Monday, 25 April 2011

Naylor out to nail play-off spot for Leeds United

Leeds United captain Richard Naylor has emerged from a long-term injury nightmare to crack the whip on the season’s final furlong.Leeds-born Naylor made his first start for six months in Friday night’s goalless draw against Reading, having undergone knee surgery earlier in the season.His commanding display helped Leeds to their first clean sheet in six matches.Now the 34-year-old warhorse will have a chat with boss Simon Grayson before a decision is made on his fitness to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park today after just three days’ recovery time.Naylor is eager to make up for lost time in the remaining three matches, which will decide whether Leeds finish in the play-offs.The Whites dropped to seventh place on Friday as Nottingham Forest leap-frogged them on goal difference and on Saturday Burnley joined Leeds and Forest on the same number of points but with an inferior goal difference.Naylor said: “It is disappointing to be out of the top six for the time being but if we are there at the end of the season that is the main thing. We slipped out of the top two at a similar time last year but came through.“There are good teams in this league – we have no illusions about that – but we are a good team too and we’ve made a lot of progress over the last 18 months. I just hope we can finish it off.”Naylor admits he was puffing and blowing towards the end of Friday night’s game. “The 90 minutes were quite tough, to be fair, and I was struggling a bit but I was okay,” he said.“Obviously I hadn’t played for a while so to come in and have that sort of game was hard work.“It was a big ask and there was a lot of pressure, especially with the game being on Sky, but I am experienced enough to cope with that sort of thing and I was just pleased to get the nod.”At first, after recovering from injury, Naylor couldn’t force his way back into the side, but he remained patient.“It’s always hard when you are not in the team,” he said. “You are desperate to play and it’s what you are paid to do.

“I am not one for going knocking on the manager’s door. You have to look at yourself if you are not in the team, keep yourself fit and do the extra bits and pieces. It’s not nice but it’s part of football. A few of the lads need to do the same if they are not in the team. You need to work hard and look to get your chance.”

So does he feel up to playing at Palace? “After not playing for so long, two games in quick succession is a bit of an ask,” he replied. “I am sure the manager will have a word with me. I am no spring chicken and I hadn’t played for a while, so we’ll just wait and see.

“Nearly every team has something to play for at the moment and every game is a good one to play in. Palace is one we are looking forward to and one we can win. After the performance against Reading the mood is a bit more positive.”

Top scorer Luciano Becchio is again rated doubtful by Grayson after missing Friday night’s game with a hamstring injury.

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