Leeds United’s frustrating season ended in a 1-1 draw at home to Derby County as the club prepared to turn their attention to a busy and vital summer.
Matt Smith’s 13th goal of the term, taken early in the second half, ended United’s awful run of 10 straight defeats at the hands of Derby and rewarded a competitive performance at Elland Road.
An early goal from Simon Dawkins had given play-off candidates Derby the lead in the final game of the regular Championship term but Leeds had numerous chances and deservedly forced a stalemate.
United were already assured of a mid-table finish before kick-off and the conclusion of a difficult term increases the pressure on owner Massimo Cellino to clarify the future of manager Brian McDermott and the senior players at Elland Road.
The club’s clash with Derby came to life immediately and Leeds were almost behind in the second minute when full-back Craig Forsyth sprinted through their defence and attacked Jack Butland with a rising strike which the goalkeeper turned around his far post.
But County forced the opening goal three minutes later as Jeff Hendrick beat the offside trap and smashed the ball against Butland, allowing Dawkins to bundle the loose ball over the line.
Leeds replied with a shot from Michael Tonge that was blocked inside Derby’s area and a Matt Smith header which Lee Grant saved with one hand but Conor Sammon should have done better at the other end when his finish from close range hit the side-netting.
Grant denied Smith again with another sharp save as an engrossing if meaningless contest flowed from end to end, and Will Hughes was in the right place to clear Jason Pearce’s header off the line in the 16th minute.
The chances continued to come as Butland denied Dawkins and Hughes appeared again to meet Scott Wootton’s touch under his own crossbar. United were unlucky to trail at half-time.
They equalised, however, with five minutes of the restart as Ross McCormack - chasing his 30th goal of the term - threaded a pass through to Smith who drew Grant before lifting a neat chip over him.
Leeds pressed throughout the second half as a weakened Derby side began to struggle but Grant punched clear a goalbound set-piece from McCormack before saving a header from the striker, and neither team could force a winner.
Leeds United: Butland, Lees, Pearce, Wootton, Pugh, Tonge, Brown, Austin, Murphy (White 46), McCormack, Smith. Subs (not used): Cairns, Poleon, Walters, Dawson, Thompson, Hunt.
Derby County: Grant, Wisdom, Keogh, Whitbread, Forsyth, Eustace, Hughes, Hendrick (Bryson 90), Bamford (Russell 90), Dawkins (Bennett 78), Sammon. Subs (not used): Legzdins, Naylor, Thorne, Buxton.