HEAD COACH Paul Heckingbottom insists Leeds United could still haul themselves back into the Championship play-offs as the Whites prepare for tomorrow night’s visit of leaders Wolves.
Friday night’s 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough has left United 12th and eight points off the top six with just 11 games remaining.
Leeds have savoured victory in just one of their last 11 league games with Heckingbottom brought in to replace axed former head coach Thomas Christiansen and United facing a succession of games against teams in the top ten.
Having enjoyed a 1-0 success at home to Brentford the previous weekend, United blew a chance to make direct inroads on a promotion rival with last Friday’s defeat at the Riverside and Leeds will next face a team sitting top of the pile and with a six-point advantage over second-placed Cardiff City.
Heckingbottom admitted his side were “found wanting” against Middlesbrough on Friday, but the Whites’ head coach believes there is still a chance for Leeds to jump back into the promotion mix.
“It’s still there, but our approach is the next game,” said Heckingbottom.
“It’s been that way all the time. I said these first six games against teams above us would give us a great indication of where we are and where we stand.
“We’ve competed well in some games, but we were found wanting against Middlesbrough.
“That’s probably a fair reflection of why we’re 11th in the table. You are where you deserve to be and we’re 11th so at the minute we’re not (good enough). That’s what you have to improve. We’re learning a lot from these games.”
Heckingbottom remains without several key players with defenders Luke Ayling and Conor Shaughnessy out injured for the long term along with January deadline-day striker signing Tyler Roberts.
I said these first six games against teams above us would give us a great indication of where we are and where we stand. We’ve competed well in some games, but we were found wanting against Middlesbrough.Leeds United boss, Paul Heckingbottom
Forward Kemar Roofe and experienced goalkeeper Andy Lonergan will also miss the clash against Wolves as they continue their recoveries from calf and neck injuries respectively.
But Heckingbottom has been boosted by the availability of Spanish playmaker Pablo Hernandez, who returned to training yesterday having missed United’s last two games with a groin injury.