The trip up the M1 on Saturday should have been another firecracker of a Yorkshire derby and yet on paper it was two teams who have been really struggling to get any kind of a result over the past few months.
The fact that there was literally all four seasons of weather along with a really strong wind during the 90 minutes really didn’t help either side.
It was great to see a couple of the injured players returning to the team sheet, even if they weren’t all necessarily starting the match. The return of Sam Hutchinson into the centre of midfield obviously gave us more bite and solidity and I thought he made a good impact on the game.
Overall I thought the game was a bit of a scrappy affair to be honest, Leeds looked the better of the two teams but being the home side you would possibly come to expect that. They both played with an obvious lack of confidence, which again was understandable with the recent lack of positive results but what I was really pleased to see was the way that we dug in and scrapped our way through the game.
Recently we have looked like we weren’t always necessarily up for a fight but on Saturday I thought we did the horrible side of the game better than we have done of late. Whether it was good fortune on our part or bad play on Leeds' part, we rode our luck a little and when we went one up with 20 minutes to go the big question was whether we could hold out. We conceded another goal from a cross with five minutes to go and it looked like Leeds would come and have a right go at us at the death. Instead we showed some proper fighting spirit and when Atdhe Nuhiu chased that through ball and showed great composure in slotting it home for the winner it was a massive three points for us.
As I have said over the last few weeks it really isn’t about performances now, it is results that matter and to go up to Elland Road and leave with all three points was huge. Furthermore it gives the players and management team some real belief going into the international break and I just hope that over the next couple of weeks Jos Luhukay can get some quality time out on the grass and work on what he sees as necessary.
The bonus is obviously that we have very few players leaving for international call-ups so you would like to think that this first week there might be some really positive fitness work done as well. It is a difficult decision for Luhukay because with only about six weeks left of the season I am sure he would have been wanting to give the lads a bit of a rest after such a hectic few weeks but you also have to be mindful that, by his own admission, they haven’t been fit enough and this gives you an opportunity to work on that too.
If you look at the remaining eight fixtures, three of the games that we have left are against sides currently below us in the table. When you consider that the three points on Saturday kept us just above the chasing pack you can see just how vital that win was.
What you have to be careful of though is that you really don’t want to get sucked in to a false sense of security and think that the hard work is done. There are 24 points left to play for this season, quite scary when you think we have only taken 41 points in 38 games so far. With a couple of the more experienced players returning from injury it would be nice for them to have an impact and put together an improved run of results until the end of the season.
The Easter weekend will be a very good test for us to do so with the visit of high-flying Preston where we were absolutely dreadful in the opening day of the season. When you look back at that extremely poor start we have done little to improve on it really.
The league position tells its own story and I am sure that all of the players are absolutely aware of the disappointment of the whole season. They will I’m sure be hurting as much as anybody about it. I would go as far as to say that I am pretty sure some of them will be highly embarrassed at what has happened so far.
That is why with just a handful of game left they can do their utmost best to finish the season on a better note. We need some big performances and some even bigger results. There is still an opportunity to finish the season with some positivity and it will take togetherness and a huge team effort to do so, but that surely has to be the gauntlet thrown down to them from here on in?