Simon Grayson urged Leeds fans to get behind his players after seeing top-scorer Jermaine Beckford respond to a barrage of criticism with an obscene gesture.
The 26-year-old was replaced by Luciano Becchio during a 2-0 victory over Southend and Argentine striker Becchio went on to score United's second goal after Max Gradel had opened the scoring. Beckford was on the receiving end of some abuse from a section of the Elland Road crowd in the first and the frustrated striker reacted with an angry gesture.
Grayson said: "The fans pay their money so they can chant things but they can only help players by getting behind them. Jermaine hasn't got a problem with it and nor have I. Strikers thrive on confidence and after going a few games without scoring maybe Jermaine's confidence is dwindling."
He added: "I heard a few fans having a go at him and then some backed him. Luciano wasn't 100% fit to play but we had to change the system and the personnel and it worked.
"I said the other day that I am not afraid to take my captain off or my leading scorer or a young kid if those decisions benefit the team."
Southend manager Steve Tilson said: "I don't know the situation with Jermaine. He has scored a lot of goals and there was speculation about him leaving.
"The way Jermaine performed, I would have liked him to have stayed on the pitch. Simon did what he had to do and it changed the game."
Defeat for Southend leaves them third-bottom, four points behind fifth-bottom Leyton Orient with five games remaining.
Tilson admits his side face have it all to do if they are to avoid the drop but insists they will not go down without a fight.
He added: "It is a big ask. We will probably have to win three and draw two of our remaining five games, but three of them are at home. All the players can do is give everything they've got and I am sure they will do that."
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