NEIL WARNOCK believes Leeds United can be a match for anyone in the Championship – providing the club can draft defensive reinforcements in sooner rather than later.
The 63-year-old takes charge of his first game today when United travel to crisis club Portsmouth.
Warnock has spent his first week trying to bring in a couple of defenders after being alarmed by what he saw in last weekend’s derby clash against Doncaster Rovers when Leeds came from two goals down to win 3-2.
Warnock said: “We will score goals anywhere but defensively we need one or two players, who I am trying to get here as fast as I can.
“If we can get a couple in during the next week then we can give anyone a run for their money.”
On his bid to strengthen the squad, Warnock added: “It is always difficult to get players in at the end of February. Premier League clubs have done their 25 (man squad) and they are loathe to let anyone go.
“You have to look at those left out or not in a Championship team, and that makes it difficult to get better players than what you have got.
“But it is not impossible. We have made a number of calls over the last few days and will keep plugging away.”
The derby win over Doncaster moved Leeds to within three points of the top six but that gap has since been extended to five following midweek wins for Birmingham City and Middlesbrough.
It means gatecrashing the play-offs is going to be a tall order for United, a point Warnock acknowledges.
Asked if Leeds could still go up, he replied: “Anything is a possibility. I could fluff it up and say we will win the next 12 games but I am a Yorkshireman and we say it how it is.
“Having watched the last few DVDs, I think we do need an input to give us a chance. We need leaders on the pitch.
“That is not knocking the lads, they are trying their hardest. But we have to try and get a couple. If we can’t then we might be struggling to get in the play-offs.
“I look at the teams above us, not just those in the top six but the others as well. And they have solid squads.
“We will need the crowd behind us. The games are also big. We have Portsmouth this weekend and then some real crackers in March. They are all top teams.
“It will be nice to be underdogs and see what we can do in those games.”
Meanwhile, the Football Association are still investigating the tunnel bust-up that marred the derby clash with Leeds and Doncaster.
Referee Keith Stroud is believed to have included the fracas, which was only broken up after intervention from the police, in his report and the FA have been liasing with both clubs. A decision on whether Leeds and Rovers will be charged is expected some time next week.
Andros Townsend, who returned to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this week after his agent rang Warnock to say the wideman was unhappy at Elland Road, has joined Birmingham City on loan.
The 20-year-old, whose only goal in United colours came in the win over Doncaster, will stay at St Andrews until the end of the season.