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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Big Match Preview

League One
Leeds United vs. Bristol Rovers
Saturday May 8, 15:00, Elland Road

After three years in the third tier of English football, Leeds United know a win this weekend will secure their return to the Championship.

It's been a remarkable season for the Yorkshire side. Their FA Cup exploits gained them nationwide recognition and, at one point, they seemed destined to run away with the League One title and promotion.

However, a dramatic loss of form, coupled with strong challenges from Millwall and Swindon, means Simon Grayson's side have been taken to the wire in the race for promotion.

Recent slip-ups from their closest challengers means United lead a five-horse race on the final day to take the second automatic promotion place behind runaway leaders Norwich.

With a passionate home crowd behind them, they'll be banking on a home record that is amongst the strongest in the division. That record suffered after consecutive defeats to rivals Swindon and Millwall.

However, they got back on track with recent convincing home wins over Milton Keynes and Southend. They also boast one of the tighest home defences in the division.

However, it's goals to win Saturday's game they'll need, and strikers Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio have both been in good scoring form recently - with three and five goals respectively in Leeds's last five matches.

Their opponents - Bristol Rovers - travel north with their season long over. Currently in 9th, it's been a good season for the Gas, who have held down a top half position all term.

A sell out crowd at Elland Road will hope to see their team promoted come full time

That success has been built on a policy of either winning or drawing. With 21 defeats - Rovers have lost as many games as relegated Wycombe. However, they have also recorded 19 wins.

Their away form has been their biggest weakness - with 14 losses away from the Memorial Stadium. Their current form also suggests a side whose players are already 'on the beaches.' The Pirates have won just one of their last seven.

All of which is good news for Leeds, although they'll be wary that in such a high-pressure game, Paul Trollope's side have the quality to punish them.

Striker Jo Kuffour has scored 14 this season, and midfielder Jeff Hughes 13. His set pieces could also prove a danger for a nervy Leeds side.

However, this game is all set up for the home side. Grayson's men have generally been very good at Elland Road and know exactly what they need to do.

It might be a tense afternoon, but Leeds should get the win they need to secure promotion and a place in next season's Championship.

Nobes' Prediction: Leeds United 2 Bristol Rovers 0

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