Trouble and strife for McAllister

JUST three points off the play-offs and yet some supporters are still calling for your head. That's life at troubled Leeds United.

Carl Marston

JUST three points off the play-offs and yet some supporters are still calling for your head. That's life at troubled Leeds United.

Manager Gary McAllister is facing up to increasing pressure at Elland Road, even though his side are potentially only one win away from the top six.

The once mighty Leeds, who won the last old First Division title in 1992 (before it became the Premier League), are now reduced to licking their wounds after a humiliating FA Cup defeat at non-league Histon Town, a cup shock witnessed by many live on television, while at the same time trying to kick-start their promotion bid.

Most bookmakers lumped Leeds and Leicester together as the two hot favourites for automatic promotion at the start of the season, but McAllister's men are now nine points adrift of the Foxes, who currently top the table.

A leaky defence has been McAllister's biggest cause for concern, and free-scoring Colchester will be out to test that weakness.

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Paul Lambert's side, despite their position in the lower half of the table, actually have the joint best goal-scoring record on their travels. Both they and MK Dons have plundered 20 goals in nine away games.

“We've been a little soft defensively, and we have to be harder to play against. Every attempt is being made to make things better,” insisted McAllister.

“We have to be uglier at times. We have to win ugly. You have to stand toe to toe with your opponents.”

Leeds will seriously miss leading scorer Jermaine Beckford and winger Andy Robinson over the next few weeks.

Robinson will be sidelined for a month after straining a hamstring during the second half at Histon, but Beckford's absence is the biggest lost for the Yorkshire club.

Beckford had bagged an impressive 19 goals in all competitions, including 12 in the league, until he pulled his hamstring in the recent 2-0 defeat at Northampton.

Despite these absentees, McAllister still has a big squad to choose from, certainly amongst the biggest in League One. And the Leeds boss knows this.

“I believe we have a big squad and each week our 11 reads well. They are strong sides we are putting out,” admitted McAllister.

“There are a lot of doom-and-gloom people out there. But I'll take the criticism and whatever is thrown at us.”

Enoch Showunmi was handed his first league start since August, due to Beckford's injury, at Tranmere Rovers last Saturday. Leeds suffered their third defeat on the bounce (2-1) at Prenton Park.

However, Showunmi did score his fifth goal of the season, and the ex-Luton and Bristol City target man will be hoping to again start alongside Argentinian Luciano Becchio against the U's.

Fellow striker Malcolm Christie is also pushing for a place. The ex-Middlesbrough and Derby 29-year-old made his first competitive appearance for 18 months at Northampton in an FA Cup first round tie last month, although he has not figured since that day due to sustaining a rib injury.

But Christie has been back in training this week, and could be involved this afternoon. Leeds will also welcome back teenage midfielder Fabian Delph after a one-match suspension.

Although Leeds are three points behind the top six, they do have a very sound home record. Only Oldham (23) have scored more goals at home, and they have only lost twice at Elland Road at the hands of Huddersfield and Oldham.

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