Thankfully the international break is a distant memory of statatco, disjointed football played by overrated and overpaid prima donnas……..well it is if you hail from the green and pleasant land that is England. Today proper football returned with all the tribal passion anyone ever needs when watching a game as we headed to Derby to see if Leeds could continue their impressive form against the struggling Rams and their new boomerang manager, Steve McClaren. There was plenty to debate as the packed train trundled towards the East Midlands. Would Monk’s vow of silence in the stands affect Leeds adversely? Could Wood replicate his stunning goal last time out against Derby? Who would the Janssonator terminate today?
The atmosphere inside the iPro Stadium was electric as the game got underway. Mowatt replaced the injured Dallas in an otherwise unchanged Leeds team. Derby presumably buoyed by the return of Steve McClaren to the dugout started the game brightly in front of a 31,000 crowd. The early exchanges were cagey and cautious from both sides. Johnson tried a long range shot that went safely over Rob Green’s bar as the Leeds defence looked as mean as ever with Bartley and Jansson bossing things at the back.
Leeds were sitting deep but counter attacking at speed when the opportunity arose. On 28 minutes Leeds swept majestically out of defence and moved the ball sweetly to the overlapping Ayling. The pony-tailed full back looked like he was going to burst a lung as he swung a vicious ball into the box where Wood met the cross full on but the ball went just over Carson’s bar. This raised the decibel levels even higher from the Leeds travelling army as they urged the visitors forward. Leeds were content to bide their time though with both midfields cancelling each other out the match became one almighty stalemate as half time approached. Just on half time Leeds forced a corner as they tried to unlock the Derby defence. Mowatt curled a beauty right onto Bartley’s head but his thunderbolt header cannoned off the bar with me and 3,200 other Leeds fans already celebrating the goal. Half Time 0.0.
The first half was very much like watching two chess grandmasters checking each other out without wanting to reveal their attack. Leeds needed to open up in the 2nd half if they were going to take three points back up the M1. Mowatt on the left wasn’t quite working and although we had had some decent possession we hadn’t added that killer touch needed to turn possession into goals.
The 2nd period started with the angelic Will Hughes scything down Mowatt earning himself a yellow card for his troubles. Bartley then made a classic “man and ball” tackle that ended Anya’s game as he limped off to the tunnel. Russell replaced Anya. Minutes later Leeds regretted the appearance of the Derby substitute. Jansson conceded a corner. Leeds defended the first phase of the corner but when the ball rolled out to the edge of the box there wasn’t a Leeds player in sight as Russell drilled the ball through Green for the opening goal. Bollox! 1.0 Derby.
The home fans were in full voice and the Rams were now on a mini rampage. Leeds held firm though. Roofe replaced the slightly disappointing Sacko. Will Hughes brought a good save from Green with a stinging shot from outside the box. If Leeds conceded now it would be goodnight Vienna. Vydra had the ball in the net but was ruled offside. As the game entered the last twenty minutes it was Leeds who had the momentum as Derby sat back to defend what they had. Phillips had a shot saved quickly followed by Roofe seeing his shot blocked as Leeds finally built up a head of steam.
Grimes came on for Mowatt and Antonsson replaced Wood as Monk tried to change things from the stands. Hernadez, Grimes, Bartley and O’Kane all had shots saved or blocked in a frantic 5 minutes as the game slid into 6 minutes added time. With seconds ticking away another late Leeds move saw Antonsson turn and hit a sweet shot that rattled the post with Carson well beaten. It just wasn’t Leeds day. The ref blew the whistle and the home fans danced with delight whilst the vociferous away fans gave their team a thunderous ovation.
In the end Leeds paid dearly for a cagey approach in the first two thirds of the game. With a bit of luck they could have had at least a point but it wasn’t to be. The defence was strong again today and overall it wasn’t a bad performance. The balance of the side suffers though when Dallas isn’t playing. Onwards and upwards. We will win more than we lose playing like this. Wigan up next on Tuesday. Can we get back to winning ways against the Pie Munchers? Course we can!