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Stuart Dalgleish 21st Mar 2010 - 22:42

Out of sorts Leeds could be in for a mauling

The race for promotion from League 1 is really hotting up, and a Millwall (3/1) victory at Elland Road on Monday night will put the Lions to within three points of stuttering Leeds United (10/11).

It's a scenario that just didn't seem plausible a couple of months ago as Leeds looked to be coasting to the title, as it is they are in a real scrap just to keep hold of the 2nd place that they currently occupy.

Thankfully for the Whites, Charlton and Colchester seem to be just as inconsistent and their destiny is still in their hands, but with tough fixtures coming up for Leeds, including trips to Norwich and a penultimate match of the season at Charlton, their home form will be absolutely key to their chances of getting back into the Championship.

In fairness to United, they have been almost exemplary at Elland Road, losing just once in 18 league games, but it's been their form since the turn of the year that's been a concern for Simon Grayson.

2010 started with a bang for the Yorkshire outfit, as they dumped their great rivals Manchester United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford to send a 9,000 strong travelling army wild, since then however they have only won four times in 16 matches.

It must be really frustrating for Grayson as, in several matches, he's seen his team dominate but not strike while the iron's hot, too many times they've had to rely on late goals just to get a point when they should have been collecting all three.

All the while Norwich have raced ahead of Leeds and it looks like they will sew up top spot, but several teams below the Canaries are still hopeful of pinching that coveted 2nd place, including the visitors to Elland Road on Monday night - Millwall.

The Lions seem to have gone about their business fairly quietly, but they now look like being Leeds' chief rivals for automatic promotion and will look to inflict more heartache on the Whites and keep them down in this division for a fourth season.

The Londoners have lost just once since the start of the year, surprisingly to Wycombe, and have jumped from 7th and 12 points off automatic promotion to 5th place and just a win away from being three points from the top two, with some very winnable games to end the season they are well and truly in this race.

An extra bonus for Millwall is that they've got key players back and fighting for positions, particularly upfront.

Steve Morison (7/1 first goal) is the mainstay and has 14 league goals, bagging five in his last three, Shaun Batt (8/1) is on loan from Peterborough and has started six games since his switch from London Road but has only managed one goal so far, he's likely to make way for Neil Harris (7/1) should the number nine recover from his back problem.

The Lions legend loves playing against Leeds having notched four times in his last four games against the Whites, including the 1st leg winner in last season's play-offs.

Jon Obika (9/1) is another option having briefly returned to Tottenham from his loan spell but he is in the squad for the Monday night game.

Leeds have got some players returning too, first choice goalkeeper Shane Higgs has missed most of the season but could be on the bench, Casper Ankergren will continue as he has done all season but the former Cheltenham stopper looked impressive before suffering his thigh injury.

Regular left-back Ben Parker could also be back after he too has missed almost the entire campaign, youngster Aidan White has played the last couple of games there but Leeds have had problems all season on that side with several players occupying that position, and not always with great success.

Striker Tresor Kandol (5/1 first goal) should also return for Leeds, he was the forgotten man last season and actually played and scored a fair few goals for Millwall in a loan spell, he's been involved more this campaign for the Whites but will be watching from the bench on Monday night.

That's because United's front two are up there with the most prolific strike forces outside of the Premier League; while Jermaine Beckford (4/1 first goal) often grabs the headlines, and why not when he's slammed home 27 goals this season, it's his strike partner Luciano Becchio (5/1) that's been on better form in the last month or so.

The Argentine had a barren spell at the turn of the year going eight games without scoring, but since scoring against Tottenham in the FA Cup defeat he's hit six goals in his last nine league games.

Beckford on the other hand is having a bit of dodgy patch for his high standards, the volatile striker has scored just five times in his last 12 league games, but does have three in his last three.

Should the pair be on the top of their game on Monday night then Leeds should be able to pick up the three points at 10/11, as they have done the last three times they've hosted the Lions at Elland Road in the league, the draw is a 12/5 chance while Jackett's team are 3/1 to keep their unbeaten run going with a win.

The strikers are key though, should Leeds not pounce when they're on top it could be catastrophic for their promotion chances and the dreaded play-offs would await them once again.

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