Rotherham United v Leeds United: Whites preparing for life without Jansson

Pontus Jansson.
Pontus Jansson.
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Garry Monk will waste no time dwelling on the events of Sunday or the penalty call which vexed him but the consequences of that decision went further than a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle. The yellow card shown to Pontus Jansson for dissent as Leeds United vented at referee Graham Scott was a extra price the club’s head coach could have done without.

Jansson led the protests after Scott waved away an appeal with Newcastle leading 1-0 and facing a wave of pressure in the closing minutes of the first half. The official ignored a cross from Ronaldo Vieira which struck the arm of Newcastle midfielder Jack Colback and waved a yellow card at Jansson after the Swede ran to confront him on the edge of the box.

Liam Cooper.

Liam Cooper.

The centre-back’s booking was his fifth of the season, taking him over the Football Association’s threshold for an automatic one-game ban just 10 days before the governing body was due to wipe the slate clean. Jansson will serve his suspension when Leeds visit Rotherham United on Saturday, the first Championship game he has missed since his league debut against Huddersfield Town in September.

Monk had feared that Jansson, the hugely popular and charismatic defender signed on loan from Torino in August, had put himself in harm’s way by incurring a “cheap” caution at Norwich City two weeks ago. Jansson scored his first goal for United at Carrow Road and reacted by jumping into the away end, taking his tally of yellow cards to four.

“It’s risky,” Monk said at the end of that game, carefully avoiding excessive criticism of anyone after a dramatic and valuable 3-2 win. “Cheap yellow cards can cause you problems in games.”

Jansson’s ban this weekend will make room for Liam Cooper, the club’s vice-captain who has started only three league games all season. The 25-year-old – a regular last term – has been elbowed out by the rock-solid partnership of Jansson and Kyle Bartley but Bartley expects the change of personnel to be seamless as Leeds migrate from a game against the Championship’s leaders to a meeting with the division’s bottom club.

“Coops has done well in every single game he’s played and nothing changes,” Bartley said. “He’ll come in and I’m sure he’ll give a great performance.”

Bartley, who is captaining Leeds while Liam Bridcutt recovers from a fractured foot, tried in vain to keep Jansson away from Scott as the Sweden international argued against the referee’s decision to give Colback the benefit of the doubt.

“It was a little bit silly of him but he plays with a lot of emotion,” Bartley said. “I think we all know he wears his heart on his sleeve and you can’t take that away from him. It’s part of his game.

“People get suspended and that’s why we’ve got a squad. Coops has been fantastic and it’s unfortunate that he’s sitting on the bench at the moment. He’ll get a chance to prove how good he is and I’m sure he will.”

Cooper’s last extended league appearance came as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Bristol City in late September. Monk sent him on as a half-time replacement after Jansson pulled a hamstring and City scored within 14 minutes, settling a tight match with a goal from captain Marlon Pack.

Cooper, though, has the experience of 80 games for Leeds behind him and Monk’s side will be hosted on Saturday by a Rotherham side who are in deep trouble, lodged at the bottom of the table with seven points. Speaking after the loss to Newcastle, a result which left Leeds in seventh and a point behind the play-offs, Bartley said: “We spoke at the start of the season about not losing two games in a row. We’ll go there full of confidence because this has been a great spell for us.”

Monk, however, appears doubtful of having Pablo Hernandez available for the trip to Rotherham after a hamstring strain forced the Spaniard to miss the defeat to Newcastle.

Hernandez was hurt in the closing stages of Leeds’ win over Norwich before the international break and failed to recover in time to play on Sunday. United are still to establish the full extent of the damage but Monk suggested that Hernandez could be facing another two weeks on the sidelines. Bridcutt will not be fit for the clash with Rotherham either.

“We’ll have a good look at him (Hernandez) this week but you have to be careful with hamstring injuries,” Monk said. “You don’t want to rush them and there’s no point because you can lose players for longer periods. It looks unlikely that he’ll be back for a week or 10 days yet, maybe a couple of weeks. We’ll have to see.”

Monk echoed Bartley’s comments by calling for a convincing reaction from his squad when they face Rotherham in another televised fixture.

“Good teams react,” the United boss said. “That’s my message to the players. We’ve done it in the past when we’ve suffered a negative result. You have to bounce straight back and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.

“We’re still in a fantastic position in the league, we’re competing and the attitude and spirit is there.

“We’ll have games where it goes great for us and days where we don’t get the right result but the group know what’s expected of them.

“We set a high standards and we’re in a fantastic position. We just have to keep going the way we are.”

Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen. 
(Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe)

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