LEEDS United are full of spirit heading into Christmas.

Self-belief and the sheer will-to-win earned the off-colour Whites a late 1-0 Elland Road victory against Brentford to remain firmly in the EDF Championship play-off mix.

Kyle Bartley’s 89th minute header gained three more crucial points as Garry Monk’s side head into the festive break in fifth spot. They are in good company.

Fellow promotion challengers Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading also netted late winners on Saturday to emphasise the tortuous nature of the Championship. Nothing can be taken for granted.

After their tough midweek triumph against Reading, Leeds looked both physically and mentally jaded but still managed to find a way to win.

Well-organised Brentford’s set-up gave them an extra man in midfield, stifling United’s creativity.

Without leading scorer Chris Wood (hamstring), Leeds lacked a focal point in attack and, from the early stages, the game seemed destined to be goalless.

A linesman’s flag denied Brentford’s Scott Hogan his 14th goal of the season as the visitors edged a cagey first-half but Leeds finished the match as the stronger side.

“It was obvious we weren’t at our best today,” said Monk. “I thought we looked tired, especially in the first 60 minutes.

“The one thing this team has is that belief to fight every second they are on the pitch,” he added. “It’s great to see that mentality, fight and spirit from the players to keep going right to the end.”

In a game of few chances, Leeds looked as though they had blown their big opportunity on 66 minutes when striker Souleymane Doukara curled a shot wide from an angle with only Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley to beat.

But Leeds kept huffing and puffing towards the Bees’ goal and more persistent play earned a late corner at the Don Revie Stand end.

Brentford switched off and Stuart Dallas curled in the perfect cross for the soaring Bartley to head into the roof of the net.

It was United’s fourth Championship win in five games and Monk’s youngsters are continuing to punch above their weight this season.

They have come through a difficult period - with injuries to some of their more experienced players - with flying colours.

The nine-day break before the Boxing Day trip to Preston will provide valuable breathing space to get some of the walking wounded back towards full fitness - including left-back Charlie Taylor, who limped off against Brentford, and midfielder Liam Bridcutt who made his second substitute appearance after a three month lay-off.

Newcastle and Brighton remain firm favourites to take the automatic promotion places but the second half of the season remains a real dog-fight for the play-off slots.