Saturday was the darkest of days in the 2016/17 season. One of Leeds United’s worst defeats of the Monk era, coupled with excellent wins for our rivals, leaves play-off hopes dangling by a thread and the Whites most likely on the outside looking in come the 13th of May.
We’re all still thinking about it. Here’s what we’re likely talking about: three takeaways from the 2-0 loss to Burton Albion:
Talking point 1 - Why (oh why) was Chris Wood’s goal disallowed?
It was a poor performance against Burton Albion, simple as that. We didn’t turn up - yet again in April - and did little to claim an essential three points at relegation-battling minnows. Yet, we can feel aggrieved at the officiating that disallowed what looked to be a perfectly legitimate goal from Chris Wood in the first half.
I’ve watched the incident time and again and fail to see where the offence occurred - Chris Wood’s finish on the line was fine, Kyle Bartley could not have won the header across to him more fairly, Roofe wasn’t involved, and the Burton keeper was simply lost and didn’t make the ball.
It really shouldn’t have come to complaining about refereeing decisions, but Leeds find themselves in such dire straits that it has. A 1-0 lead would have changed the entire complexion of the game. Had that decision gone the other way, Leeds might be heading into the final two fixtures with our fate in our hands. A big error with enormous consequences.
Talking point 2 - Start hoping for miracles elsewhere
Saturday was such a total catastrophe that it means that Leeds United’s season has almost certainly ended prematurely. What looked to be a guaranteed spot in the play-offs in early March now looks out of reach - and is now completely out of our hands.
Leeds form since the international break has been so feeble - one win, four hopeless, hapless defeats, one draw - since the international break has ruined the six months of stellar work this team has put in.
Following the events at the tiny Pirelli Stadium whilst simultaneously following Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham registering excellent wins in tough games was a nightmare afternoon. That extreme kind you get as a supporter, maybe once a season, where everything is so crucial that your weekend is ruined and you want the ground to swallow you up.
Following events elsewhere is something we’re going to have to do for a little longer, with a bigger stake than ever before. It’s almost certainly futile, but Leeds remain in touching distance of all four teams above us. Next weekend all four have relatively straightforward ties, but we can but hope for a miracle to keep us fighting on the final day. Next weekend, if you have the heart, keep an eye on Fulham away at city rivals Brentford, Huddersfield away at Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday away to Ipswich, and Reading at home to Wigan.
After the body blow of Saturday, I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving up and already thinking of next season, yet too in that regard there’s interest. It’s a few degrees of separation away, but it might be worth willing on Swansea to stay up in their relegation battle against Hull. Should they get relegated, you’d bet they’d want to keep one of The Championship’s outstanding central defenders - Kyle Bartley has been exceptional this season, and along with Monk, it’s nigh-on unthinkable to think of Leeds without him next season.
Talking point 3 - How on earth can we expect to beat Norwich?
The announcement of the line-up on Saturday afternoon was met with an extremely positive reaction.
Bridcutt missed out, though he has been one of our worst players in this April to forget, and returning was Ronaldo Vieira, who made up an excellent midfield two partnership with Kalvin Phillips in the one good performance of late, the win against Preston. Doukara had been a regular fixture in Leeds better form this season, and Roofe, while erratic against Wolves, had convinced with his display against Preston. Charlie Taylor’s return to full-back should have offered us a little more going forward.
It was a good line-up, and one more than capable of dispatching a side dwindling towards the bottom of the table.
But it didn’t turn up. That’s the most concerning thing. In our previous limp defeats, there have been potential solutions, someone who might make the difference next time, besides possibly Eunan O’Kane, who we might as well reinstate because there really is nothing to lose. Even that wouldn’t be the kind of dynamic, wholesale change that forces a U-turn in Leeds’ form.
Norwich are a good team in decent form (beating Champions-elect Brighton in their most recent fixture, and putting seven past Reading) - far better than the likes of Wolves and Burton that have got the better recently. Leeds only hope of beating them is them somehow hitting the Memory Wipe switch and restoring ourselves to the formidable force of September-March.
Failure to turn up yet again would be unacceptable, especially in front of a sold out crowd at Elland Road’s final match of the season.
Six points from the final two matches and there’s still a chance. MOT.