By Rob Atkinson
Leeds will go into this Saturday's home match against Lancastrian rivals Burnley (Elland Road 15:00) surely champing at the bit to make amends after going so close to winning at Reading on Wednesday night - only to immediately concede a late winner from a free-kick arising out of Stephen Warnock's foul which saw him sent off for a second caution. To say that the last minute or so of the game at the Madejski Stadium went badly for Leeds is a masterpiece of understatement.
Still, it's another day on Saturday, United are at home and there is change afoot above and beyond a distinct autumnal nip in the air. Warnock's enforced absence on a one match ban will see Aidy White given his chance at left back - and the nature of White's game hints at the possibility of a whole new style with wing-backs a possibility, particularly if Sam Byram is able to partner White on the other flank rather than Peltier or Lees. The lack of width at Leeds is the most open secret in football, so maybe Brian McDermott will be tempted to deploy his two speedy youngsters either side of a three in defence, providing long-overdue service from wide areas to his starving strikers.
Further forward, it's time perhaps for a bit of "rub of the green" to boost the Leeds fortunes. This might seem an odd ask for a club so notoriously shunned by Lady Luck down the years, but the potential for breaks to fall our way for a change is blindingly obvious. How much longer can Rudy Austin hit the ball so powerfully and true from distance - and fail to score? How much longer can the graft and industry of Hunt and the runs and aerial power of Varney or Smith go unrewarded? Varney showed his ability to finish decisively at Bolton; if there is more of a supply from the wings against Burnley, he will be one man who is eager to capitalise.
As ever, Brian has said the right things in the wake of a narrow defeat. The league table as it stands does not accurately reflect the mood of optimism and positivity around Elland Road, and that of course is largely down to the way that Brian has gone about his business - as well as the lack of the various millstones that seemed to hang around the club's neck last year.
Three points against high-flying Burnley and we'd head into next week on a high, in the right frame of mind to enjoy a night out at St James' Park Newcastle - and who knows what result a relaxed and happy attitude might make possible there? But the League is the thing, and after the misfortunes of Reading away, we need to head back towards that play-off area a bit sharpish, for fear of allowing too wide a gap to develop. I would expect Mr. McDermott to have his lads well up for this one, so a narrow and hard-fought victory is a very likeable as well as a reasonably likely outcome.
Prediction: Leeds 2, Burnley 0