After seeing his side drop down five places back to 17th in the Sky Bet Championship Leeds United boss Steve Evans knows the importance of the three points on offer at Elland Road when Bristol City travel north this Saturday.
Despite the away defeats in unfortunate circumstances at Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, Evans has publicly not given up on a possible push towards the play-offs this year. But it will be a different story should Leeds lose a third game on the trot to a team who have been hovering around the relegation spots all season.
The next game has a real pivotal look to it as far as the Whites are concerned as victory will keep them talking positive and send them close to the top half of the table again, but defeat would turn the attention back to a relegation fight.
Leeds go into the game five places above third from bottom Bristol City and desperate to extend the current eight-point gap that exists between the teams to enable them to continue to breathe easy when it comes to the dreaded relegation word.
Head coach Evans admitted that owner brought him in because he feared United were going to be dragged into a fight against the drop under previous boss Uwe Rosler and at the start of 2016 it looked like he was certainly winning that battle with increasingly confident talk about a club back on the up.
Results were perhaps better than performances, certainly at home, however, and the luck that brought some vital points against Preston and MK Dons has run out with a vengeance in the last two games. An injury-time goal condemned them to a 2-1 loss at Ipswich last Tuesday and they were then beaten 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday despite being the better team for much of the contest and having a “goal” ruled out in bizarre circumstances by a piece of incompetent refereeing by Anthony Taylor.
The Premier League official lost the plot when he allowed a free-kick to be taken even though Sheffield Wednesday were making a substitution with Fernando Forestieri strolling off the pitch. When Liam Cooper then put the ball in the net the referee awarded a goal only to change his mind after talking to the fourth official on the sidelines.
It was little wonder Evans was hopping mad at the decision and although there had to be doubts that United would still have got anything from the game the result did leave a bitter taste and brought fans’ conspiracy theories about the Football League’s dislike of Leeds another airing.
But while it did give the Whites some mitigation for their latest defeat the result has meant that Leeds now go into their latest game without a win in any of their last five league games and a position in the table just one place higher than when Evans came in.
Fans may put it down to the usual January blip that the club has experienced most years since they dropped out of the Premier, but it makes this weekend’s game all the more important to make sure it just that – a blip and not another crisis.
Opponents City have had a few crises of their own this season after finding it hard following promotion. They sacked manager Steve Cotterill last week and may have former Leeds player John Pemberton in charge for Saturday’s game after he took over as joint caretaker and won his first game, 1-0 against leaders Middlesbrough.