Leeds United reaction betrays serious need on weird Elland Road final day - Graham Smyth's Verdict

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Leeds United and Daniel Farke's first promotion bullet is gone. It missed. The play-offs put another in the chamber, locked and loaded. The question is whether or not they still have it in them to pull the trigger.

For months the last game of the season at home to Southampton had the potential to be massive, season-defining even. By the time it arrived it held no more than a smidgen of potential for the miraculous. Even for the most optimistic of Whites, the potential of underwhelm was overwhelming. Prayers were being said in Tokyo, while at Elland Road itself the atmosphere was weird. When only a miracle would do and when the worst case scenario was still a chance at glory, it was understandable that no one quite knew what to think or feel. Whites all over the world trained one eye on events in Leeds and the other on Portman Road, just in case. In the end neither eye got so much of a glimpse of what it wanted, Southampton's relatively comfortable 2-1 win and Ipswich's 2-0 canter against Huddersfield leaving Leeds in third place, Norwich-bound for the play-offs.

It was always going to be a weird day for club captain Liam Cooper. Potentially his last. A contract that runs out this summer and scant involvement this season have combined to write on the wall. His writing, in the matchday programme, called for perspective, no matter what happened between 12.30pm and 2.30pm. The 90 points earned prior to kick-off, from a starting position of relative chaos, and two bites at promotion still being possible, were situations the vast majority of fans would have accepted amid the transfer madness of the summer and a slow start to the campaign.

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But the bigger picture, one Farke was still keen to paint at full-time, is in danger of being obscured. Leeds have stalled, winning just once in six. They're decelerating into the play-offs rather than hitting them at full pelt. And the urgency in the reception they received on a weary lap of honour on Saturday afternoon reflected that. This is a team that is down, not out but in serious need of a pick-me-up. The fans were trying their best and Farke vowed to take over from them this week as they prepare for Norwich.

His post-game analysis attempted to carve out a different space in which this performance could be viewed. They had to go for it, in a way they would not had it not been a win-or-bust scenario, against a team that could take full advantage of the resulting space and transitional opportunities. In short, Leeds met last-day chaos with chaos, not the sensible control they have sought to exert all season. The goal was to get one, early, to put pressure on Ipswich.

And as the South Stand determined to enjoy themselves, batting around beach balls and providing a soundtrack to match the intensity Leeds required, players like Ilia Gruev responded in kind. He and others pressed in a way they failed to against Queens Park Rangers. He and others tackled in a way that put Leeds on the front foot. On the right hand side, Sam Byram and Willy Gnonto had it all working, leading to a pair of early corners. Georginio Rutter came over to get involved and won a free-kick level with the penalty spot that Junior Firpo curled for goal, Alex McCarthy palming over.

Then the chaos swung back the other way. Leeds half cleared a corner, a clutch of players jogged out of the penalty area and forgot all about the three unmarked Saints players to their left. Che Adams shrugged off Glen Kamara and crossed for one of those unmarked players, Adam Armstrong, to stroke past Illan Meslier. There's throwing caution to the wind and there's throwing it away.

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Leeds replied instantly, more good work from Byram and Gnonto leading to a Joel Piroe shot that gave McCarthy no chance, and the life support machine spluttered back into action. A West Stand steward wrestled fans for a rubber inflatable ring, a goal went in for Ipswich and Firpo scrambled the ball out of his own goalmouth, centimetres from danger. When he was completely undone by Kyle Walker-Peters on the byline a few moments later and Will Smallbone strode onto the resulting cross to tuck in a second, hope flatlined once again. Once and for all, really.

Elland Road aired its frustration as Crysencio Summerville was forced away from goal and Gnonto drove a shot across the face and wide. Referee Matthew Donohue was not especially helping the mood. His soft yellows for Gnonto and Ryan Manning left him unwilling to book the latter for arriving late to trip the former on the touchline. He failed to book Byram for a nasty one, or Armstrong for felling Byram. He and his assistants failed to spot a penalty for Leeds. The half-time boos were for his ears.

The second half at Elland Road was, once Ipswich doubled their lead, an exercise in futility. The atmosphere flattened, Rutter's confidence and energy abandoned him entirely and he was one of three withdrawn just after the hour mark. It felt more like Farke recognising it had gone, than going for it.

With the game more and more resembling a done deal the only danger that existed was to the retention of 11 players for either side. Firpo could have gone for two cautionable offences after a yellow for dissent. Summerville was left in a heap by Kamaldeen Sulemana, Piroe exacted revenge on Joe Rothwell and the Saints man got up to shove his assailant to the deck. Donohue's full-time whistle evaporated into another chorus of boos. But then something happened that Farke did not expect. As he and his players walked around the ground generous applause from those who remained gave way to a rousing, resounding reception. The body language in the stands said belief. That of the players said sorry.

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There can be no time for feeling sorry now, though. Every drop of energy will be required to start moving forward again this week in training, because Leeds cannot take this form and this mood into what Farke calls a brand new competition. There is no escaping the feeling that, having so brilliantly fought their way back into the automatic promotion race, the Whites have shot themselves in the foot over the last few weeks. The big guns, like Summerville and Rutter, have fallen silent too often of late. Others, like Patrick Bamford and Daniel James, have been decommissioned by injury at exactly the wrong time. The attack firing blanks, the midfield and defence riddled with holes. Rust, where once there was a well-oiled machine. But that 90-point haul has presented them with a two-game shootout. Farke has to get them firing again in the last chance saloon.

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