By Rob Atkinson
Saturday would be a good day for Leeds United to get their act together, pull their fingers out, get themselves sorted and see all the pieces fall into place - or any other optimistic cliché you may wish to choose. Any day is a good day to win, but this Saturday a victory would be especially sweet. Millwall have been a thorn in our sides far too often - aided by the typical "chip on the shoulder" syndrome that affects so many smaller clubs for whom - another cliché - we are Their Cup Final. Being Millwall of course, they tend to be the type of nasty little thorn that could well turn septic and leave you feeling grotty for days afterwards.
If that depressing possibility is not to happen, then Leeds will need to take their chance-strewn display from the Burnley home game, omit the suicidal defending, and add some class and composure to their finishing so as to capitalise on the kind of gilt-edged opportunities so carelessly tossed away against the Lancastrians. We know the forwards can finish. We also now know that the team can create chances, despite our world-famous lack of width. Surely then, it's just a matter of putting it all together on the day. And what better day to start doing that than Saturday as our brave and gallant Daniels march into the Jackals' Den.
As ever, it will be an occasion to expect and resist provocation. The usual neolithic grunting will be apparent among the sparse but vocal home support; there may well be primitive forms of life parading about in those obscene yellow and red shirts, calculated to give us painful reminders of tragedy past. We must simply rise above it all as fans, and hope that our team can deliver a sharp rebuke on the field.
It will be interesting to see the make-up of the team this weekend. Brian McDermott will want to assess the fitness of recently-returned Sam Byram, with fit-again Lee Peltier an option. Luke Varney, too, might be recalled having been rested with a slight thigh problem for the Newcastle cup-tie in midweek. Tom Lees (calf) should also be available. McDermott has admitted that he is in the mood at the moment to tweak the system here and there, with a view to a more positive product up front - and there may well be another change to the system for the challenge of Millwall. Young Alex Mowatt did plenty to earn himself another chance against the Geordies, but his continued presence will depend on the overall team shape. Whether any changes will include a new striker seems less and less likely as the match draws closer, despite publicity earlier in the week. We continue to watch this space for news there.
Millwall, meanwhile, have experienced a mini-revival in the last week or so, beating Blackpool and Charlton after an awful 5-1 thumping at home by Derby. They will be hoping to continue the improvement against a club in United that tends to bring out the best and the worst in them. The Londoners will be missing ex-Leeds man Shane Lowry who serves the last match of a suspension, fellow defender Mark Beevers who has knee ligament problems and loan striker Steve Morison who is ineligible to play against his parent club. What is certain though is that any eleven men Millwall field will be in no doubt about the desperation of their fans to win this one. But Leeds should be used to this factor by now and they have to step up to the plate and cope with it.
There seems to be a feeling abroad, which I share although it may be mere foolish optimism, that United may well pick up a win in South Bermondsey on Saturday. After a respectable showing in Newcastle the other night, there is just that flavour of positivity. That being the case, I will go for a 3-1 away win and, sticking my neck out even further, I will back Noel Hunt (if selected) to break his season-long duck. Now that WOULD get this show on the road!