Patrick Bamfords classy brace reignited Leeds automatic promotion charge in the Sky Bet Championship.
Marcelo Bielsas side returned to second spot with a 2-0 win at 10-man Preston and now sit two points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United.
Leeds slipped out of the top two and behind Sheffield United after losing 1-0 at Birmingham but Bielsa said the state of the league table and the dwindling number of remaining fixtures would not tempt him to gamble on Hernandez’s fitness.
Sheffield United: Chris Wilder showcases his new approach ahead of the visit to Birmingham City
The Blades travel to Birmingham on Wednesday, while leaders Norwich – who are five points clear of Leeds with a game in hand – host Reading.
The reasoning behind the decision became clearer earlier today. Asked to comment on tomorrows opponents Birmingham City and their troubles with the English Football League, Wilder shrugged his shoulders and began talking about something else. Why risk making a tough game positively toxic by discussing politics?
Roofe came on as a second-half substitute at Birmingham, the first time he has played since injuring a knee in a 2-0 win over Swansea City in February, and Bielsa is preparing turn to him as back-up for Hernandez.
“Hes a bright and intelligent man,”Wilder said, side-stepping the issue neatly and showering praise on Garry Monk. “Managers use whatever they can, be it people making outrageous comments or something happening to the team, to provoke a reaction and foster a siege mentality.
Leeds United player ratings as Patrick Bamford fires Whites into the top-two with quality brace
Theyre a tight knit bunch and have find themselves in a situation which obviously isnt ideal. But thats not a group of players that should be fighting relegation. Not with the people in charge and the talent theyve got at their disposal.”
Eleven days ago, this fixture promised to be an encounter between two of the Championships leading teams. After being handed a nine point deduction for breaching Profit and Sustainability regulations, City now enter it fighting for survival rather than play-off qualification.
But, as Wilder reminded on countless occasions during his latest pre-match interview, their position in the table is not an accurate reflection of the quality Monk can call upon. Marcelo Bielsas squad discovered a much when they were beaten at St Andrews over the weekend. That result, combined with Uniteds 1-0 win over Preston, saw Wilders men prepare for the contest in second ahead of Leeds trip to Deepdale tonight.
Remarkably, although Bielsas charges enjoyed nearly 75 per cent of the possession against City, they were able to muster only one shot on target. It is a statistic which did not go unnoticed in the Bramall Lane bootroom where Wilder, together with his assistant Alan Knill, has spent the past 48 hours fine tuning Uniteds tactics.
“Birmingham give up possession,” he said. “But a team, Leicester, gave up that and won the Premier League not so long ago. Weve done it in the past and won 4-0.
“Teams do it different ways. Thats great. However you dress it up – hard to beat, counter-attacking or whatever – its effective. And that, more than anything else, is what managers want to be.”
United have proven extremely effective themselves in recent weeks, going 10 matches unbeaten and keeping seven consecutive clean sheets until losing to Bristol City last month. The shut-out in Lancashire nearly pleased Wilder as much as David McGoldricks first-half goal.
“We were really disappointed with the goals against Bristol City,” he said. “I think a few things went against us but some good individual errors got punished by a good side firmly in the race for the play-offs.
“Preston are a threat and we knew they were going to start quickly, which they did. They are possibly the fastest starters in the division. After that, it was a tight game. But I thought we looked more likely to get a second. We had to defend properly though.”