LEEDS uNITED head coach Neil Redfearn insists confidence is not a problem despite his side being on course to end 2014 with the second lowest points tally of the 18 clubs that have spent the entire year in the Championship.
The Elland Road outfit travel to high-flying Derby County tonight having claimed 46 points from as many games across the past 12 months.
Only Blackpool, a club in such dire straits last summer that they had only eight contracted players a fortnight before the season got under way, have accumulated fewer points over the calendar year.
At the other end of the scale, tonight’s opponents Derby have bagged 83 points in 2014 and current leaders Bournemouth 85, while Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday (65 points, eighth highest) and Huddersfield Town (50, 14th) also eclipse the Elland Road outfit along with Millwall (49, 15th) and Birmingham City (47, 16th).
Leeds’s paltry points return this year is a measure of how much they have struggled at times.
It has also caused many supporters to look anxiously towards 2015 and a possible relegation scrap.
Redfearn, however, is adamant that United have the resolve and quality to get themselves out of trouble.
Asked if his side were in a relegation dogfight, he replied: “You are always in a fight, but there is half the season to go. Win a few games and you are looking up.
“Derby is a big game and a tough game for us. They are doing well, but we said that before we played them the first time (at Elland Road on November 29 when Leeds won 2-0) and we upset the applecart by getting a result that day.
“We played well that day. They will know about us now so it will be even more difficult. But we just have to get the level of performance right. We have to be more diligent all over the pitch.
“People have asked me if confidence is a factor (in the recent poor results), but I wouldn’t say so.
“If you look at the performance (against Wigan on Boxing Day when United lost 2-0), it didn’t lack confidence. It just lacked conviction in front of goal. It lacked that desire and that purpose at the defending end, to do the right things and make good decisions.
“We have beaten them already and, to be honest, on our day I think we are capable of beating anyone. We have proved that. We won at Bournemouth and beat Derby County so it is not like we can’t reach that level. We just need consistency.
“We have just got to make sure we are tough in this period and start putting results together.”
Leeds head to Pride Park sitting just above the drop zone after a wretched run of just two wins in 15 games.
None of those have been under Redfearn, who replaced Darko Milanic in late October, and the former midfielder admits the transfer window opening on Thursday could provide his squad with a boost.
Leonardo Pavoletti, a striker with Sassuolo in Serie A, was at Elland Road for the Boxing Day defeat to Wigan and is expected to sign on loan early in the new year.
On United’s plans for January, when despite being under a transfer embargo the club will be able to make signings under certain conditions, Redfearn said: “I have suggested players and that is where it is at.
“We have got a recruiter in Nicola Salerno and the president (Massimo Cellino) oversees that as well. It is a case of recommending people and the names go into the pot.
“I would like to think (there will be early movement in the window) because it has got to the stage where we have had a resurgence from where it was, but it is faltering a little bit at this time. We need a bit of help.”
Transfer matters, of course, must take a back seat tonight to the need to add to the points tally that United have claimed in 2014.
Considering Derby’s form, a point would be an impressive prize with which to return north later tonight and Redfearn believes the Rams game being selected for live broadcast by Sky TV could do Leeds a favour.
He said: “Having an extra couple of days is a big help. Obviously, it is a tough programme.
“To play two games in three days is a big ask, particularly with the level and tempo that exists in the Championship.
“This gives us a little chance to have a breather and prepare. As for whether the last meeting will have a bearing, I wouldn’t have thought so – even though they probably still feel a little bit sore about it.
“They came to us on top of the league and they had their pride hurt. So they will want to put that right. But, from our point of view, we just need to get a good away performance.
“The last one was a good one, at Forest (in a 1-1 draw) and a deserved result I thought, in the end. If we can get a good result (at Derby) then it will help to eradicate the disappointment of Wigan.”
Adryan is expected to return for United after being rested on Boxing Day.
Last six games: Derby County LWLLDW, Leeds United LWLLDL.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Last time: Derby 3 County Leeds United 1; October 5, 2013; Championship.