KALVIN PHILLIPS denied that Leeds United had a discipline problem and bemoaned an “unlucky” defeat after the club paid the price for Eunan O’Kane’s dismissal at Ipswich Town.
O’Kane became the second Leeds player in the space of a week to be sent off after headbutting Ipswich defender Jonas Knudsen, the defining moment which condemned United to a 1-0 loss at Portman Road on Saturday.
The midfielder’s 37th-minute red card came just six days after Samuel Saiz was hit with a six-match ban by the Football Association for spitting at Newport County’s Robbie Willmott during Leeds’ FA Cup exit at Rodney Parade last weekend.
O’Kane will receive an automatic three-match suspension for violent conduct and his red card was the fifth shown to a United player this season following the dismissals of Ronaldo Vieira, Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper in meetings with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bristol City and Cardiff City before Christmas.
Phillips, who is himself a yellow card away from a two-game ban having incurred his ninth booking against Ipswich, said he had not witnessed the confrontation between O’Kane and Knudsen but rejected criticism of United’s discipline.
Asked if the past week had highlighted an issue amongst their squad, the midfielder said: “I don’t think so. The lads are doing well together and we have a good attitude in the camp.
“I think that’s what we’re about. Leeds are a very tough team and we come out and give our all on the pitch. Sometimes it happens in football where you get red cards. You just have to carry on.”
Leeds are a very tough team and we come out and give our all on the pitch. Sometimes it happens in football where you get red cards.Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips
Leeds are considering an appeal against O’Kane’s sending off and head coach Thomas Christiansen protested the Republic of Ireland international’s innocence at the end of the game.
Phillips, however, said: “When I was on the pitch I’d turned around because I thought it was a goal kick. I didn’t see anything.
“He [O’Kane] hasn’t really said much. He’s just a bit gutted about the decision. We’ll talk about it at training.”
Leeds had dominated Saturday’s game before O’Kane’s red card and fought gamely with 10 men in the second half, going close to an equaliser on three occasions after Bersant Celina gave Ipswich a 68th-minute lead.
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Christiansen revised his line-up at half-time by bringing on young midfielder Conor Shaughnessy and adopting a 4-4-1 formation. United finished with a three-man defence after Pierre-Michel Lasogga was thrown on as a late substitute and came within inches of a point when captain Liam Cooper failed to find an open goal.
“During the second half we didn’t have much of the possession but when we played we created quite a few problems,” Phillips said. “We had one chance which dropped to Coops in front of goal but that’s just football. If we take our chances them we’ll win games and we didn’t take our chances. We could have been out fought but we played well enough to get a result. We were just unlucky.”
Leeds put themselves with five points of second place in the Championship last month but a return of one point from the past three games has dropped the club out of the top six.
Phillips insisted the club’s promotion bid was still on track, saying: “We’ve lost two games in a week. It isn’t much to panic about.
“There are still a lot more games to come and if we put it right against Millwall [this Saturday] then we have a big month in February. If we do well there then we’ll have a good chance.”