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Mid-season report: Leeds United

Sports Mole reviews the first half of playoff-chasing Leeds United's season, which was dominated by Ross McCormack's goalscoring exploits.

Leeds United head into the New Year in their highest Championship position at this stage of the season since 2010.

Ross McCormack's 17-goal haul makes him the division's highest scorer and has helped put the Whites seventh in the table and firmly in playoff contention.

Here, Sports Mole looks back at how United have fared in Brian McDermott's first full campaign in charge.

August

McCormack's strike in a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on the opening day was a sign of things to come, but the forward passed on the goalscoring responsibility to Michael Brown and Dominic Poleon as they squeezed past Chesterfield in the Capital One Cup first round.

A goalless stalemate against Leicester City preceded a 1-1 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday in which McCormack bagged the equaliser, and Leeds went on to remain unbeaten in their opening six matches of the term.

Leeds United's Ross McCormack celebrates his equaliser during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on August 17, 2013© Getty Images

Luke Varney opened his account for the season, while McCormack was at it again in a 2-1 success at Ipswich Town, and the Scottish international made it onto the scoresheet for a third game in a row as Championship rivals Doncaster Rovers were swept aside in the League Cup.

They could not go throughout the entire month without tasting defeat, though, as they went down 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers in a loss which signalled a dramatic change in form for the Tykes.

September

Leeds United manager Brian McDermott barks orders from the touchline on September 18, 2013© Getty Images

A 1-0 win at Bolton Wanderers kickstarted their September, but McDermott's men would go on to lose their remaining four matches throughout the month as they dropped to 15th in the table and were ousted from a cup competition in the process.

Leeds conceded a 90th-minute goal to Reading at the Madejski Stadium and high-flying Burnley then came away from Elland Road with maximum points, before a nightmare week concluded when Newcastle United dumped them out in the Capital One Cup third round.

Millwall were the latest team to get the better of United as a 2-0 defeat to the Lions ended a miserable fortnight in which the Yorkshire outfit had earned just three points and scored only two goals.

October

Matt Smith of Leeds United celebrates scoring during their Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Birmingham City at Elland Road Stadium on October 20, 2013© Getty Images

A return to scoring form for McCormack coincided with a return to winning ways for Leeds as the forward netted in a 2-1 triumph over Bournemouth, and a 4-0 thrashing of Birmingham City in which summer signing Matt Smith powered his way to a brace.

Those positive results were separated by a 3-1 disappointment at Derby County, and the Whites conceded three on the road again as local adversaries Huddersfield Town took the Yorkshire bragging rights with a 3-2 victory.

November

The table looked much rosier for Whites fans after three straight wins, as McCormack reached top form by firing in seven goals in three games, starting with a double as they eased past newly-promoted Yeovil Town.

Leeds United midfielder Ross McCormack with his Player of the Month award for November on December 5, 2013© Getty Images

He was twice as good next time out, bagging all of Leeds's goals in a 4-2 victory at Charlton Athletic, and he also scored the opener in a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough that lifted the Tykes into a playoff position for the first time since August.

They could not complete a perfect November, though, as Blackburn Rovers inflicted a 1-0 loss on them at Ewood Park.

December

Leeds were more successful against Lancashire opposition next time out, with McCormack yet again the hero as his brace helped them narrowly overcome Wigan Athletic, and although he, Smith and Danny Pugh all found the net against Watford, it was only enough for a 3-3 draw.

The Smith and McCormack partnership yielded two more goals, while Rodolph Austin was also on target as they cruised past Doncaster, but inconsistency thwarted their progress up the table as both Barnsley and 10-man Blackpool restricted them to a point each.

A rather fruitless festive period came to a close with a 2-1 defeat at promotion rivals Nottingham Forest in which McCormack took his tally to 17 for the campaign, and if he continues to be as prolific in the second half of the season, he may fire Leeds to a top-six finish.

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Leeds' Luke Varney and Reading's Stephen Kelly battle for the ball during their Championship match on September 18, 2013
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ATHLETICS
· The athletics schedule begins, with 100m sprinter Dina Asher-Smith among the names in action on the opening day. The men's 10,000m final concludes the action, with Team GB's Sam Atkin and Marc Scott taking part in the absence of 2012 and 2016 champion Sir Mo Farah (1am-2.30pm)

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