Warnock sets target for Leeds to gatecrash the play-off places

LEEDS United manager Neil Warnock believes around 75 points will be needed to secure a play-off place in this season’s Championship.

The race for the Premier League is set to step up a gear this weekend due to the vast majority of sides in the top 10 being due to face clubs struggling near the bottom of the division.

It means the promotion-chasing pack will be looking to steal a march on each other before Leeds and Middlesbrough go head-to-head tomorrow lunchtime at the Riverside Stadium.

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Of the top 10, United have to be considered the outsiders due to having played more games than all their rivals.

Despite that, Warnock said: “No-one is running away with sixth place. All the teams at the top are trying to help us into the play-offs. We haven’t been able to take advantage of that so far but it is not through the want of trying.

“Whatever other teams have got in terms of points and games, it is not down to what they do. It is down to ourselves as to whether we get in the play-offs.”

Last season, Nottingham Forest pipped Leeds to sixth place with a late run that left the Midlands club with 75 points.

Asked by the Yorkshire Post if a similar number of points will be required to qualify for the play-offs this time around, Warnock replied: “I don’t think it will be far away from that.

“It means we have to win every home game and then do well away from home.

“We have to stick at what we are aiming to achieve. A point away from home and wins at home will leave us not too far away. We will be very close.

“It isn’t necessarily a ‘must win’ (at Middlesbrough) but we would like to win. We have to win one of those five away games so this is an opportunity to put that to bed.”

Leeds will make the trip to Teesside having never lost in nine previous visits to the Riverside Stadium.

Last term, a second-half strike by Luciano Becchio was enough to seal a 2-1 victory and a repeat against Tony Mowbray’s side tomorrow would undoubtedly give United’s push for a top-six place a massive lift.

Warnock, though, admits it will be tough against a team who go into the weekend sitting fourth in the table.

He said: “Middlesbrough, as a club, have calmed down. Tony is a steady manager and he has brought good signings in. They won’t be far away.

“Listening to Tony’s comments, they possibly need a bit of consistency. But if that is missing then they aren’t doing badly, are they?”

Leeds are still searching for their first goal under Warnock, having been held to goalless draws by Portsmouth and Hull City either side of a 1-0 defeat against leaders Southampton.

The new-found defensive solidity may mean new signing Paul Robinson has to be content with a place on the bench again following Tuesday’s loan switch from Bolton Wanderers.

Even if the 33-year-old does not feature, however, Warnock admits the new arrival is just the type of character he wants at Elland Road.

The Leeds chief said: “I looked at the type of player we need and Paul Robinson fitted the bill. Senior pros are important in certain areas. What Paul has is what I want from my players – that little bit more than what is necessary.”

Another player with a no-nonsense reputation who Warnock is delighted to have on board is Michael Brown, the midfielder whom he once managed at Sheffield United.

Warnock said: “Browny has played his part in helping us sort out a few things and keep a couple of clean sheets. He has been the unsung hero for me since I came to the club. He has been instrumental by showing a cool head.

“To underline how well he has done, if he got injured at the moment then we might struggle to replace him with the squad we have.

“His game has changed since we were first together. Back then, I gave him the freedom to get forward. Now, he wouldn’t get back.

“Seriously, Browny still has a lot to offer and his contribution has been fantastic.”

Robinson is the second new face brought in by Warnock following the earlier arrival of Danny Webber.

The Leeds manager, who led QPR to promotion last term, added: “The time I am having now with the players is vital. It is a chance to look at the players.

“I can’t remember exactly how many but I think I brought somewhere in the region of seven players at QPR during my first summer. I’d had two months to look at what we had got at QPR and I do feel we are in that sort of mould here at Leeds.”

Big-match interview: Page 3.