COMEBACK IS ALL IN VAIN AS WHITES FALL SHORT
Monk set for talks over future
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
BEST SHOT: Leeds United’s Kyle Bartley celebrates scoring their second goal and, inset, Pablo Hernandez hits the equaliser