at least Charlton slipped up again and might feel like they’ve only play off places to play for.