STEVE EVANS has urged his players to forget all talk of a late play-off push by Leeds United as they prepare for this weekend’s derby showdown at Elland Road with Huddersfield Town.
While refusing to rule out a late bid for a top-six finish – despite the huge gap between his side and the Championship’s play-off zone – United’s head coach doesn’t want any distractions for Saturday’s encounter with the Terriers.
The club’s streak of three successive wins has revised the outlook of a season which appeared to be heading for a relegation battle after Leeds were beaten 4-0 at Brighton last month.
Evans is on course to secure a top-10 position and United’s highest Championship finish for five years but a 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers last Saturday - the first time Leeds have recorded three straight wins in over 12 months - spawned hopeful talk of a last-gasp run to the play-offs.
United are 12 points adrift with 10 fixtures remaining but hold a game in hand over Sheffield Wednesday in sixth. Saturday’s match will carry Evans’ squad into the international break and set them up for a schedule of eight games in 28 days in April.
Evans said: “I’m not going to start talking about what happens if we beat Huddersfield. First and foremost we have to beat them.
“Then we have a break, some of the boys go off on international duty, some will do some work here and then we reassemble for another very tough test down at Rotherham.
“We can’t control another result in the country on Saturday, outside of Elland Road. All we can do is focus on ourselves, get three points, have a look at it all at five o’clock and see where it all lands. Then we look forward to a difficult reintroduction against Rotherham - who’ve taken 10 out of 12.”
Victory over Huddersfield, who are still involved in the Championship’s relegation fight, would give Leeds a fourth straight league win for the first time in more than six years, and the first time since Simon Grayson’s team topped League One in late 2009.
United’s convincing defeat of Blackburn followed a rare away win at Cardiff City and a success at home to Bolton Wanderers which restored calm on the back of a bad result at Brighton.
“Every game in the Championship is keenly-contested, the finest of margins, and Saturday will prove no different,” Evans said.
“We said before Bolton that it was a must-win game. Then with Cardiff and Blackburn we said ‘let’s treat it a game at a time’ and we put all our effort and concentration into that. It’s what we’ll do against Huddersfield.
“Winning brings confidence. It brings positivity. We were under severe pressure under Brighton and no-one had to tell us that. But we believed, and we believed that these players could win a lot of matches.
“We try to keep the feeling in the camp as good when you’re winning as when you’re losing. It’s important that people have a good culture to work in. But people have an extra bounce and it’s good to see them smiling at Thorp Arch, every minute of every day.”
Elland Road will attract its largest attendance of the season on Saturday. Leeds anticipate a turnout in excess of 28,000.
Evans said: “It’s amazing that we win a few matches and that’s the reaction.”