By Alex Stevens
Andy Ritchie is convinced that Garry Monk’s message to the Leeds players ahead of their clash against Fulham will simply be, ‘don’t lose’.
The promotion hopefuls are back in action on Tuesday night when they travel to Craven Cottage for a second consecutive away match.
Leeds beat Birmingham 3-1 at St Andrews on Friday evening and are aiming to consolidate their place in the play-offs with another positive result against Fulham.
Former Leeds striker Ritchie, who has managed Oldham, Barnsley and Huddersfield, believes it is important to prevent the west London side from securing the win that would shake up the promotion battle.
Monk’s side are fourth in the table with 64 points from 35 league matches, while Fulham are the best placed of the team’s outside of the top six, with a haul of 56 points and can narrow the gap on the pacesetters if they win at home.
“I just think Leeds need to get something out of it,” said Ritchie in his weekly Yorkshire Evening Post column. “They’d love to win it, obviously, but don’t lose. I think that would be the message to the players from Garry.
“They will know that they didn’t play particularly well at Birmingham but they have got a kind of steel to them that Garry seems to have instilled in them whereby when they don’t play well, they are still able to grind out results.
“It is a big game at Fulham. Garry won’t want to make a big thing about it but I think it’s just a case of ‘don’t lose’. Leeds are not assured of a play-off place yet. I wouldn’t think that anybody would say it’s done and dusted yet.
“The players should not feel that way because it’s definitely not over until that last game of the season. That’s when it is over and every manager should be saying that to his players and I am sure Garry will be doing that.
“He will be drumming it them into them that you have got to play in the moment but you don’t take anything for granted in football.”
Ritchie, who was a prolific scorer during a four-year spell at Leeds in the 1980s, has been encouraged by what he has seen of Monk’s players in recent weeks, when they have struggled to replicate the fluency of their display against Derby in January, arguably their best of the campaign.
But the Championship big hitters are well placed to secure a place in the play-offs in May as they aim to end their 13-year spell in the lower leagues.
An automatic promotion spot is a more distant prospect, even though Brighton have given them a glimmer of hope with defeats in their last two fixtures.