Leeds boss Simon Grayson has urged his players to “roll their sleeves up” ahead of this weekend’s trip to league leaders Norwich.
The Whites suffered their second defeat in a row on Monday night with that 2-0 home reverse to Millwall and now find themselves embroiled in an almighty promotion scrap, with the Lions only three points behind them.
City are eight clear of the Yorkshire giants and the Canaries know that if they can overcome Grayson’s men on Saturday, it will be almost impossible for them to be caught, with only eight games remaining after the weekend.
But the Leeds chief admitted that while the defeat on Monday in front of the Sky cameras has hurt them, the morale in the camp isn’t as low as one might think.
“We knew the significance of the Millwall game,” he told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “They’re on a great run of form and they’re a major threat to everyone in the division.
“Losing the game has dented us, and we’re hurt about the situation, but we’ve got to move on. I hope my team will come out and respond.
“The morale isn’t too low. But it’s obviously been affected because the players know they can do much better, as individuals and as a team.
“We have got to make sure we picked them up and they’ve got to look at themselves – to think about what they can do to affect games more. As staff, we have to look at ourselves too and ask what else we can do.”
And now, according to Grayson, is the time to show League One what Leeds are made of. It certainly isn’t the moment to wallow – there is too much still at stake.
“We’ve got players in our dressing room who can do a lot more to affect matches and our performance against Millwall wasn’t good enough.
“Anyone can accept the plaudits when they’re going around but this is when you have to roll your sleeves up. Anybody who doesn’t want to do that might as well disappear out of the football club. I want people here with character and quality.”
It was certainly a dismal night all round against the Lions, with impressive centre-back Patrick Kisnorbo now facing several months on the sidelines after tearing his Achilles tendon.
There was more positive news, however, on star striker Jermaine Beckford, who sat out the Millwall loss with a hamstring strain, and he has not yet been ruled out of Saturday’s match in Norfolk.
Beckford had an injection in his back last week in an effort to cure his problem but Grayson chose not to risk the 27-goal hitman on Monday night.
“His hamstring was tight and he had an injection in his back to ease the pain in the early part of last week but, unfortunately, he was still struggling,” continued Grayson. “We’ve got a few more days before we go to Norwich so we’re hopeful he might be available.
“You always miss your leading goalscorer but the way we passed the ball around in the first half, he might not have had any chances anyway. Playing like that, he’d have been lucky to get half a chance.”
But despite the doom and gloom at Elland Road, Grayson is hoping that a change of scenery may do them the world of good as they prepare for the trip east, with the team coming in for some criticism from the stands on Monday.
And the message to his squad was very clear – ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’.
“At home we’re playing with a little bit of anxiety, but we’ve got to be brave enough to cope with that. This is a big football club and players here have to be able to handle pressure. At this moment we’re not good enough when we’ve got the ball.
“It’s a case of getting back to basics and making sure we’re hard to beat, but when we’ve got the ball we have to play with flair and imagination. We’re a footballing team and we showed that for the first half of the season.”