Derby County 1 (Martin 54)
Leeds United 3 (Hernandez 56, Shackleton 75, Clarke 84 og)
I was nervous when I saw the team selection for the trip to Derby, and then even more nervous as I recalled the scale of some of the celebrations we’d seen over the weekend involving many of our players! But, on closer inspection, our starting XI was actually a pretty experienced group with only Struijk, Poveda and Shackleton not regulars on the pitch this season.
Once the game started I had little doubt we had more than enough quality to beat a very turgid looking Derby and, with 72% of the ball in the first 15 minutes, this was pretty much business as usual. In fact, if anything, Derby looked like the team that had been out on the lash all weekend… and with their history perhaps they had! All that was missing for Leeds, as so often, was a bit of composure in front of goal. For Leeds Pascal Struijk, playing the Kalvin Phillips role from the start of this one, is starting to look a very accomplished player indeed and perhaps he is now ready to become the understudy to our Yorkshire Pirlo. Shacks did what we know Shacks can do with his Duracell bunny running and chasing while Ian Poveda showed many good touches. The way these youngsters stepped up today and with what we have seen in glimpses from the likes of Mateusz Bogusz, Leif Davis and Robbie Gotts we can have some confidence that the depth of the squad is improving all the time although we all know reinforcements will be needed quickly if we sre to get off to a flyer in the Premier League in six or seven weeks' time.
For Derby to take the lead against the run of play took a bit of the shine off our weekend for, well, all of a couple of minutes but then it was normal service resumed as Pablo took aim from the edge of the area. His first he tried to thread through the eye of a needle and that one was blocked but the ricochet back to him was hit on the half volley with laser like precision to restore normality. A smart finish by Shacks and another peach of an own goal (our 8th of the season and the third highest scorer for Leeds) meant we ran out comfortable victors and it probably should have been a wider margin.
With one game to go Leeds sit on the perfect two points per game average that all teams strive for and an eight point margin over the team in second place, currently West Brom. For all the tension of recent weeks our actual position now is as comfortable as it has been all season and there is no reason to believe we can’t finish the season on a high on Wednesday with a win over Charlton. That would complete a near perfect season from Marcelo and the boys.
Derby County Leeds Utd
Possession 46% 54%
Shots 10 23
On Target 2 8
Corners 4 5
Fouls Committed 8 10