As Leeds welcome Tranmere to Elland Road on Saturday it will be with full knowledge that a victory will guarantee a spot in the playoffs. The match is comes with a number of tests and should Leeds be upset at home they will be exposed to late surge by Scunthorpe that could push them out of the playoffs.
That aside the biggest test for Simon Grayson is the absence of Fabian Delph and while the manager said to the Yorkshire Evening Post that, "it might do him the world of good and get him refreshed for a possible play-off campaign", to lose one of your most important players in a crucial match is never an advantage. The concern is without the young England U-21 directing traffic, the Leeds attack will slow to a monotone grind, with little pace and the resulting wishful bash into the box after everyone has slowed to their spot. This was at a root of the early season woes and one of the reasons why the smooth passing attack of Gary McAllister ground to a halt, eventually costing him his job. While Leeds has consistently kept the brakes on their youthful midfield, if they are to successful on Saturday Andy Robinson will need to press the attack in transition more than in the past.
In addition to loss on young Mr. Delph, Jermaine Beckford is still not up to par and it will be a match time decision if the striker is to gut it out. While he is anxious to return the delicate concern is whether he should be risked at this date with the playoffs likely in the horizon. Ultimately the decision comes down to the severity of injury and the managers confidence in the pairing of Liam Dickinson and Luciano Becchio in what is crucial match.
For viewers, this will be a very interesting tactical match as Leeds debates between a more free-flowing approach to more compact one that we will see in the playoffs. Based on recent play I anticipate more of the later with the reinforced back-line of Sam Sodje and Richard Naylor paying rich dividends as they look to squash Tranmere's advances.