Ten-man Leeds United sank to a 3-0 defeat as their bad week ended in poor fashion against Blackburn Rovers at Elland Road.
The controversial sending off of Rudy Austin after 39 minutes proved the key moment of their latest Sky Bet championship game as a game they were edging turned totally against them in the second half.
The lack of fight in the closing stages was worrying, but Leeds once again had cause to be unhappy at the officials who ruined the game as a contest.
With the score at 0-0 and the Whites pressing for a goal from a corner an off the ball incident saw Austin tangle with Blackburn keeper David Raya.
No-one appealed and few saw anything happen, but to the surprise of the players referee Gary Sutton - who looked out of his depth all afternoon - went across to have a chat with his assistant then brandished a red card at Austin.
With 10 men Leeds kept it scoreless until Tom Cairney netted just after the hour mark and the game completely ran away from them from then on and they were lucky not to concede more than the eventual three.
It was different when it was 11 against 11 as the fans showed their support for head coach Neil Redfearn and suspended assistant Steve Thompson and there was a positive response on the pitch with some bright play that was just missing a better final ball.
Charlie Taylor started well on the left and got an early shot in that was easily dealt with by Blackburn’s debutant goalkeeper David Raya after a good set up from Alex Mowatt.
Jordan Rhodes showed his ability at the other end as he did well to get a shot away under pressure and saw the ball hit the crossbar.
Rhodes was involved again in the box when he turned to crash a volley over the bar. But Leeds had their best chance on 24 minutes when Austin met a Taylor cross only to send the ball over.
Gaetano Berardi got forward from left-back to fire a shot straight at Raya, who then made his one tricky save of the day soon after when Sam Byram’s low cross had cannoned off Rovers’ former Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon.
The game was to change after Austin’s shock red card and Blackburn showed more attacking intent in the second half with Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri forced to make his first save to deny Rudy Gestede from close range.
Rhodes then had a shot deflected wide by Sol Bamba while Byram headed over at the other end from a long free-kick.
United’s resistance was finally broken on 62 minutes when Giuseppe Bellusci allowed Gestede to get free and his low cross was only cleared as far as Cairney, who fired home from the edge of the box.
Ben Marshall hit the crossbar with a shot from outside the box and it looked like Leeds were falling part as they conceded a second goal on 69 minutes, Rhodes being left with a free header and an easy task to add to his goal tally.
There was no sign of a United comeback and Blackburn made it 3-0 when another poor attempted challenge by Bellusci allowed Cairney to waltz clear and give Jay Spearing a tap-in.
Rhodes could have inflicted more pain on the hosts, but his injury-time effort rattled the woodwork.
Head coach Redfearn was in no doubt that the sending off had been the big turning point and felt his side had been hard done to.
He said: “The sending off changed the game.
“I didn’t see it in real time, but I’ve looked at it now and it’s a poor decision.
“I don’t think it was a sending off. There was a bit of pushing and shoving and Rudy’s pushed him with his forearm in his chest.
“The referee’s not even seen it and I would have thought a booking for each and get on with it would have been the better thing. I honestly think he’s unlucky. It’s really soft.
“I thought we were the better side by a mile in the first half, but we didn’t have that cutting edge. We were a little bit safe.
“The second half was different. We stayed in the game, but it’s tough once they scored and we’re chasing the game.”
Leeds United 0
Blackburn Rovers 3
(Cairney 62, Rhodes 69, Spearing 80)
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton (Antenucci 66), Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi (Cooper 66), Byram, Murphy, Mowatt, Austin (sent-off 39), Taylor, Morison (Sharp 86).
Blackburn: Raya, Henley (Taylor 59), Baptiste, Kilgallon, Olsson, Cairney, Spearing, Williamson, Marshall, Gestede (Brown 64, O’Sullivan 81), Rhodes.
Referee: Gary Sutton