Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn accused his players of lacking desire as they slumped to a third successive defeat in a tepid display against bogey side Cardiff City.
Neither side had much more than pride to play for as they stand in mid-table in the Sky Bet Championship, but the Whites were the ones found wanting in front of their own fans with Cardiff supporters boycotting the game and were jeered off after a 2-1 defeat.
Teenager Kalvin Phillips did score on his home debut, but Leeds’ dreadful record against the Welsh side continued and they have now failed to beat Cardiff in 17 matches stretching right back to 1984.
Sean Morrison took advantage of hesitant home defending to put Cardiff into an early lead but Leeds quickly hit back when young midfielder Phillips calmly finished after Cardiff keeper David Marshall slipped.
United failed to take advantage of their luck as they lived dangerously before Aron Gunnarsson bagged a winner for the visitors in the second half.
Billy Sharp came close to earning an undeserved point for the Whites after coming on as substitute for the out of sorts Mirco Antenucci as he sent a header crashing against the crossbar. Gaetano Berardi then saw a shot saved by Marshall, but Marco Silvestri was the busier of the two keepers and Leeds rarely put their game together.
Redfearn felt his side got what they deserved and reckoned the fans had every right to vent their feelings at the end.
He said: “I thought we were poor.
“We probably had more possession than them, but didn’t really do anything with it.
“I thought our passing was laboured and as the game wore on, it was littered with mistakes and it was difficult to explain really.
“The one thing we have been is tight at the back with (Giuseppe) Bellusci and (Sol) Bamba. They have been rocks at the back and we haven’t made many mistakes.
“But we seemed all at sea. Taking nothing away from Cardiff, I bet they couldn’t believe their luck.
“We talked about being positive and front foot and getting the tempo right and getting up the pitch and playing the level and we started okay. But then for some reason, we took our foot off the gas.
“I thought when we got to 1-1 that we can’t play that bad again in the second half. But it proved me wrong - we did.
“At half-time they needed a rocket from me and they got one. It is nothing personal, but it is important that they understand when I am not happy.
“The thing that was missing more than anything was a desire and the effort needed to get us back in the game. It was a strange performance from us because all the things we stood for during the run that got us out of trouble were missing.
“I was more unhappy with the senior players than anything. The kids give you effort and endeavour. They will make mistakes but you expect others to help them and that wasn’t there.”
Redfearn has a job to do to pick the players up for another home game now on Tuesday against a Norwich City side that are flying as they look to gain one of the two automatic promotion spots.
He added: “If we play like that against Norwich, we will be in trouble. We have got to find some level of consistency again and go and compete and try and get a result.
“It’s a really tough game and they are fighting to get promoted and if we are not playing to our potential, it will be a difficult night.
“It’s a test of character and we will see what we have got under their shirts because it is important for the club and supporters.
“They will stick with it for so long, but they won’t wear that (sort of performance) and I fully agree with them.”
Leeds United 1
Cardiff City 2
(Morrison 14, Gunnarsson 62)
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi (Doukara 86), Murphy, Phillips (Morison 64), Mowatt, C Taylor, Byram, Antenucci (Sharp 64).
Cardiff: Marshall, Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Malone, Ralls, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone (O’Keefe 78), McAleny (Doyle 33), Mason (Harris 70).
Referee: C Kavanagh