HEAD coach Garry Monk said Leeds United would fight until the bitter end after the club’s play-off bid came within one game of ending with Saturday’s crushing 2-1 loss at Burton Albion.
Second-half goals from Marvin Sordell and Michael Kightly sent Leeds on their way to back-to-back defeats with United’s misery compounded by victories for top-six rivals Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday.
Kyle Bartley’s late strike gave United brief hope of salvation at the Pirelli Stadium but the damage was done and Leeds are now three points behind sixth-placed Fulham who have a far superior goal difference with just two games to go.
Both fourth-placed Sheffield Wednesday and fifth-placed Huddersfield Town are five points ahead of Leeds but the Terriers also have a game in hand.
Third-placed Reading are six points ahead of United but with a far worse goal difference.
But having been eight points clear of the teams outside of the play-off places earlier this spring, United’s destiny is now out of their hands for the first time this campaign.
Leeds’ players looked broken by the loss in Staffordshire which came on the back of Easter Monday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves. United have won just one of their last six games, four of which have resulted in losses.
The Whites will welcome eighth-placed Norwich City to Elland Road next Saturday before finishing the season the following Sunday at second-bottom Wigan Athletic.
Leeds are now as big as 11-2 to finish in the play-offs having been as short as 1-16 but Monk said his battling side would not be throwing in an early towel.
“It is what it is,” said Monk.
“We are disappointed and now the situation is out of our hands.
“But we have a duty to each other and to our fans and to everyone with how hard this group has been working all season to fight to the very end.
“We have to give our maximum in these two games and try and win the two games or at least win the next game which is at Elland Road.
“And then who knows if you can go into the last game with half a chance? Hopefully we can get to that point.
“But it’s a still small opportunity and football works in mysterious ways.
“We will be ready in these next two games. We owe that to each other and to our fans.”
Monk was also adamant that his side were unfortunate to lose at the Pirelli Stadium as part of a performance in which Leeds had 64 per cent of possession and saw an early headed goal by Chris Wood ruled out.
Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Pontus Jansson also squandered decent chances in the second half.
“We’re disappointed, obviously,” said Monk. “I think it’s an extremely unfair result on my players to be honest.
“In the first 15 minutes of the first half and the last 15 minutes of the first half we were the better team.
“In the middle part, I thought they did very well. They had some good set piece players but we defended very well. But in the second half when we came out I think there was only team on the front foot.
“It was a little bit like last week, we definitely didn’t deserve to lose that game and considering it was two teams that had to win, I think there was only one team really with the full intention of trying to win it completely. You could see the intention.”