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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Leeds Utd 2:2 Derby County. December 29th 2015.

After all the off the field drama leading up to the game it was good to get to Elland Road and focus on the task in hand and not Cellino's latest spat with Sky TV. Derby County were in town and looking for 3 more points to add to their push for automatic promotion at the expense of Leeds United. With the debate raging as to the fairness of expecting Leeds to play within 48 hours of the Forest game whilst the Rams had had another 24 hours rest after their exertions at the weekend the fact remained that the game was going ahead regardless. Interestingly a crowd of 23,000, within a cats whisker of the average home crowd this season, had turned up to watch the latest clash between these two old rivals.

Steve Evans had made two changes to Sunday's team with Bamba and Adeyemi coming in for Bellusci and Cook respectively. Clearly Bellusci had paid for his part in Forest's opening goal at the City ground. There was a cautious optimism around the ground as the game got under way. Both teams vied for the early control of a match vital to each team in a different way. Derby were looking for a win to take them top whilst Leeds had their eyes on finishing December unbeaten. Derby's expensively assembled team looked every bit promotion challengers as they zipped the ball about with ease and confidence but it was Leeds' Sam Byram who had the first shot on goal after a lay off from Dallas. His shot sailed into the South Stand though. Suddenly Leeds' bright if not a tad tentative start was brought to a shuddering halt.

Hendrick danced into the Leeds box with 3 white shirts around him but somehow he managed to nutmeg Bamba before clipping the ball over the advancing Silvestri to give the Rams the lead and send the 1,400 away fans into dreamland. 1.0 Derby and only 12 minutes gone. "If we're not careful this could be a very long night" I mused as a disconsolate Leeds team kicked off. Derby sucked in the oxygen of the opening goal as Leeds tried to disrupt their fluid passing game. The disrupting part of the Leeds game earned Byram, Bridcutt and Murphy yellow cards in quick succession as the referee tried to keep a lid on an increasingly competitive match.

Leeds were battling well though and gradually started to get some joy going forward. Adeyemi used his height in the box but his header flew just over the bar. Then as the game headed for half time Leeds finally got some reward for their hard work and endeavour. Hendrick fouled Adeyemi and earned a nice yellow card for his troubles. From the free kick the Derby goalie, Grant, made a hash of the clearance and when Byram beat him to his desperate attempt to retrieve the crowd rose in anticipation as Byram's shot cannoned off a defender's leg with the goalie beaten..........Dallas swung the ball back into the 6 yard box where Grant compounded his mistakes by flapping at the ball. Bamba pounced on the loose ball like a Panther and turned the ball into the net. Get innnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.1 The old stadium was now rocking. Russell fired wide from the edge of box as half time approached but it was the much maligned Wood who nearly sent Leeds into the break in front when he ran onto a ball from Murphy but just couldn't get a decent shot away. HT 1.1.

Another high tempo and entertaining 45 minutes but could Leeds wrestle the advantage from Derby in the 2nd half? Byram, Dallas, Bridcutt and Taylor had all stood out as Leeds battled with real spirit against a decent Derby side.

Leeds had to be on their toes in the opening exchanges of the 2nd period as ex Leeds midfielder, Johnson, twice tried his luck but was denied by a good block and a wayward shot. Dallas found space for Leeds and tested Grant with a rasping shot. The game was evenly balanced as we reached the hour mark. Derby's undoubted quality was nullified by Leeds' never say die attitude and sheer doggedness to stay in the game. Cook replaced Adeyemi as the dangerous Martin came on for Bent to set up an intriguing last 30 minutes. Immediately Leeds were under pressure. Martin set up Weimann with a good chance but yet again another battle weary body in a white shirt threw himself at the ball to block the shot. There followed huge Derby pressure with three consecutive corners that Leeds somehow survived. They needed some relief and on 70 minutes they got it in spectacular style.

Leeds broke quickly from yet another Rams attack and shovelled the ball wide right where a bit of wizardry from Cook released Byram who hurtled to the bye line and then delivered a delicious cross right onto Wood's head who finished in style in front of the delighted Kop. You absolute beauty! 2.1 Leeds and all of a sudden we could almost smell the aroma of a nice juicy double over the Rams.......Almost!

The atmosphere in Elland Road was bouncing. The South Stand taunted the travelling fans with a chorus of "You're not bouncing anymore" a reference to their celebratory song when they went in front. Derby weren't finished though and soon they were turning the screw on the over worked Leeds defence. Doukara replaced the injured Wood and Ince came on for Weimann. Derby certainly have a very strong bench. With Ince's family connections he received the expected warm reception but would that inspire or intimidate him.........well unfortunately the former as no more than 2 minutes after coming  on he was celebrating in front of the away fans after slicing through the tiring Leeds defence and levelling the scores. Bollox. 2.2.

Derby went for the Leeds jugular as Johnson, Russell then sub Ince went close to getting the winner as Leeds hung on for dear life. Leeds did get a late 2nd wind though and went close with a Cooper header and a not so close shot from Cook but the game ended all square at 2.2 after a thrilling game in front of the controversial Sky TV cameras.

There was a tinge of disappointment as I left the ground after getting so close to a victory but in reality a draw was probably a fair result and one a lot of fans would have taken before the game. Byram was my MOM not only for his superb cross for the goal but for his hard working play throughout. It was another superb team effort though. Evans has certainly got the team playing with an "All for one and one for all" attitude that is going down very well with the vast majority of fans. So we leave December behind unbeaten and head into the new year with an inviting game against MK Dons. This was another thriller from Steve Evans's battlers. Maybe his Band of Brothers will continue to surprise a few teams in 2016?

Can't wait.


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