Derby County 1 Leeds United 0
Derby 1 Leeds 0
A bit of a reality check this one! Many Leeds fans, me included, travelled to the iPro today thinking the worst that could happen would be a draw. Our expectations have been hyped up these days with that run of five wins in six games throughout September but we maybe missed a vital point.
The best side we have, our first XI if you like, is a match for anyone in the division although not necessarily better than most of them. When we have our best XI out there and when they are all on top of their game, then, as long as lady luck doesn’t throw us a curved ball, we will probably scrape through and pick up the points. But, if any of those factors is not present – we don’t have our first XI out, the luck goes against us or a few of the players are just plain “off it” - then we will more often than not lose the game. It was thus at Bristol and in the home game with Huddersfield and, sadly, again today at Derby.
We had learned to play without Liam Bridcutt so I don’t think it was his absence that made the difference but we are now only complete when Stuart Dallas fills that role on the left side of midfield. He is not necessarily a big threat as a winger but his tireless energy getting up and down the pitch makes the whole side more mobile and fluid. Slot Alex Mowatt in there instead and we have an altogether less mobile unit. The overriding conclusion for me at the end of the game today was that our squad is so very lacking in depth and we really only have eleven players who can complete the jigsaw of the formation Garry Monk wants to play. If any are absent we just do not look strong enough to beat sides and if the luck tips against us as well we will lose as we did today. Our two best efforts struck woodwork whilst the only significant shot the Rams conjured up nestled in the back of our net. Other than that we had more ball and more shots than the home side but once again out of 13 attempts only 2 hit the target.
It looks as though Stuart Dallas will be missing for a while now and if that is the case then Garry Monk needs to come up with something different; I’m not convinced Kemar Roofe in that position would be the answer either for he also is a totally different type of player to both Mowatt and Dallas. It is a problem.
So, a reality check; even a side as relatively short on quality as Wigan will be a tough nut to crack just as Blackburn were in our two recent games against them. I’d still expect us to beat them if we play to our best and if lady luck is fair but while we have the current resources, no game will be easy and the talk that we will soon thrash someone is I think a bit premature. I could still see us creeping into that all important top six but it is going to be tough going every week and we need some alternative plans to introduce when our first XI is either not available or not firing on all cylinders. As always, it is going to be fascinating and not a little nerve-wracking watching the season unfold.
Derby C Leeds Utd
Possession 47% 53%
Shots 9 13
On Target 3 2
Corners 6 5
Fouls 10 10