NEIL Warnock has warned influential defender Jason Pearce that he faces a fight to regain his starting place after returning from suspension to find Leeds United back in form.
Pearce looks set to be named on the bench for Saturday’s West Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield Town as a resurgent Leeds go looking for a third straight Championship win for the first time this season.
The centre-back completed a three-match ban during United’s 1-0 win over Leicester City on Tuesday night but his once-secure position in Warnock’s line-up has been taken by new signing Alan Tate.
Tate arrived at Elland Road on loan from Swansea City last week and made his debut in a badly-needed victory against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The 30-year-old partnered Tom Lees in the centre of defence on Tuesday and Pearce – ever-present before his sending off against Watford on November 10 – is likely to find himself among Warnock’s substitutes when the Leeds boss names his 18-man squad for the clash with Huddersfield.
Warnock said: “He’s available on Saturday but it’ll be hard to get back in and quite right. What’s that saying – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Tuesday was the first time for a long time that we’ve been unchanged two games on the trot.”
Pearce has been one of United’s more consistent performers this season but he incurred his ban for a mistimed foul on Watford forward Matej Vydra.
Leeds attempted to overturn the dismissal but their appeal to the Football Association was rejected and his absence led Warnock to approach Tate as he faced up to a seven-match winless streak.
Warnock was glowing in his praise of Tate’s influence after Tuesday’s win over Leicester saying: “It’s brought the best out of everybody.”
• What do you think? Join the debate and add your comment below.