IT is hard to believe but if Leeds United beat Brentford at Elland Road on Sunday they will have a better Premier League points haul than at the equivalent time last season.

Victory against the Bees would give them 18 points from 15 games – one more than the 2020-21 season when they were lauded for their free-flowing expansive football.

That has not been the case this campaign as injuries to key players have seen Leeds having to battle and scrap for every point while not being anywhere near their best.

One constant has remained though, team spirit.

That fighting quality was rewarded in Tuesday night’s injury-time penalty win against Crystal Palace at an ecstatic Elland Road.

The Whites went into the high-pressure game just above the relegation zone on the back of a poor display in a fortunate 0-0 draw at Brighton. They knew anything less than a win would turn the screw on their season’s prospects still further.

United set off like a train, pressing high with intensity, without creating a clear opening. Palace, a much more purposeful attacking unit under Patrick Vieira than his predecessor Roy Hodgson, had their moments too on the break.

As the rain lashed down and the wind whipped up, so did the tackles with referee Kevin Friend dishing out yellow cards as a succession of free-kicks broke up the flow of play.

Neither side managed an effort on target in the opening half but eight minutes into the second period the impressive Dan James sent in a cross which substitute Rodrigo failed to convert.

In a game of few chances, it was a missed opportunity which the Whites should have received punishment.

Shortly after coming off the bench an unmarked Christian Benteke inexplicably headed wide from close range then minutes later jabbed the ball goalwards, Illan Meslier just grabbing the ball before it crossed the line.

Leeds continued to push, Palace continued to break, but the contest seemed destined to end goal-less United got a helping hand with penalty drama deep into five minutes additional time, the ball from a corner striking defender Marc Guehi’s raised arm.

After confirming what VAR had seen, Friend pointed to the spot and up stepped Raphinha, who confidently checked his run up before rolling the ball past Vicente Guaita for his sixth goal of the season.

“Raphinha’s very important and to score that goal he needed a lot of character, personality and courage. He got us the three points,” said Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa.

“We haven’t taken many points so far this season. Every game we see as an opportunity to balance this out.”

Scoring has been a problem for Leeds this campaign – just 13 Premier League goals.

After a bright cameo as substitute at Brighton, Tyler Roberts was given a rare start. Although he rarely looked like scoring, he ran and harried well, Bielsa resisting the temptation to throw on young Joe Geldhardt as a replacement.

Sunday’s showdown with Brentford may be too early for striker Patrick Bamford or defender Luke Ayling to return after being out since September, but the Leeds chief looks as though he may be without Pascal Struijk who was replaced at half-time against Palace because of injury.