Leeds ready for 'must win' game in promotion battle

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The Independent Football

The Leeds United defender Stephen Crainey knows tonight's game against Crystal Palace at Elland Road is one they must win as they look to move within a point of the automatic promotion places in the Championship.

Leeds are four points behind Sheffield United - who are second - despite collecting only two points from their last two games. A late penalty earned them a 1-1 draw with Coventry on Saturday which saw them inch closer to the Blades, who lost 2-1 at Norwich City, their third defeat in four games.

The Blades' wobble, which has seen them win just once in eight games, has seen the race for second spot thrown wide open with Leeds and Watford maintaining the pressure. Crainey, 24, admits the team was disappointed not to have made more inroads into the Blades' lead.

"The boys are a bit disappointed because we've now dropped four points in the last two games and when you consider the other teams have also dropped points, we really want to be winning," he said. "Hearing Sheffield United lost does give us a boost but we are disappointed not to have won the game because we were different class in the second half."

Matthew Kilgallon is expected to retain his place at the heart of the defence, deputising for Sean Gregan. Gregan sits out the last of his two-game ban after receiving his 10th booking of the season the previous week against Norwich.

The striker David Healy did no harm to his chances of a return with the equalising penalty, with the Leeds manager, Kevin Blackwell, to choose between Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse.

The match is also vital for Palace who are fifth, 11 points adrift of second and still harbouring hopes of automatic promotion. Their manager, Iain Dowie, has no fresh injury worries and will welcome back Michael Hughes, who missed the 2-2 draw against Ipswich Town on Saturday with a minor injury.