GARRY MONK revelled in the positivity of Elland Road but warned that “nothing is won in January” after Leeds United crushed Derby County and climbed to third in the Championship.
A solitary goal from Chris Wood sealed a 1-0 win last night, edging Leeds to within four points of the automatic promotion positions, but Leeds outclassed Derby throughout a one-sided match, toying with Steve McClaren’s side and prompting the former England manager to heap praise on midfielder Ronaldo Vieira.
McClaren tipped Vieira for a “great future” and said the 18-year-old “ran the show” on an evening when seventh-placed County slipped eight points behind Monk’s buoyant team.
Last night’s fixture was talked about beforehand as an opportunity for Leeds to open up a sizeable gap between themselves and the teams chasing the play-off positions but a delighted Monk was more satisfied by a flawless display in front of a televised audience and a crowd of over 25,000.
“I’m extremely proud,” Monk said. “Everyone wanted to talk about where we are in the league, about how we could extend the gap over Derby and this and that, but we didn’t take any notice of that.
“I challenged the players to show everything we’ve been building. Of course we wanted the three points but the challenge was to show our way. I wanted us to do it in front of the cameras and in front of our crowd, against a very good side. We did that from the first minute to the very last.
“We dominated from start to finish. We had a real stranglehold in the first 45 and we didn’t let them breathe. We had everything in it. The whole display was very dominant.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable again. It was an old school atmospheric stadium, the fans pushing the players over the line. Everything’s positive for the club right now. We look at it as three points but we killed ourselves for those three points and we’ll do that again for the next three.”
Leeds have been in control of a play-off place for two months but their relentless form – now showing 10 wins from 13 league games – has put them in contention for a top-two finish.
Monk, however, said: “It’s January. Nothing’s won in January. I’m not playing it down, that’s the truth. We focus
like that and it’s served us so well.”
United’s head coach was forced to field three right-backs in his defence owing to injuries to Charlie Taylor and Liam Cooper and a suspension incurred by Pontus Jansson but his players overran Derby from the start and passed up numerous chances before Wood struck for the 17th time this season with a header seconds before half-time.
“You do think ‘is that goal going to come?’ but it did come,” Monk said. “It was an excellent performance and everyone associated with Leeds should be very proud of it.
“I had three right-backs in the back four but you wouldn’t have noticed because all of them are very clear about what they have to do. That’s the sign of a very young team who are improving. Step by step they’re getting better.”
An honest McClaren said: “The midfield was a huge area. I’m afraid Leeds dominated it. Vieira - wow. Eighteen years old, a great future that one. He ran the show.”