Leeds United v QPR: Evans ponders Peppe’s place

Have your say

Steve Evans defended himself and Leeds United’s players against what he said were “overly high criticism levels” as he focused on “settling everything down” with a win over Queens Park Rangers tonight.

Steve Evans defended himself and Leeds United’s players against what he said were “overly high criticism levels” as he focused on “settling everything down” with a win over Queens Park Rangers tonight.

Giuseppe Bellusci.

Giuseppe Bellusci.

The United head coach claimed attacks on him and his squad following back-to-back losses to Huddersfield Town and Rotherham United had been over the top and insisted he was still to decide whether to drop Giuseppe Bellusci on the back of his costly blunder at Rotherham.

Bellusci finished Saturday’s derby at the New York Stadium in goal after his attempt to clear a cross with an overhead kick on 89 minutes led first-choice keeper Marco Silvestri to concede a penalty and incur a red card. Silvestri will serve a one-match suspension against QPR this evening, bringing 19-year-old Bailey Peacock-Farrell into Evans’ starting line-up, but Evans said Bellusci’s mistake had a soured a performance in which the centre-back “hardly put a foot wrong”.

The Leeds boss, whose future in the head coach’s job is highly uncertain with his contract due to expire in June and owner Massimo Cellino yet to hand him an extension, is under renewed pressure after a 2-1 loss at Rotherham and a 4-1 defeat to Huddersfield brought an end a run of three straight league wins.

Evans’ target of a top-10 finish in the Championship has slipped away and

Leeds fell to 14th in the table after their visit to Rotherham, nine points behind Preston North End in 10th.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s QPR come to Elland Road in 11th place and out of the running for the play-offs after losing to Middlesbrough last Friday.

Evans said: “We made a shocking error at the end against Rotherham and everyone knows that. But for that we come away with a point and it’s a game we should have won when you look at the stats.

“Against Huddersfield we had a bad 45 minutes - all of us. I got my substitution wrong by putting (Lewis) Cook on and changing the shape of our midfield, letting Huddersfield get at us. A lot of us had a bad second half.

“But one bad half and one mistake at Rotherham seems to have obliterated the three really good results. No-one wants to talk about that. People are entitled to opinions, I’d never deny that, and I’m willing to accept criticism but it’s not so normal at Leeds. Criticism level tend to be overly high.

“We need to get back to winning ways and a win against QPR settles everything down again. That’s all we’re thinking about.”

Evans kept faith with a centre-back pairing of Bellusci and Sol Bamba at Rotherham, despite the pair struggling and shipping four goals in Leeds’ previous clash with Huddersfield.

Bellusci’s misjudgement at Rotherham could bring Liam Cooper back into the team tonight but Evans said he would wait until this afternoon before naming his team - and insisted he would think carefully before dropping Bellusci.

“I spoke to an assistant manager of another club who watched the game and his view was that until the mistake, Bellusci hardly put a foot wrong all day,” Evans said. “He’s been good for us recently, I don’t think anyone can deny that.

“I thought Sol Bamba was close to his best and did a good job on Leon Best so I’m not going to be overly critical. The fact is that Bellusci committed a cardinal sin at the end and he knows that. He came into the dressing room afterwards and the lads accepted an apology from him.

“But obviously I have to think about that, and about the fact that we’ve got Liam Cooper. I’ll sit down with my staff at lunchtime, talk it through and pick a team.”

Robert Huth.

Premier League retained list: Which players could Leeds United sign?