Garry Monk said Leeds United’s frustration with a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa showed “how far we’ve come” after a controversial penalty denied his side victory.
Leeds were held in Birmingham after Liam Cooper’s handball gave Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia the chance to steal a point with an 86th-minute strike.
Villa’s penalty was given despite referee Roger East first awarding Leeds a free-kick after Cooper – a replacement for the injured Kyle Bartley – punched away a cross into United’s box.
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The official consulted with one of his assistants before reversing his decision amid strong protests from Villa’s players.
United had taken the lead at Villa Park through Pontus Jansson’s 53rd-minute header and twice hit the crossbar as Monk’s in-form side threatened to inflict Villa’s first home defeat of the season.
Monk said his players were “aggrieved” by the penalty call but admitted their failure to kill Villa off with the score at 1-0 had been equally costly.
Leeds were on the verge of climbing to third in the Championship until Kodjia’s equaliser but the club finished the evening in fourth place.
Monk said: “In the second half we were aggressive, playing front-foot football. That’s what we’ve been doing, that’s what we’re here for and that’s what we’re trying to build at the club. The players delivered a fantastic performance.
“We got the goal but in the period after that we had two or three crucial chances and you know as well as me that you have to take them. If we’d taken one of them we’d have won the game.
“I haven’t seen (the penalty). I don’t find there’s any point in speaking to officials after games.
“There’s nothing I can do, there’s nothing my team can do and there’s no point dwelling on it. The players felt aggrieved but we felt more aggrieved that we hadn’t put the game to bed. We have to move on.
“It shows how far we’ve come that we’re disappointed with a draw against a team who’ve got a fantastic record at home. We feel that they should have had their first defeat tonight. But we take a point. My team deserve massive credit.”
Leeds maintained a seven-point advantage over Villa who have been fighting to reach the top six since Bruce replaced Roberto Di Matteo as manager.
Bruce praised Monk’s side, saying: “They’re the best Leeds team I’ve seen in a few years. They’re confident and they’re playing well.
“Are they serious contenders to be there or thereabouts? Yes.”