LEEDS UNITED striker Patrick Bamford insists the club’s recent stumbles in the promotion race have not led to a dip in belief among head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s squad.
The Elland Road club head to Middlesbrough tomorrow on the back of a six-game run that has included four defeats.
Last weekend’s loss to Norwich City also saw United knocked off top spot by the Norfolk club.
Leeds need a response against a Boro side also smarting from their own disappointment after being knocked out of the FA Cup by League Two outfit Newport County in midweek.
“Even the teams who get promoted are going to go through a tough patch,” said Bamford, who netted a hat-trick for the hosts when these two Yorkshire clubs last met at the Riverside a little under 11 months ago.
“They are going to go through a point in the season where they start doubting themselves or have a few bad results or injuries, something which knocks them off their game.
“To be honest, I do not think as a squad we are doubting ourselves. We know that it would be unrealistic to say we would go unbeaten throughout the whole year.
“The main thing for us is to bounce back. When we lost at West Brom (in November) we went on a run. The important thing is to get back on it.”
United’s response to losing heavily at The Hawthorns was to win their next seven games.
It was a run that took Bielsa’s men through the traditionally gruelling Christmas period and included dramatic fightback victories over Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers.
The never-say-die manner of those dramatic wins either side of Christmas Day suggested Leeds had the mettle to end what come May will be a 15-year absence from the Premier League.
This may still prove to be the case, but there is no doubting the recent losses, together with the fall-out from the ‘Spygate’ saga that the Football League are understood to have discussed at yesterday’s board meeting, have handed the initiative to others.
Bamford added: “Everyone prepares themselves for that Christmas period and they kind of expect that to be a tough period because there are a lot of games in a short period of time.
“It is actually the period between maybe January and March that is probably the toughest.
“You have set yourself up, you have got all pumped up for Christmas and then there is a bit of a lull. It is the team who has the mental toughness who gets promoted because it is a long slog.”
Bamford netted against Norwich in last weekend’s 3-1 defeat, the one positive on an otherwise chastening evening for Leeds.
Due to injury it was only the striker’s second appearance from the bench since the goalless draw at home to Boro that rounded off August at Elland Road.
Bamford, a £7m summer arrival from Boro, added: “One of the big worries when you have been out injured for a long time is, ‘Can I still do it? Can I get back to where I was and can I still do the thing I could do?’
“I was worried that I would be too concerned about my knee and worried about doing things because I was panicking about it, But once I got back into training you forget about your knee.
“The physios were getting a bit annoyed with me because I was doing things without thinking and putting my knee at risk.
“But you are playing football and we started doing it because we love the sport. So, once you are back out playing, you are like a kid again playing in the park.”
Bamford is expected to start tomorrow against his former club as Bielsa has concerns over midfield trio Pablo Hernandez, Mateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw.
Izzy Brown, Stuart Dallas and Gaetano Berardi remain out for Leeds.