THE ROYALS are being urged to ‘start fast’ when they take on Leeds United tomorrow afternoon at Elland Road.
Manager Mark Bowen warned: “If we don’t, before you know it, you can be two goals down and the game’s over more or less. It’s going to be real mental toughness, needing focus and concentration.”
He was speaking at Hogwood as the team were making final preparations for their second away game in seven days.
Last Saturday, the team beat 10-man Sheffield Wednesday 3-0, the team’s first victory since New Year’s Day. This has buoyed the squad.
“We know our away form is really good,” Bowen said. “The dressing room itself is good – we’ve got a really good team spirit.”
But he didn’t want the squad to be complacent.
“We do our homework, with Leed you know what you’re going to get, you know what you’ll come up against, and you’ve got to be prepared for it, because if anybody switches off, you’re going to get punished.”
There has been talk that Bielsa’s men – who currently sit second in the table and best Bristol City last Saturday 1-0 – are having a slump in form and could be finding the pressure of being in the automatic promotion slots too much, as they did last season.
But Bowen doesn’t want his team to take that for granted.
“They’ve had a blip, but they are still where they are in the league,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll have a blip on Saturday, but again for us – it’s a cliché – but for us to go there and get a result, things will have to fall into place.
“We’ve got to work hard and play well.”
He added: “The thing that stands out (with Leeds) is the intensity that they play at. Their stats are way above any other team in this league.
“You aspire to be a team that people fear playing against, which is what they are.
“They’ve had mixed results maybe over the last seven or eight games, but I’ve looked at those games and it may be a goalkeeper’s mistake here, or they’ve had over 70% possession against other teams and 125 crosses a game … we’d better be prepared for it.”