Uwe Rosler admitted that he and Leeds United’s players were facing a stern test of character and resolve after a 2-1 defeat to Brighton set an unwanted record at Elland Road.
Rosler said his players were going unrewarded for “investing so much” and warned that the situation at Leeds needed to be “handled very carefully” following three straight defeats and a run of form which has dropped United to 18th in the Championship.
Saturday’s result left the club without a home win in seven months and 11 successive matches, the worst run at Elland Road in their 96-year history.
Brighton striker Bobby Zamora struck in the penultimate minute to beat a United side reduced to 10 men after defender Liam Cooper sustained a potentially serious injury at a time when Rosler had already used three subsitutes. Leeds’ head coach said crucial moments, including Cooper’s late departure, had gone against his side but urged them to keep their belief intact ahead of Wednesday’s night game at Fulham.
“I feel a little bit sorry for the players, for the supporters and for the owner (Massimo Cellino),” Rosler said.
“When you invest so much, like my players do day-to-day...they train very hard and there’s a good spirit. They are very willing. And we get paid so little (in results) at this moment in time.
“That has to be handled very carefully now. The last thing we need is the players losing their confidence and belief.
“That’s our job and also the jobs of players by themselves because they have to realise in professional football if you want to have a long career – and we have a lot of young players – there will always be ups and downs. The more you handle the down, the more ups you will have.”
Leeds produced arguably their strongest home performance under Rosler and recovered from Solly March’s early goal to equalise through Coopers first-half header.
Two glaring misses by Chris Wood, however, saw the match remain level until Cooper’s exit allowed Championship leaders Brighton to steal the initiative in the final stages.
Rosler insisted he was happy with the improvement from a tepid 2-0 defeat to Birmingham City before the recent international break, saying: “We went into the game and responded very well. It was a terrific response, exactly what I’d shown in training for the last two weeks. The players put that in place from the first minute.
“Our supporters came a little bit ‘show me what you’re all about’ and I think they saw how the players responded. They got right behind us. All credit to them. They realised that the players gave everything.”
Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale – a lifelong Leeds fan – said United’s display had forced in-form Albion into one of their ‘poorest performances’ of the season.
He said: “I thought that was a good Leeds performance but for me that should be the minimum Leeds performance.
“They played really well, especially the way they came out of the blocks and when they scored their goal you could see the crowd were up.
“People don’t realise the affect the crowd have here on the players.
“Our manager (Chris Hughton) said at half-time ‘don’t let the crowd push them on’. I know myself that that’s what Leeds fans are about. They’re the most passionate people I know.”