FORMER Leeds United striker Noel Whelan believes Thursday night’s exit from the Capital One Cup could be a blessing in disguise admitting: “we never would have had a strong enough squad to win it.”
United crashed out of the competition at the first hurdle with a gut-wrenching 4-2 loss on penalties at Doncaster Rovers who looked in trouble after trailing 1-0 to an early Lewis Cook opener.
Yet Leeds then hit the self destruct button with Cook given his marching orders for a late tackle before Scott Wootton conceded a penalty that was converted by Andy Williams.
Annoyingly, United still held Doncaster at bay for the remainder of the 90 minutes – and even went close to winning the tie through Mirco Antenucci in extra-time – only to exit the competition on spot-kicks after Sam Byram and Chris Wood ballooned penalties over the bar.
Leeds must now dust themselves down quickly in time for Sunday’s Championship clash at Reading – where Cook will begin a three-match ban – but Whelan can see a positive side to being booted out of the Capital One Cup.
Whelan told the YEP: “I think it’s more fitness wise and the mental side of things that will be draining for them.
“Once you get to extra-time and penalties you want to go on and win it. But it’s probably a distraction we don’t need to be quite honest and we never would have had a strong enough squad to win it.
“The main aim this season is the Championship and getting as close to promotion as possible.
“If it’s not automatic then I think we do have the squad to at least be in and around the play-offs come the end of the season if we keep them fit.
“The cup, to me, is not a priority. I think the lads just need to brush themselves down. The games are coming thick and fast at the moment so they’ve got to prepare themselves mentally. The cup game’s gone now so move on to Reading and put things right there.”