As Leeds welcome the MK Dons to Elland Road Saturday afternoon, the clubs vision is firmly planted on the goal of promotion. For a club on the cusp of promotion it has been the rockiest of rides this campaign. Starting with the unanimous belief of sure-fire promotion, an underachieving side saw those notions perish quickly and cost Gary McAllister his managerial role. In rode Simon Grayson and after a retooling to his styling the Whites have responded to a modest degree and sit fifth in the table, readying for a playoff battle with eight matches remaining.
At this stage of the campaign thoughts of winning automatic promotion is the haziest of visions albeit one that is garnering a great deal of attention. With Leicester City running away with the hardware, their fans can start to look forward to the encounters against Derby County and West Brom but the question looms, can Leeds find its way to second place?
While truthfully Leeds looks most likely headed towards a playoff run however for the sake of the argument, to earn automatic promotion the Whites will need to overtake Peterborough United ten points ahead, albeit with an extra match played. Possible, yes but highly unlikely and the type of action that garners the heaviest of odds. However on careful examination Leeds does have a slight opening given Posh has a tough schedule and a run of victories could move Simon Grayson's table into an unexpected automatic berth. What of-course needs to happen is that Leeds plays to its ability in a prolonged winning streak, something it hasn't done for a sustained period this year and Darren Ferguson's side stumbles against the likes of Leicester City, Oldham, Millwall and Stockport. All that aside, if there is a glimmer of hope for second place it starts with a victory against the MK Dons.
For the final stretch run Leeds have fortified their forces with Reading defender Sam Sodje and Crystal Palace 'keeper Darryl Flahavan on-loan, with both joining the lineup immediately. Leeds is riding a seven match unbeaten streak with a home winning streak the same length. In the first match between the two, the Dons rolled over Leeds 3-1 in likely the low-point of the Whites campaign. The Dons have hit a late season slide where after humbling Oldham 6-2, they have been quite mundane in their play and riding a three match win-less. In customary fashion Simon Grayson has said virtually nothing before the match yet equally remarkably predictable tactically. With the return of Jermaine Beckford from suspension, the marksmen will returning to the starting eleven beside Argentine maestro Luciano Becchio. The key to beating Roberto Di Matteo's side will ultimately come down the attacking play of Fabian Delph, Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass in the midfield. While I would like to say the youngsters have been given the keys and told them to push the attack forward ruthlessly, the Whites tactical plan will most typically keep the speed governor in-place.
Enjoy the match and as always I will report on it as it concludes but until then we're Marching on Together.