An unexpected play-off tilt came “too soon” for Leeds, according to manager Garry Monk after their 3-3 draw with Norwich.
Needing a win to keep play-off hopes alive without relying on never-seen-before collapses, Leeds had a first-half meltdown more reminiscent of their last five seasons in the Championship than this.
Steven Naismith and Nelson Oliveira (two) put Norwich 3-0 up with 44 minutes gone.
Salvation came in the form of Norwich’s complacency. Not back in shape for the kick-off, they conceded before the whistle as Chris Wood scored his 29th of the season.
Kyle Bartley then turned hope into belief, with Pablo Hernandez giving them a real chance of an improbable win.
Time ran out, though, leaving Leeds’ players, largely assembled at short notice after Monk’s appointment last summer, in a heap.
“This typifies the period we’ve been in over the last eight games,” Monk said, his side having won just two of those matches.
“It’s difficult to be critical of the group as we’ve said for so long how much they’ve given to the club.”
Monk took over at Leeds after a long period of instability on and off the field and has earned the unequivocal backing of the club’s fans – something not afforded to a United boss for some time.
“The reality is, the majority of the group were not quite ready for this situation,” Monk said. “They were not ready. And that’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact.”
For Monk, the burning question now is over his future.
As Leeds gave him a chance after his Swansea sacking, he gave Leeds a chance after their torrid treatment of previous incumbents.
With Massimo Cellino’s ownership now at 50 per cent and possibly lower this summer, Leeds have said Monk’s future – which now has just a 12-month option left – will be discussed in June.
Captain Kyle Bartley – himself on loan – has said how important it is for Leeds to keep Monk, but talks remain delayed.
“I have one more game left, I’ll be focused on that. The club have said when they want to speak, I have to respect that,” Monk said.
“Even when that comes, it’s us both agreeing on how we take this forward. I have my views and the club will have theirs. I have another game to go.”