Stopping the unstoppable train

LEEDS United are like an unstoppable train at the moment, and injury-troubled Ipswich Town will have to play out of their skins to stop them in their tracks this afternoon.

LEEDS United are like an unstoppable train at the moment, and injury-troubled Ipswich Town will have to play out of their skins to stop them in their tracks this afternoon.

Much could depend on two factors: whether Jimmy Bullard passes a late fitness test, and how Kieron Dyer settles into the team following his loan move from West Ham yesterday.

Leeds are like a steam-roller at the moment, boasting a remarkable record over the last four-and-a-half months that has seen just two defeats suffered in their last 23 league fixtures.

In fact, just before that run started, Leeds were thumped 4-0 at home by Cardiff City on October 25, which left them down in 16th spot, one point and two places behind Town.

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But whereas Town’s progress has been slow – they went backwards during former manager Roy Keane’s final weeks, before enjoying an upturn under new boss Paul Jewell – Leeds have gone from strength-to-strength.

They now nurse serious hopes of clinching back-to-back promotions, having gone up automatically from League One with Norwich last term.

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Jewell, whose family home is just a two-minute drive from Elland Road, relishes a challenge.

But even with the arrival of former old boy Dyer, who signed on a one-month loan deal from West Ham yesterday, it is not the best time for Town to be facing.

Although Jewell was at pains this week to stress that his team were not just all about Connor Wickham and Bullard, he will be keeping his fingers crossed that the latter comes through a fitness test this morning.

Bullard was forced to sit out Tuesday night’s disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Reading, and Town badly missed their much-talked about 32-year-old Hull City loanee.

“It’s a game I am looking forward to, but I’d like to go there with my strongest team, that’s the only thing,” admitted Jewell.

“I don’t know whether Jimmy (Bullard) is going to be fit, but we will give him every opportunity.

“We have to leave that decision with Jimmy, because with hamstrings only the player knows whether he can play.”

Skipper David Norris is a definite non-starter, after accruing his 10th booking of the season against Reading.

Midfielder Norris serves the first of his two-match suspension today. He will also miss Tuesday night’s home game against Watford.

Fellow midfielder Colin Healy remains sidelined by a stomach muscle tear, as does Mark Kennedy due a sore hamstring.

Town have won five of their 11 league games under new boss Jewell, a ratio that would suggest a mid-table team rather than relegation candidates.

But they have only won one of their last five, and they still need to pick up a couple of victories from their remaining 11 games to be assured of safety.

Leeds are the most prolific goalscorers (69 from 36 games) in the Championship. They also have three players in the division’s top 15 marksmen – Luciano Becchio (16), Max Gradel (14) and Davide Somma (11).

They are so strong that both Beechio and Somma were on the bench for Tuesday night’s 2-0 win at Preston, as was the former Ipswich Town duo of Richard Naylor and Alex Bruce.

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