Eunan O’Kane described Leeds United’s performance at Middlesbrough as “miles away” from promotion standard but insisted a game which all but ended the club’s season was not reflective of the talent in their squad.
Leeds were soundly beaten at The Riverside on Friday, losing 3-0 to a hat-trick from Patrick Bamford, and the club look destined for a finish beneath the play-offs with an eight-point gap to sixth place above them.
That margin could stretch to 11 before United kick off against leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday and 11 remaining games leave little prospect of Leeds fulfilling owner Andrea Radrizzani’s target of a top-six finish.
New head coach Paul Heckingbottom was critical of Friday’s display, warning that his players “won’t get where we want to be with that type of performance”, and O’Kane refused to paper over the cracks at the end of a demoralising night.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder said: “If we play like we did then we’re very far off it but it’s a very under-par performance from us. We’re extremely disappointed. We know we’ve got much more in the tank than what we showed.
“If we continue to play like that then we’re miles away but if we can pick ourselves up and get back to the performances like we had (against Brentford) last Saturday then maybe we’re not so far.
“The only way we can put it is that we were second best for the whole night. We deserved to be beaten and maybe they could have scored a few more goals. It was a very deflated performance from us and we got what we deserved in the end ,which was nothing.”
United’s 1-0 win over Brentford is Heckingbottom’s only victory as head coach to date and a solitary success for Leeds since their Boxing Day clash at Burton Albion.
An extended slump has wrecked a promising campaign and called into question the quality of the squad at Elland Road. O’Kane accepted Heckingbottom’s criticism of the defeat to Boro, saying: “I can’t argue with anything he’s said.The evidence is there for everyone to see. They outfought us and out-battled us and they got their rewards.
“It’s very disappointing from our point of view and we have to be better than that. But when I look around our dressing room, I don’t feel that we have weak characters there. We have some very strong ones. We have to take this on the chin and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”