TO his credit, it was not the first time Eunan O’Kane had fronted up to try to explain a collective episode of ineptitude and a bitter letdown from Leeds United.
In the bowels of Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, the midfielder, who had a rough evening along with his Whites colleagues on Friday night, faced the music in the wake of an abysmal 3-0 televised loss and had no truck with the vast majority of the avalanche of criticism that came his side’s way.
In a season when Leeds have had some tough moments, interspersed with some highs, this was down there with the worst and the 27-year-old had no argument with the suggestion that United looked miles off a side with an outside chance of the top six.
It was an anaemic display that did not augur well for Wednesday’s arrival of leaders Wolves, following a night when Leeds were outclassed and outbattled by Boro.
O’Kane said: “I do not know what to say; I think the only way we can put it is that we were second-best for the whole night and we deserved to be beaten and maybe they could have scored a few more goals.
“It was a very deflated performance from us, so I think we got what we deserved in the end, which was nothing.
“If we play like we did at Middlesbrough then we are very far off it (top six). It was a very under-par performance from us.
“If we continue to play like that then we are miles away.”
It was a meek display that lacked aggression, according to head coach Paul Heckingbottom and O’Kane was not one to argue, although he did bridle at general talk that a lack of leadership from Leeds is bedevilling their season.
“I cannot argue with anything that he has said,” commented the Republic of Ireland international.
“The evidence is there for everyone to see; they have outfought us and outbattled us and they have got their rewards.
“It is very disappointing from our point of view and we have to be better than what we were (at Middlesbrough).”
Specifically on a perceived lack of leadership, O’Kane added: “I do not think that is fair. To judge us purely on the Middlesbrough game is extremely harsh.
“In terms of lacking leaders, there are a lot of leaders in our dressing room, people who have got a lot of experience.
“When I look around our dressing room I do not feel that we have weak characters. We have some very strong ones and it is about them stepping to the fore and the rest of the group being behind them and backing them and taking the lead.”
On a wretched night when the unstinting support of Leeds’s near 3,000-strong support was stoic in Baltic conditions, O’Kane was the first to acknowledge that he and his team-mates let them down badly, with the visiting fans being the only ones to emerge with any credit from a United perspective.
He added: “It was not easy making that journey and I do not think it has been made particularly easy on them as well with train times and things like that.
“Fair play to everyone who made it out. We wish we could have put on a better performance and got a better result, but it did not happen. Even when we were two- and three-nil down, they were still singing and the fans are always tremendous.”
Attention moves on to Wednesday night with the onerous task of facing Wolves looking even more daunting given Friday’s damning events.
Heckingbottom has several significant selection issues to ponder, none moreso than whether to take goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald out of the firing line after another untimely error, the German culpable for Boro’s second goal.
With Andy Lonergan suffering from a neck injury, a pathway could be afforded to young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, on the bench at Boro, while Adam Forshaw, surprisingly named as a substitute on Friday, is highly likely to start against the leaders.
On whether he is considering the position of Wiedwald ahead of Wednesday evening, Heckingbottom said: “Yes, definitely. Every player will be the same, but yes it is.
“It is something that over the games we are looking at – areas to improve.
“It (Wolves) is probably the perfect game – the best team in this league so far, at home with a big crowd.
“It is the perfect game for us.”