Naylor: Cup defeat a blessing
Leeds United captain Richard Naylor admits the FA Cup fourth round replay defeat against Tottenham in midweek may be good for the club.
After the high profile FA Cup run, Leeds return to earth with a trip to unfashionable Hartlepool tomorrow and Naylor agrees with manager Simon Grayson that the three points at stake are even more precious than cup progress would have been.
The Leeds-born central defender said: “It may be a cliché but it’s true that now we can concentrate on the league, which is our bread and butter. Of course we enjoyed the cup run. It was great being on telly and I know a lot of the young lads have raised their profile a hundred-fold.
“We all enjoyed going to Old Trafford and winning – something we hadn’t done in a long time – and we will look back on it with pride, but the most important thing now is to focus on the league and what we have to do for the rest of the season.
“Maybe the defeat against Spurs was the right result for the club. It would have been a long shot to go on and win the FA Cup. We want to get out of League One and have more nights with 30-odd thousand people at Elland Road. The only time Tottenham supporters sang was when the Leeds fans had left the building – very brave of them!”
So how will Leeds react to the contrast of turning out at Hartlepool just three days after taking on Spurs? Naylor replied: “We are used to playing at grounds like Hartlepool and the three points are vitally important to us. Playing on Wednesday night gives us a day’s less recovery time, while they have been resting and waiting for us, but you just have to get on with it. We will prepare as best we can and show our mental toughness.”
Naylor added: “If you don’t win your league games people will look for excuses like the cup run but the gaffer said earlier that we wouldn’t go throughout the season without a bit of a blip and it just coincided with the win at Old Trafford.
“Whether the cup run was the cause it is difficult to say. The Swindon result was a massive disappointment so it was important to get back to winning ways as soon as possible and it was a good solid performance against Colchester.
“We have games in hand on our promotion rivals but we can’t afford any slip-ups.”
Max Gradel and loan players Gary McSheffrey and Shane Lowry are available after being ineligible for the cup replay and Grayson checks the fitness of Neil Kilkenny and Patrick Kisnorbo, who were again out injured in midweek.
Angolan international Rui Marques has returned from the African Cup of Nations with a knee injury which keeps him out.
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