Neil Redfearn is confident that Derby County will catch Leeds United on an upward curve tomorrow and claimed the pressure was on the Championship leaders, saying: “Everyone expects them to get a result.”
United’s head coach acknowledged Derby’s “fantastic season” to date and warned of numerous threats in Steve McClaren’s line-up but he said Leeds were inching back into form despite their run of one win from 10 games.
The 49-year-old, whose reign as full-time boss has delivered four points from as many matches, claimed the belief of his players was intact and unaffected by an unfortunate defeat at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.
The loss was the club’s eighth of the season and their fifth away from home but the bulk of their 20 points have been earned at Elland Road this season and Redfearn said his side should be optimistic of their prospects against a Derby team that moved three points clear at the top of the Championship last weekend.
“They’ve had a fantastic season,” Redfearn said. “It’s a great game for us.
“Everyone will expect them to come here and get a result but I think we’re in a position where we’re an unknown quantity. We’re playing well, our last three performances in general have been good, and we like to play at home. You can see that. We’ve had most of our better performances and results at home.
“If we’re talking about performances then our performances have got a lot better recently. The players realise that. The disappointment after a game like Blackburn wouldn’t be so extreme if the performance hadn’t been good. If we hadn’t played well and got beat then fair enough. We’re in transition but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you play well and you don’t get a result. If we keep getting the performances right and on a certain level then we will start climbing the table.”
Redfearn has a largely fit squad to choose from tomorrow with Aidan White, Lewis Walters and Zan Benedicic likely to be the only absentees. The Leeds boss said changes were possible after the result at Ewood Park and he is concentrating on tightening up a defence which has struggled for clean sheets.
“We’re scoring goals which is a good sign,” Redfearn said. “But we’re averaging at least a goal a game (conceded) and if we can cut that down then we can start expecting to pick up results. What we can’t do is leave games early. That’s what’s been happening. For 70 minutes we were good value against Blackburn but we left the game early. We’ve got to apply ourselves until the 93rd, the 94th or the 95th minute, however long the referee plays. We need to apply ourselves right to the end.”
Derby were narrowly beaten in last season’s play-off final, losing to QPR in dramatic circumstances at Wembley, but the form they maintained during McClaren’s first six months in as manager has continued since August. A late goal from midfielder Craig Bryson snatched a 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road last weekend and moved Derby onto 35 points, three clear of Bournemouth in second.
Redfearn said: “They’ve got good balance. The boy (Jordan) Ibe from Liverpool will be a threat if he plays on the left and people like Will Hughes, he’s outstanding. (Chris) Martin is central to everything they do. The ball goes into him, they get runners off him and they’re a dangerous side. But we need to enjoy the occasion. I’m more interested in us.”