GARRY MONK praised Leeds United’s mentality and defended his decision to play Pontus Jansson after the defender was hit by a two-match ban following last night’s FA Cup win at Cambridge United.
Leeds reached round four by fighting back from a goal down to beat Shaun Derry’s Cambridge 2-1 but a yellow card shown to Jansson in the first half will see the defender suspended for their forthcoming league games against Derby County and Barnsley.
Jansson was carrying nine bookings ahead of kick-off, one away from a mandatory two-game suspension, and he was punished after appearing to catch Cambridge midfielder Luke Berry with an elbow.
Monk described the caution as “extremely harsh” and a “poor decision” but he is facing a shortage of centre-backs ahead of Derby’s visit to Elland Road on Friday after Liam Cooper suffered a second-half injury and left the Abbey Stadium on crutches.
Monk said he was hopeful that Cooper would recover from an “impact injury” and the United boss insisted he was happy with his decision to risk Jansson, saying: “I was disappointed with the booking in the sense that the referee waved play on at the time. He only pulled it back because the crowd were shouting.
“If you actually watch the replays Pontus has no idea the player is there. His eyes are fixed on the ball and he accidentally caught (Berry). I thought it was an extremely harsh booking.
“We’ve got three established centre-backs at the club so it was a choice and it was a case of making the best of the three.
“The plan was to play Pontus for between 45 and 60 minutes and then give Kyle (Bartley) the rest. I just think it was a poor decision from the ref that puts Pontus out of our next game.”
Monk – a former centre-back – joked that he would “dust his boots off” for the visit of Derby but United’s head coach was pleased to see Leeds recover from a 1-0 half-time deficit last night.
Cambridge, who sit in League Two’s play-off zone, took a 25th-minute lead through Uche Ikpeazu but Stuart Dallas and Alex Mowatt both struck with headers in the space of seven second-half minutes to carry Leeds through to a fourth-round tie against non-league Sutton United or AFC Wimbledon of League 1.
“Cambridge started the first half really really well and we didn’t help ourselves in the sense that we were trying to play our football too much football around our 18-yard box,” Monk said. “It was inviting pressure.
“We spoke at half-time about having the same principles but making sure we played higher up the pitch. We managed to do that. We showed a really good mentality to come through it.
“Good teams find a way to win, they reset after any setbacks and don’t lose any focus on what they’re trying to do. This group have that.”
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