EDDIE Howe was disappointed to lose out in the Lancashire-Yorkshire derby but was proud of his players, who played sixty-one minutes with just ten men.
“I’m bitterly disappointed but proud of the players for their efforts. I thought we deserved all three points, particularly for our defensive display but it’s heart-breaking to concede with the last kick of the game, the lads didn’t deserve that. But really proud of their efforts and the way they defended. They defended crosses magnificently. We can take great heart from it but ultimately we left with nothing.
“Defensively I can’t speak highly enough of the players and that includes everybody because our midfield had to do a real shift and get behind the ball because we’ve had to defend very deep. Our centre forward was quite isolated but Charlie and Sam worked extremely hard. It does show that we’ve come a long way in a short period of time because I’m not sure we’d have produced that performance at the start of the season.
“Fantastic goal from Charlie and he’s been doing it all season. He was unfortunate to pick up an injury when he did because he was flying at the time and now we’ve got four excellent strikers to choose from and I’m spoilt for choice. Charlie was given his opportunity today and he took it.
“We felt we’d done enough and restricted them to long range shooting. We’d crowded areas and made it difficult for them. Andros Townsend was an obvious threat, I thought he was excellent on the day and he’s a Premier League player. He was always a thorn in our side and the main aim was to try to keep him quiet. With the two goals we were really unfortunate with the first and very unfortunate with the second.
“Lee (Grant) has done everything right. He’s coming for crosses, he’s punched well when under pressure and he’s saved numerous goal-scoring opportunities. I think he’s been excellent the last few games and he didn’t deserve that. But we have to take it on the chin, it’s a setback, but it’s a positive one in the fashion of our performance.
“We showed a different side to us and we’re continuing to develop our defensive game. Two centre-halves were magnificent and David Edgar, when put out of position, was excellent. I could go through everybody and praise their work rate. But defensively I’m pleased because it has been an issue for us sometimes this year but we’re growing in confidence and we can take great heart from today.
“We’ve had to move people in different positions and we lost Marvin (Bartley) and Keith (Treacy) through illness as well. We were a little bit stretched which was a real shame because we felt we could come here and win today. I think the way we started the game demonstrated that so it’s a tough one to take because it’s an end to a really good run, but now we’ve got to start another one.
“The lads are disappointed, they’re very down, obviously taking their frustrations out on who they think’s to blame. But we’ve got to recover, regroup, we’ve got an FA Cup now to look forward to which gives us a little break from the league, which has probably come at a good time for us. We’ll come back stronger.
“The difficulty we have is that in attacking areas we’re very strong and the defensive part of our game is improving all the time. Whoever I bring in I want them to improve on what we have and I think that’s going to be the challenge. We are looking, there are a couple of players that we like but we’ll have to see whether we can tie them down and get the deals done.
“Hopefully that won’t dent our confidence in any way. I think the team are beginning to believe in themselves as a group and I still think there’s a lot more improvement to come within us. With every performance we seem to be growing and hopefully that won’t stop just because of the result today.
“Course you get setbacks and there’ll be plenty more from now until the end of the season. In this league it is about how you respond and how you take it. We’re still a young group, still looking to improve, and as long as we can see that progression we’ll believe in what we’re trying to do.”
“We started brightly and 11 v 11 I thought we were the better team. We took the game to Leeds and Charlie (Austin) had a good chance early on. I felt we were comfortable at that stage but the referee’s changed the game. I thought it was a poor decision. He’s really made it a difficult afternoon for everybody because it doesn’t really become a game of football. We’re having to defend for our lives and Leeds are obviously pressing for goals. It’s a shame for the spectators.
“The first one I can see why he’s given it, I don’t really have a problem with the first booking, but the second booking isn’t even a foul so for him to make that decision, he knew it was a big one because Kieran was already on a yellow card and he knew it would change the game, I think it was a disgraceful decision. I really hope he looks back at it and learns from it because I thought he was totally swayed by the crowd.
“I don’t even think he has to warn him because I don’t think it’s a foul. Townsend has said to Kieran that he slipped, that he didn’t even touch him, so that says it all. I do believe that if the referee feels it is a foul he has to use his common sense and question whether it warrants changing the game and sending him off. Never in a million years.”