By Leon Wobschall
Neil Warnock insists several play-off positions remain up for grabs in the Championship promotion race – and not just the sixth spot occupied by tonight’s increasingly vulnerable-looking opponents Middlesbrough.
Warnock’s Leeds United side head north to Teesside this evening seeking to extend their majestic run at the Riverside Stadium, with the Whites’ colours having not been lowered in ten visits there since its opening in the summer of 1995.
An away win would put United within two points of Boro, who head into the game in the final play-off slot, in a potentially key evening which sees three sides of the four sides immediately above 11th-placed Leeds in action with Derby visiting Hull City and Brighton and Hove Albion welcoming Blackburn Rovers.
While Boro are currently bottom of the form table with five straight Championship defeats, other sides are also feeling the heat, with fourth-placed Hull City and Crystal Palace, in fifth, having won just once in their last five league matches.
And Warnock, seeking to end a run which has seen United fail to win away in the league in six games since their 4-2 derby triumph at Huddersfield Town on December 1, fully expects the twists and turns to continue.
He said: “I am not sure Middlesbrough are the only team for the chasing pack to catch. I think one or two of the others are there to be shot at by ourselves and a few others.
“None of the top six won over the weekend, for example. That shows that the closer we get towards the end of the season, nerves and all sorts can come into play.
“But, equally, we can’t afford to get left behind, so the game at the Riverside is important to us.”
El-Hadji Diouf and Rudy Austin are back in contention for United for this evening’s crucial encounter, but Warnock is not envisaging many changes to his starting side this evening.
Diouf was rested for Saturday’s trip to Molineux after producing a below-par display against Cardiff, with Jamaican enforcer Austin not included in the party to face Wolves after only returning to the UK following international duty on Friday.
Warnock said: “I don’t think there is any reason to tinker too much, I get accused of that, but there are always reasons for my chances.
“I think the changes I made on Saturday benefited us and I don’t see any reason to make any changes for Middlesbrough.”
Warnock has confirmed that former club Sheffield United are keen on signing young Whites striker Dom Poleon on loan.