Simon Grayson echoed chairman Ken Bates’ call to raise standards at Elland Road after Leeds United went down 1-0 to Reading.
Leeds keeper Andy Lonergan, back after injury, was beaten inside two minutes by Reading’s Wales international Simon Church, whose two goals sank West Ham a week earlier.
No-one picked up Church’s run as he latched on to a long ball down the right and neatly lobbed Lonergan from just outside the six-yard box to earn Reading their first league win at Elland Road.
Chairman Bates, who endured spasmodic shouts of “Bates out”, threw down the promotion gauntlet before the game when he wrote in his programme notes: “This year is the ultimate challenge for Simon, his staff and, just as importantly, the players.
“For those whose ambition is to play in the Premier League, well ... get us there! For those who are seeking a substantial pay rise, well, get us to the Premier League and we can afford it.”
The Yorkshiremen, though, were clearly second best, Jobi McAnuff and Kaspars Gorkss missing opportunities to increase the Royals’ lead.
Grayson made a triple substitution in the 65th minute, Andy Keogh, Lloyd Sam and Mika Vayrynen replacing Ross McCormack, Michael Brown and Adam Clayton, but it made little difference and Leeds have now won only two of their last seven home games.
The manager, who completes three years in charge next Friday, said: “Too many of our players have been below par over the last couple of games. We are still in a good position with half the season to go but as individuals we have to raise the bar.
“We can’t give away early goals like we did today and expect to win football matches. The players have to accept responsibility.
“Everybody wants to get promoted but you can’t just expect to turn up, get your wage and think ‘if we win today, happy days, but if we don’t we are not particularly bothered’. You have to earn your money.
“That is what the chairman, supporters and myself demand from the players every week. If they don’t want to do that, other players will have to come in but I have a belief that the ones we have, with one or two additions, will keep us around where we want to be.”
Reading manager Brian McDermott, who completed two years at the helm on Friday, saw his side climb into seventh place, now just two points behind their opponents.
He said: “It was a very satisfying performance. We might have been two or three goals up and in the second half we were very resilient.
“It was a good start and Simon Church showed excellent finishing for the goal. Everyone has come up to the mark today and this is never an easy place to come.”