Christmas can often be a tough time for clubs competiting on so many fronts and Leeds United have been handed an extremely tough run of six league games and two cup games throughout the festive period.

A series of shots firing back off the woodwork and excellent saves from Kettering Town’s goalkeeper, Lee Harper made progress for Leeds United hard. It took 200 minutes for Leeds to finally make the break through when Mike Grella came on as a sub in the replay to fire us into a 2-1 lead. From there on in, the floodgates opened and Leeds United eventually progressed to the third round with a 5-1 win (AET).

That result set up a third round tie at Old Trafford with Manchester United. Maybe the War of the Roses game has been a slight distraction for us, or maybe it’s the mounting injuries and need to rotate our squad week in, week out that has led to a minor dip in League form, but so far in December, we’ve seen our lead over Charlton Athletic cut to just two points; albeit, with a game in hand.

December started with an away visit to Oldham Athletic. Simon Grayson made several changes to his squad with plenty of loan players starting the tie, including Max Gradel and Sam Vokes upfront. A cold Boundary Park had more Leeds United fans inside than it did Oldham and the lads didn’t disappoint. Max Gradel ran his heart out throughout and his persistance earnt him two assists for Neil Kilkenny and the returning Lucciano Becchio as Oldham struggled to compete with Leeds United’s second team.

Next up was the West Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town. Whilst Huddersfield had the best attacking record in the league, Leeds had the best defensive record. Huddersfield occupied one of the play-off places not far behind Leeds so this was never going to be an easy fixture. Leeds did manage to take the lead twice though and despite not being at their best, I felt it was two points dropped leaving Elland Road that day. I’d accept Huddersfield were probably the better team, but after taking the lead twice, I felt we should have been able to hold on, although a draw was probably a fair reflection of the game.

A rare trip to Boundary Park was next as Leeds met Brentford for the first time in almost half a century. For myself and the other travelling Whites, it was a long return home after witnessing a poor game, played on a poor pitch hindered by a poor referee. Neither team deserved to win the game, but the dismal performance set a few alarm bells ringing amongst the Whites fans. Brentford is definitely a place we should be taking three points from but never really looked like doing so and the match ended 0-0.

Our fifth game in fifteen days brought us back to Elland Road for the JPT clash against Accrington Stanley. The first competitive meeting for the two sides should have been a straight forward victory for the Whites and on paper, looks like it was. The final score of 2-0 however doesn’t tell the full story. Leeds’ defence was extremely poor throughout, leading Simon Grayson to bring Patrick Kisnorbo on with twenty minutes to ensure progression. The five man back line seemed to sort things out a bit, but Leeds had definitely rode their luck with shots coming back off the inside of the post on two occasions.

The light at the end of the tunnel is finally shining for Leeds though. With Lucciano Becchio back to full fitness, Shane Higgs and Bradley Johnson training again and the extensive injury list finally shortening, Leeds should be a stronger side for this weekends visit of Southampton.

It’s been a tough run for the Whites that’s seen the team struggle with the chaotic schedule. Our early season form was built on the consistency of the line-up, but when Larry was forced into making wholesale changes, the teams looked weakened. That said, we’re still top of the League and however poor we may have been at times, we’ve not been defeated throughout a challenging month. Although our lead has been cut from six points to two on Charlton, we’re still eight clear of third and that’s all that really matters. As nice as it’d be to end as champions, I’d take second in a heartbeat.

After Southampton this weekend, the squad finally gets a chance to regroup with no midweek fixture next week. The next game will be the Boxing Day clash against Hartlepool before we head to Edgeley Park to take on Stockport County just two days later. The final game of 2009 gives us six days to prepare for our trip to Old Trafford, where you can only hope the Manchester United players are fatigued from too much partying.

A poor run maybe and I’ll be glad when it’s over, but we’re still picking up points, still top of the league and still with a decent gap over third place. Had we been offered this at the beginning of the season, I doubt many would have turned it down.

Takeover imminent?

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