Leeds United captain Liam Cooper admitted to a “sense of deflation” over Friday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa but insisted the squad’s recent problems were behind them after another positive result.
Cooper was disappointed to see a win over fifth-placed Villa slip away during the second half, claiming Leeds were “the better team for a long duration” at Elland Road, but the defender took confidence from United’s resistance against strong Villa pressure late on.
Thomas Christiansen’s side, who are five points behind the Championship’s play-off places after the weekend’s matches, have regained some form after arresting a damaging sequence of seven defeats from nine matches.
Leeds were on course for a third victory in four following Pontus Jansson’s first-half header on Friday night but Villa substitute Henri Lansbury equalised with a long-range finish 18 minutes from time as Steve Bruce’s side fought back after half-time.
Lansbury fired in off Felix Wiedwald’s right-hand post after the ball sprung out of a challenge between Jansson and Neil Taylor outside United’s box.
The second half had shades of October’s 2-1 defeat to Derby County, a match in which Derby took advantage of a Leeds side who ran out of energy late on, but Cooper was encouraged by the sight of United holding out to claim a draw.
“There was definitely a sense of deflation after the final whistle,” he said. “I felt we were the better team for a long duration of the game.
“We all know there’ll be times in games when the opposition get on top but I felt we handled it well and the goal was a little bit lucky on their part. It was a good tackle in the middle of the park but the ball fell to their lad. It hit the post and went in, which is why we felt a bit deflated.
“But two or three weeks ago that was probably a game we would have lost so we can be pleased about coming a long way in that time. Seven points from the last 12 is good form. We have to keep it going.”
Villa went into the clash at Elland Road on the back of three straight wins but were outplayed before the interval as Leeds dominated from the outset.
“In the first half our energy and tempo was great,” Cooper said. “Right from the first minute we were up for it. That’s one of the hardest things in this league – getting to those levels when you’re playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday so many times – but over the last few games I feel we’ve done that.”
Leeds’ past four games involved meetings with Villa, Middlesbrough and league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers but the club will play five sides in the Championship’s bottom nine in their next six fixtures.
Queens Park Rangers, who host United this Saturday, were beaten 1-0 at Preston North End over the weekend and finished with nine men after Jamie Mackie and Alex Baptiste were shown red cards. Both players will be suspended for United’s visit to West London.
“We know if we’re on it and compete to the best of our ability, we can beat anyone in this league,” Cooper said.
“The key is being on it from the first minute. If you don’t do that in the Championship you get found out.
“But I feel we’ve clicked in the last few games. We’re starting games with a good tempo.”