COME­BACK IS ALL IN VAIN AS WHITES FALL SHORT

Monk set for talks over fu­ture

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

LEEDS’ play-off dreams died in a blaze of glory as Garry Monk’s men fell ag­o­nis­ingly short of a stir­ring come­back.

Trail­ing 3-0 with other re­sults go­ing against them, the Whites re­bounded mag­nif­i­cently as goals from Chris Wood, Kyle Bart­ley and Pablo Her­nan­dez sparked ten min­utes of may­hem.

A red card for winger Steven Nai­smith then left Norwich with ten men, but Bart­ley and Wood both spurned late chances as the vis­i­tors clung on.

Seem­ingly as­sured of a top-six place at the start of April, a dis­as­trous run of five points from 21 means Leeds now need vic­tory on the fi­nal day and an im­prob­a­ble 13-goal swing to over­haul Ful­ham, mean­ing their sea­son is ef­fec­tively over.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to be crit­i­cal,” said a philo­soph­i­cal Monk. “Th­ese play­ers have done in­cred­i­bly well and im­proved so much in a short space of time. But the re­al­ity is that the ma­jor­ity of them aren’t quite ready for this.

“There are a lot of young play­ers in there that have never been in this sit­u­a­tion. Some are play­ing their first full sea­son, or their first at this level. For them, it’s just that bit too soon.”

Monk in­sisted his young squad will come back stronger, but re­fused to con­firm whether he

would stick around to guide them. The 38-year-old is widely cred­ited with sta­bil­is­ing the club after three years of chaos un­der owner Mas­simo Cellino. Kyle Bart­ley, the de­fender on loan from Swansea, even said after the match that he wouldn’t re­turn un­less Monk re­mained.

But Monk, who is yet to be ap­proached by Cellino about ex­tend­ing his one-year deal, will de­mand sig­nif­i­cant trans­fer funds be­fore sign­ing up.

“The club have said when they want to speak and I have to re­spect that,” he added. “I know ex­actly how I would take the squad for­ward. The board will have their views as well. It will be a case of us both agree­ing on the right way to go for­ward.”

Would he be happy to stay if con­di­tion are met? “Of course,” he said. “But that will all be part of the dis­cus­sions. We need a stronger squad. The re­cruit­ment and in­vest­ment has to be right.”

The weak­nesses Monk spoke of, both in ex­pe­ri­ence and abil­ity, were bru­tally ex­posed in a ner­vous, hes­i­tant first half.

Hav­ing fallen be­hind to Nai­smith’s 30-yard mis­sile, Leeds crum­bled un­der an at­tack­ing on­slaught that saw Nel­son Oliveira prod home Josh Mur­phy’s cross be­fore miss­ing a sit­ter sec­onds later.

With Alex Pritchard im­pe­ri­ous in mid­field, the Ca­naries con­tin­ued to flood for­ward and got their re­ward when Oliveira curled past Rob Green from the edge of the box.

Had the whis­tle blown then, El­land Road would have emp­tied. “And I wouldn’t have blamed them,” added Monk.

But with Norwich day­dream­ing, Chris Wood nod­ded home and the come­back was on. Four min­utes after the break, a goal straight out of the 1950s saw Bart­ley barge ball, man and keeper John Ruddy over the line to make it 3-2.

Her­nan­dez then whipped home a pearler be­fore Green blocked Oliveira, one of sev­eral stun­ning saves from the ever­green stop­per. El­land Road rocked, Leeds rolled for­ward.

Nai­smith’s reck­les lunge on Ronaldo Vieira only in­creased the vol­ume, but when Bart­ley flicked wide and Wood failed to con­nect with a loose ball, the game was up. “Garry has done a fan­tas­tic job and they’ll be even stronger next sea­son,” said Norwich care­taker Alan Irvine. “They’ll def­i­nitely be con­tenders.

“Will we? Only if we are more ruth­less. For 45 min­utes we were out­stand­ing. In the 46th minute we were sloppy and un­pro­fes­sional. We didn’t get back in our po­si­tions and that is un­ac­cept­able.

“I was ex­tremely an­gry and I told the play­ers in no un­cer­tain terms. We spoiled an out­stand­ing per­for­mance with a minute of un­pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

RIGHT ON TAR­GET: Steven Nai­smith lets fly to open the scor­ing for Norwich

PICTURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

BEST SHOT: Leeds United’s Kyle Bart­ley cel­e­brates scor­ing their sec­ond goal and, in­set, Pablo Her­nan­dez hits the equaliser

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