Stephen Warnock described an “angry” dressing room and said Leeds United were paying the price for “stupid mistakes” after a second-half blunder and a debatable penalty led to a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
Leeds were left to rue their own failings and the award of a contentious, 88th-minute spot-kick as Blackburn fought back from a goal down at Ewood Park to snatch a victory with only 10 men.
United opened the scoring in the first half through Souleymane Doukara and looked comfortable for the best part of an hour but Jordan Rhodes equalised when a collision between Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and defender Liam Cooper presented the striker with a tap-in.
Both Leeds head coach Neil Redfearn and left-back Warnock laid the blame for the 71st-minute concession at Silvestri’s door but Redfearn in particular was angered by the match-winning penalty which Rhodes converted two minutes from the end.
Referee Kevin Wright punished a challenge by Sam Byram on ex-Leeds striker Luke Varney, who Redfearn accused of “simulation”. Warnock claimed later that the Cambridgeshire official was “waiting to give it.”
“There is a bit of anger with the stupid mistakes we made with their first goal,” Warnock said.
“It cost us the game because it put them on the front foot. Sometimes that drags you down. A few heads dropped and we should have reacted a lot better. We knew we had enough in us to score another goal.
“We need to cut out the errors because if they don’t score that first goal, we win the game. I’m confident of that.
“We all know what this league is like. You don’t have to be the best team in the league to get out of it. You have to be organised, resilient and well-drilled. At the moment we are to a certain point but we’re conceding silly goals.”
Silvestri was guilty of dithering over a straightforward clearance, eventually striking it against the body of a retreating Cooper and giving Rhodes clear sight of an empty net.
United’s Italian keeper – a leading performer for much of this season – was guilty of a similar mix-up with Giuseppe Bellusci during Leeds’ 3-1 defeat to Cardiff City at the start of the month.
Warnock said Silvestri should have given Cooper space to hack the ball away himself or advanced quickly from his goalline to avert any danger.
“Everyone knows he made a mistake and he knows it,” Warnock said. “I think we’ll probably speak about it (today). It needs addressing because it’s happened a couple of times now.
“He either stays on his line and makes Coops make a decision or, if he is coming, he comes all the way. It’s as simple as that.
“If he keeps a clean sheet and Coops goes off injured or whatever then so be it. That’s not being nasty to Coops. You’ve got to make a big decision and keep the ball out of the net.”
Warnock, however, said Leeds felt “robbed” after Wright’s decision to penalise Byram for his tackle on Varney. Blackburn had been reduced to 10 men eight minutes earlier, with Tom Cairney dismissed for a second bookable offence, and the penalty came 10 minutes after United striker Mirco Antenucci struck a post.
“Sam doesn’t believe it was a penalty,” Warnock said. “But in and around the box, you know that once you stick a leg out anything can happen. The referee was waiting to give it.
“The referee couldn’t wait to give it and that’s the way the game has gone. We feel a bit robbed.”
Leeds are 16th in the Championship with one win in 10 games, though Redfearn insisted afterwards that United had shown promising signs throughout Saturday’s match.
Warnock, pictured above, said: “We did very well. There were periods in the second half where the game got stretched and we were resilient. But once the goal goes in, it’s a different game suddenly.
“You always worry when you’re in a (league) position like ours so the quicker we get results, the quicker we start climbing the table. Then everyone will be happy.”
Warnock, meanwhile, paid tribute to United’s support after a crowd of 6,839 – the biggest Championship following of the term – made the trip to Lancashire on Saturday.
“We were probably the only club in the country, especially in the Championship, who would bring that many away fans,” the former Liverpool defender said. “It was incredible.”