Brian McDermott warned that a top-six finish would be an ambitious target for Leeds United’s existing squad after a lethal Matt Derbyshire goal left him looking enviously at Nottingham Forest’s resources.
McDermott gave credit to his side for their form in the first half of the Championship season but said the range of players on offer to Forest manager Billy Davies was a key factor during Leeds’ 2-1 defeat at the City Ground yesterday.
Derbyshire won an eventful game with a sublime shot from 20 yards, scored in the 83rd minute and a matter of seconds after Ross McCormack scored an equaliser for a United team who McDermott described as “leggy”.
Forest signed Derbyshire from Olympiakos in 2011, one of a number of expensive transfers completed by them in the past two years, and Davies was able to call him up from the bench towards the end of yesterday’s clash.
The Forest boss is planning to make further signings in January and said after their win over Leeds that “this is the time when people avoid relegation, when they get promotion and when they set themselves up for the rest of the season.”
The three substitutes used by McDermott – Sam Byram, Dominic Poleon and recent recruit Gboly Ariyibi – had an average age of 19 and his side found no answer to Derbyshire’s late finish.
“It was a great strike and that’s the quality they’ve got,” McDermott said.
“They’ve spent a lot of money over the years.
“Forest are trying to get out of the division and that’s where they’re at.
“I expect them to be right up there with the spending power they have.
“My lads have done fantastically well for me and we’re seventh in the league.
“We’ve got results and we’re in an okay position.
“But we know we need to add to what we’ve got next month.”
McDermott is slowly nearing the end of his first year in charge of Leeds having taken over from former boss Neil Warnock in April with United in relegation trouble.
“I have never said there is any quick fix,” McDermott said.
“I’ve always said it will take time. And I think the fans appreciate that. The majority at least.
“We’re trying to get there as quickly as we can.
“There’s been a lot of improvement at the club, both on and off the pitch. Vast improvement.
“We’ve 23 games to go but I think it’s a tall order to keep this going with the current squad. We need a bit of help, there’s no doubt about that.”
McCormack’s 82nd-minute goal – his 18th of the season –looked to have snatched a point for after Greg Halford scored with a first-half header.
United, who relied on goalkeeper Paddy Kenny to see out the game with an ankle injury suffered in the opening 20 seconds, struggled to find their rhythm in Nottingham and did not find a way to trouble Forest until midway through the second half.
McDermott, however, bemoaned a fixture list which forced his squad to contest two away games in three days after Christmas while both of their opponents – Blackpool and Forest – appeared twice at home.
“At this time of the season it’s an advantage to play at home on both Boxing Day and December 29,” he said.
“I wish we had been able to do that. To me, it’s a huge advantage.”