Leeds United v Ipswich Town: Unbeaten Leeds are looking to add guile to craft

Leeds United's Mirco Antenucci celebrates his equaliser against Brentford (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Leeds United's Mirco Antenucci celebrates his equaliser against Brentford (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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PREACHING patience to a group of supporters currently enduring their club’s longest stint outside the top flight sounds like a hard sell.

At Leeds United, however, assistant manager Rob Kelly insists a sense of understanding pervades among the Elland Road faithful towards Uwe Rosler’s side and he believes this realism will be rewarded in the long run.

“My experience since I have been here is that the supporters have been knowledgeable,” said Kelly, who like Rosler is in his first campaign at the Yorkshire club.

“They understand their club and where we are. It is not unambitious to look for a top half finish because top half can be anywhere from 12th to first or second.

“But there is a realism that it is a young squad, a developing squad. It needs some stability, which it is getting, and it just needs to grow.

“When you are at Leeds United, there is always an expectation. When I have been here before with whatever club, it has that something special about it.

“You understand that. But there is a definite sense of realism around the place. Yes, we are moving forward, but we need to move forward at our pace.”

United are into their 12th season since being relegated from the Premier League, but the portents are good.

The upturn in form since the start of 2015 plus the blossoming of talented youngsters such as Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor had left supporters in a hopeful mood even before owner Massimo Cellino started to splash the cash in the summer transfer market.

United’s start to the season has been steady rather than spectacular with five draws and a victory at Derby County. A big test will come tonight when Ipswich Town, beaten semi-finalists in the play-offs last May, come to West Yorkshire.

The Tractor Boys suffered a heavy beating last Friday night, as Reading ran out 5-1 winners in front of the live Sky cameras.

For Kelly, all that loss at the Madejski means is that Mick McCarthy’s team will have a point to prove at Elland Road.

“They are a wounded animal,” said the United assistant. “They were fantastic last year, got in the play-offs and I would expect them to be around there. Any team of Mick’s are going to be there.

“He is a great manager. I watched the game on Friday and it wasn’t a normal team that Mick would put out, as in how they played. But that can happen. They will be wanting to put that right, I am sure. Ipswich will be dangerous, dangerous opponents after getting beat on Friday.”

Jordan Botaka, who played for the Development squad yesterday, is unlikely to feature tonight as United look to claim a first victory on home soil after three stalemates against Burnley, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford.

The display in drawing 1-1 with the Bees last Saturday was disappointing, particularly in the first half when the London club were allowed to dictate play.

Leeds improved after the break and rescued a point thanks to a typically impressive strike from Mirco Antenucci to underline just how hard to beat Rosler’s men have become.

“Runs start somewhere and we are six games unbeaten,” said Kelly.

“It is difficult in this league to turn that into seven, nine, 10 or 12 because it is so competitive and there is the volume of games.

“But we really don’t want to give up what we have got – which is organisation and being difficult to play against. We want to add all the other stuff and we are trying, you can see that.

“It is up to us to keep the run going. You don’t want to give it up lightly because they are hard to come back. If you had have offered us an unbeaten start then everyone would have taken it.”

United are one of only four sides still unbeaten in the Championship, but all those draws mean Rosler’s men will host Ipswich in 12th place.

“We are realistic,” said Kelly. “It is first-team football and it is results driven so we can see something developing. That is what we are trying to do. You can’t look too far ahead or you take your eye off the ball.

“That doesn’t mean you lose sight of the bigger picture, but we have put the foundations in. The squad know what we believe is right to gain success in this league.

“But, for that to happen, it isn’t going to come through straight away. We joined in June, it is now the second week of September.

“We wouldn’t be too despondent if we were at the bottom. We wouldn’t be popping champagne corks if we were at the top of the Championship. We are making good progress.

“You have got to stay focused and stay even. Understand where you are, where you want to be and how you are going to get there.”

Last six games: Leeds United DDDDWD, Ipswich Town WWWWLL.

Referee: J Adcock (Nottinghamshire).

Last time: Leeds United 2 Ipswich Town 1; March 4, 2015; Championship.