STEVE EVANS has played down Leeds United’s play-off hopes despite his side moving to within five points of the top six.
A fortuitous victory against 10-man Preston North End, achieved thanks to an own goal from Alan Browne early in the second half, helped nudge United up to 13th in the Championship table.
It is the highest the West Yorkshire club has been in the table since mid-September and nicely sets up a tough festive double-header.
United travel to Nottingham Forest on December 27 and then host high-flying Derby County two days later. Emerge unbeaten from those two fixtures and Leeds, who have taken 10 points from a possible 12, could start to harbour serious hopes of making an impact towards the top end of the division in the New Year.
Evans, however, refuses to get carried away by the recent upturn in form.
He said: “What we have done is separate ourselves from the bottom end. That was the first objective I set us.
“We can’t get carried away and say we are in any competition to be in the play-offs but we have taken ourselves to within five points of that. It makes every point a good point, every three a massive three points.
“And we have given ourselves an opportunity to get involved in it (the play-off race).”
Despite Preston being reduced to 10 men for almost an hour following Jordan Pickford’s dismissal for handling outside the penalty area, Leeds laboured for long periods. Still, considering Evans’s men had played less than 72 hours earlier in a hard-fought victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the result was everything for the Scot and his men.
He added: “Preston had a couple of days extra recovering. It was always going to be difficult to recover, though we spoke about delivering a different performance. My team deserve enormous credit.
“It is great to grind it out and let the supporters sit down for Christmas day thinking their team is still alive somewhere in the Championship.”
Pickford’s red card for handling the ball after Chris Wood had beaten the Preston goalkeeper to a 50-50 challenge helped Leeds immeasurably.
Asked his view on the dismissal, Evans added: “If I am being totally honest, when it first happened I thought he headed it. But we got in the dressing room, the analyst brings it up and it is a clear sending off. The assistant and the referee got it spot on.”