GARRY MONK said frustration over Saturday’s defeat at Barnsley was a mark of the quality of Leeds United’s season as he backed his players to pass a “test of character and mentality” against Nottingham Forest tonight.
United lost for only the third time in 15 league matches at Oakwell, halting their rise towards the Championship’s top two, and Monk insisted the result should not hamper the club’s confidence ahead of a meeting with managerless Forest at Elland Road.
Monk’s squad have not suffered back-to-back defeats since losing to Forest and Huddersfield Town either side of the season’s first international break in August and September and a victory tonight would move Leeds back to third in the table.
Monk admitted he understood close scrutiny of the performance of his team at Oakwell, where three quick goals either side of half-time allowed Barnsley to claim a 3-2 win. United’s head coach said the result “doesn’t sit well with us” but called for perspective with Leeds still in control of a play-off position.
“We had a disappointment at the weekend and that doesn’t sit well with us,” Monk said. “We spoke about it in pre-season and one of the things we discussed was bouncing back from defeat or a negative result.
“We’ve managed to do that already this season, apart from once which was very early on. Any time since then when we’ve lost a game we’ve bounced back in the next performance. That’s vitally important. This is one of those situations where we have to show what a good team we are.
“Because we’ve been performing at such a high level, anything below it seems indifferent. People think ‘is there something wrong, what happened there?’ That’s just because of the level of performance we’ve been getting. When it doesn’t happen there can be frustration and disappointment but no-one feels that more than the players, myself and my staff.
“Football doesn’t always allow you to have it your own way. Negatives do come along but we’ve been doing very well and improving all the time. These situations are where you get a test of character and a test of mentality. We’ve been very strong with that.”
Monk will be aided this evening by the return of centre-back Pontus Jansson after suspension and winger Hadi Sacko from a minor knee injury. Defender Charlie Taylor and Liam Cooper are still missing with Achilles and leg injuries respectively but Cooper is due to train tomorrow.
Jansson’s two-match ban removed a reliable fixture from Monk’s backline and Leeds’ defeat at Barnsley saw three goals conceded in a single game for the first time since United’s 3-1 loss to Forest at the City Ground in August.
Monk said: “Pontus has done well for us. Having him back is a boost for everyone. He comes back into the squad and at this stage you need all your players available, to give you the best option and the best chance.
“Hadi’s back involved, Charlie’s still out and Coops won’t be ready but he should be back in training on Thursday. We’ve had a few injuries where we’ve had to rejig but the players are giving 100 per cent and trying their hardest. We’ve had that disappointment but we’ll take it on the chin. We want to try and make amends.”
Forest, who sit three places above the relegation zone, sacked head coach Philippe Montanier last week and are in the hands of caretaker Gary Brazil.
Brazil’s first match ended in an important 1-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday and Monk said: “Gary’s come in, had that one game and they got a great result. He changed a few things and that’s something for us to assess and be aware of.”