History suggests play-off place is beckoning Leeds

Leeds United v Portsmouth Robert SNODGRASS'S steadfast belief that the second half of the season will bring "fun and games" in the race to win promotion to the Premier League is one that is difficult to argue against.

Such is the topsy-turvy nature of the Championship that few can predict even the next round of results with any confidence never mind what the table will look like come the second Sunday in May.

What can be gleaned from recent history, however, is that Leeds, who on the back of a 10-game unbeaten run have underlined how quickly a side's fortunes can change by soaring from 16th to third, are handily placed to clinch at least a place in the play-offs.

In each of the past five years, for instance, only one team sitting in the top four after 23 games has failed to go on and compete in the end of season promotion deciders – Preston North End being the unfortunate odd one out after finishing one point adrift of sixth-placed Southampton in 2006-07 after being third at the halfway stage.

Furthermore, the last two seasons have seen five of the six teams occupying the automatic promotion and play-off places as the second half got underway go on to finish in the top six.

If history repeats itself, it means Leeds can look forward in the New Year to what would be their fourth tilt at the play-offs in just six seasons.

One man who believes United have what it takes to last the pace is Snodgrass, the Scot whose wonder goal on Boxing Day ensured the Yorkshire side claimed a point from a thrilling 2-2 draw at Leicester City.

Talking about the surge that has turned the Elland Road club into genuine promotion challengers, he said: "You might argue that we are overachieving but I don't really want to speak about that. Other people can talk about it.

"At the start of the season, everyone tries to predict what you are going to do or where you will finish but too much can happen over 46 games to be certain about anything.

"All I will say is that I never doubted any of the players who are here.

"Where we go from here is down to us and the second half of the season will be fun and games. But performances like we have turned in recently deserve to put us near the top of the league. That is a fact.

"You can never be complacent but why shouldn't you feel confident when you have done 10 games unbeaten? If you don't have confidence then you will never get anywhere.

"At our maximum, I don't think anyone can live with us. That is my opinion. It is not to say that we are going to achieve this or that but we all know now that on our day we are as good, if not better than every other side in the division.

"I think we have proved that over the last 10 games. Nobody should be in any doubt that we can go to any ground or go up against any team and do the business.

"This little run has been first class and our attitude has been spot on week after week. If that continues, we are going to be up there.

"It is important to keep a level head but I don't think there is any point in talking ourselves down either. We are a decent side."

United are back in action today against a Portsmouth side who could still force their way into the promotion race despite being 14th at the halfway stage.

Luciano Becchio is a doubt after leaving Leicester with a swollen leg on Boxing Day but, otherwise, manager Simon Grayson has no fresh concerns.

Snodgrass said: "It is a quick turnaround and you do need to be 100 per cent right physically and mentally otherwise any game will be an uphill task. But Portsmouth played Boxing Day as well so we are in the same boat.

"I felt we played well at Leicester. When we played them at Elland Road (in October when the Foxes won 2-1) they gave us a hard time that night. But that was when we were at our lowest point, probably at our minimum.

"They were the better side but we didn't play well. It wasn't like they outclassed us while we were at full tilt. For a while now, we have been getting better and more consistent.

"If you look back over the last few weeks, you will see a lot of good performances from a lot of the players. In every game, most of us are doing the business.

"That is what we were striving for when things weren't going well and it is what we need to maintain.

"Being consistent isn't just about getting results. It is about people playing well every time they go on to the field. If you do that, you will get results and that is what we are seeing."

Meanwhile, United are bracing themselves for the news that Neil Kilkenny could miss up to five weeks in the new year if, as expected, the midfielder makes the final cut for the Australian squad in the Asia Cup.

The 25-year-old was named in the provisional squad by coach Holger Osieck before Christmas and the final 23-man party will be named today.

Australia face the United Arab Emirates in a friendly on January 5 so the New Year's Day game against Middlesbrough is likely to be Kilkenny's last until the Asia Cup ends on January 29. The event, staged in Qatar, starts for the Socceroos with a game against India on January 10.

Last six games: Leeds United DDWWWD, Portsmouth DLLWWD.

Last time: Leeds United 1 Portsmouth 2; April 25, 2004; Premier League.

Referee: D Webb (County Durham).