Leeds midfielder Rudi Austin was sent off in the first half as Blackburn warmed up for Wednesday’s home FA Cup quarter-final replay against Liverpool with a 3-0 win.
Austin saw red in the 39th minute for elbowing Ben Marshall off the ball and though Leeds resisted strongly until just after the hour mark, second-half goals by Tom Cairney, Jordan Rhodes and Jay Spearing settled the match
Rovers extended their unbeaten away run to six matches while Leeds’ five-game undefeated sequence came to an end.
Austin, back in the Leeds side after a five-match absence, was shown a straight red card after referee Gary Sutton was called over by a linesman who had spotted the offence on former Stoke and Leicester winger Marshall in the right corner.
Leeds fans voiced their wholehearted backing for head coach Neil Redfearn and his sacked assistant Steve Thompson. Loud chants of “there’s only one Neil Redfearn” and “there’s only one Steve Thompson” rang out around the ground soon after the start.
Just two days earlier, Redfearn angrily said he was considering his future after Thompson was mysteriously suspended for the remainder of the season and told his contract would not be renewed.
Thompson was informed of his suspension by Leeds’ football director Nicola Salerno, who is believed to be considering his own position.
Redfearn said afterwards on his position at the club: “I don’t know. You’d have to ask the people at the club.
Redfearn added that he plans to be in charge at Wolves on Monday. “That game will come quickly. There’s no time to think about me.”
Redfearn received the crowd’s vocal backing and vowed to put all thoughts about his own future aside until after Monday’s Championship game at Wolves at the earliest.
“The most important thing was for me to concentrate on this game and then Monday’s for the sake of the players and supporters,” he said. “The fans were brilliant today, as they have been all season. They appreciate what we have achieved.”
It was an often ill-tempered affair with five yellow cards to go along with the red that was awarded to Austin after he raising an arm in a tangle with former Stoke and Leicester winger Ben Marshall.
But Redfearn was not happy about the red card, which was awarded by referee Gary Sutton after consulting his assistant.
“The red card changed the game,” he said. “I didn’t see it at the time but I have watched it back several times. We should appeal because it was a poor decision.
“Rudi pushed the lad in the chest with his forearm and the referee deemed it a red card. It was a big call on a linesman’s say-so and it was wrong.”
Blackburn, who had 19-year-old Spanish keeper David Raya on debut, withstood early pressure before almost taking a 13th-minute lead when Rhodes shot against the bar and Marshall fired the rebound into the side-netting.
Rhodes then produced a neat turn but shot over from eight yards and when Austin had Leeds’ best chance so far, he nodded Charlie Taylor’s cross over the bar before leaving Leeds to battle on with 10 men.
Raya had been largely untested on his debut, his only first-half save keeping out Sam Byram’s acute angled shot, but Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri had to pull off a desperate stop from Rudy Gestede at point-blank range in the 49th minute.
Rovers had struggled to make their numerical advantage count as Leeds employed tight marking, with strikers Rhodes and Gestede starved of clear-cut opportunities, but two goals in a seven-minute spell turned the game Rovers’ way.
The breakthrough arrived in the 62nd minute. Lee Williamson’s long pass down the right found Gestede who gave Giuseppe Bellusci the slip before Cairney shot powerfully past Silvestri.
Gestede limped off to be replaced by Chris Brown in the 64th minute and a minute later Marshall’s long-distance shot smacked against a post.
Leeds were rocking and they conceded again in the 69th minute. Cairney picked out Brown, whose accurate cross left the unmarked Rhodes the simple task of heading home for his 17th goal of the season.
Then, in the 80th minute, Bellusci allowed Spearing time and room to drill in the third.