Neil Redfearn admitted he had pushed his squad to the limit of their ability after former Leeds United captain Jonny Howson returned to haunt the club last night.
Howson’s 57th-minute strike – scored on his first appearance at Elland Road since leaving Leeds for Carrow Road in 2012 – set Norwich up for a 2-0 win and condemned United to a fourth straight defeat. Redfearn voiced satisfaction with an improved display after criticising the effort of his players in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Cardiff City but the Leeds head coach conceded that Norwich’s superior quality had shone through in the second half.
Graham Dorrans rounded off City’s win with a last-minute strike, leaving Alex Neil’s side second in the Championship and on the verge of automatic promotion with three games to play.
Redfearn, whose team remain in 15th place, said: “We’ve squeezed absolutely everything out of this group. It’s got a shelf-life and it takes you so far.
“The difference is apparent when you come up against a Norwich because they’ve got quality. If we’re going to get promoted out of this division then these are the people we’ve got to compete with.
“Good players cost money. I sound like a cracked record but some of these players at Norwich have got Premier League experience, never mind Championship experience. You can see the difference in a tight game with nothing in it.”
Leeds almost snatched a draw late on when Alex Mowatt forced a full-length save from Norwich keeper John Ruddy but City dominated the second half and Dorrans’ effort prompted wild celebrations in the away dug-out.
United have gone five games without a victory and Redfearn said: “I’m disappointed to get beat because results-wise we’re not on a good run. But we’re going to be a Championship side next year. I was really disappointed with how we played against Cardiff. The performance was far, far better but there’s a reason why Norwich are second.”