TOM Lees admitted that Leeds United’s players were under pressure to atone for their defeat to Derby County tomorrow as he warned that clubs at the top end of the Championship were threatening to pull away from the field.
The young defender called on United to prime themselves for a “massive” Christmas period by redeeming last weekend’s loss at Pride Park with a victory over Ipswich Town.
Leeds surrendered a three-match winning streak against Derby after a poor performance ended in a 3-1 defeat to Nigel Clough’s side.
The club will meet a rejuvenated Ipswich team tomorrow, themselves fresh from three back-to-back wins, and Lees said that the sight of Championship clubs edging over the 40-point mark had increased the significance of United’s festive schedule.
Leeds are four points adrift of the play-offs but eight behind fifth-placed Leicester and the momentum built up by successive wins over Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Huddersfield Town evaporated during a weak display at Derby.
Talking ahead of tomorrow’s clash at Elland Road, Lees said: “The whole team is striving for consistency. It’s annoying to play as well as we did in the three games against Palace, Leicester and Huddersfield and then see what happened at Derby.
“We never got going and that’s massively disappointing. It’s not good enough when you’re aiming to go what we want to do this season.
“The performance came out of nowhere in terms of the fact that we’d been playing well and training well in the week leading up to the game and I couldn’t really see what we did differently. But we as players should look at ourselves.
“It’s up to us to match our personal standards and in the three games before that defeat our standards were very high. Personally I wasn’t happy with myself after Derby and too many of us weren’t at the races. We need to put that right and set ourselves up for Christmas. It’s a massive period for us.
“The important thing is to find consistency in a very inconsistent league. The teams who are doing that will climb up the table really quickly. If they’re at the top then they’ll stay there. Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Palace - they’re picking up points week in, week out and they’re starting to pull away a little bit.”
Ipswich were on course for relegation when they sacked former manager Paul Jewell in October and replaced him with Mick McCarthy but a spurt of impressive results has lifted them out of the Championship’s bottom three.
Leeds boss Neil Warnock, who is set to recall on-loan winger Jerome Thomas after hamstring problems tomorrow, said: “As soon as Mick came in as manager you knew they’d be fine. They’ve got no worries with him in the job.
“It would have been a tough game on any day and they’ve come into form in the last few teams. But teams in form have brought the best out of us recently.
“The frustration for me about Derby was that a team could play like they did and still beat us. It wasn’t a special performance from them. We need to put that right.”