Leeds United 1 Derby County 0: Impressive Whites batter Rams to move third
LEEDS United soared up to third in the Championship after a fantastic display of football was rewarded with a 1-0 win at home to Derby County thanks to Chris Wood's 45th-minute header.
A patched-up Leeds side were forced to take on seventh-placed Derby missing four key players with Pontus Jansson suspended and with Liam Cooper, Charlie Taylor and Hadi Sacko all injured. Right back Luke Ayling subsequently had to partner Kyle Bartley at centre-back.
But after absolutely bombarding Derby throughout the entire first half, United deservedly took the lead in the first minute of first half injury time when Wood headed home a Pablo Hernandez corner.
Derby then saw a potential 50th-minute Darren Bent equaliser chalked off for handball but Leeds created another plethora of chances after the break and were full value for an impressive win which ended with a red card for Derby’s Bradley Johnson who picked up a second yellow in the 89th minute.
The Whites are now eight points clear of the teams outside of the play-off places and only four points behind second-placed Newcastle United.
Derby had the game’s first attempt on goal in the second minute but Tom Ince’s effort from 20 yards out sailed harmlessly over the bar.
But Leeds began the brighter and from a flowing counter attack Derby scrambled away a fine cross from Hernandez.
A Hernandez free-kick from the edge of the area then clipped the wall and deflected over before Derby survived a series of Whites corners.
Leeds continued to dominate, with Hernandez pulling the strings in the no 10 role and feeding Ronaldo Vieira who blazed over.
Souleymane Doukara then went mightily close when rolling a shot just wide one minute later.
And Derby then somehow survived three Leeds chances just after the 20-minute marker with Scott Carson tipping a stinging Liam Bridcutt drive over before twice denying headers from Kyle Bartley.
Bartley then squandered the best opportunity of the lot when latching on to a Hernandez corner two yards out but somehow sticking his effort wide of the post in the 24th minute.
Derby amazingly reached the half-hour mark level and then threatened themselves with Rob Green having to turn away an effort from Tom Ince away for a corner, after which Bradley Johnson blazed over the bar from long range.
But Leeds hit back with Roofe testing Carson from the edge of the box and Rams boss Steve McClaren soon abandoned his usual tactic of watching the first half from the stands as the Derby boss raced down to the away dugout in the 36th minute.
Despite some lovely interplay between Hernandez and Ronaldo Vieira, the Rams looked to have weathered the storm but Leeds had other ideas and at long last deservedly took the lead in the first minute of first half injury time.
A hanging Hernandez corner was begging to buried into the back of the net and Wood did just that with a powerful header that put him on to 17 goals for the current campaign.
It was no less than Leeds deserved yet just one minute later Derby were so nearly level with Green forced into a fine save to tip a rising effort from Ince over literally seconds before the half time break.
Rams boss McClaren made two changes during the interval - hauling off Julien De Sart and Abdoul Camara for Will Hughes and Matej Vydra - and Derby instantly improved after the break.
Indeed, the Rams looked to have bagged a 50th-minute equaliser when Darren Bent charged down Green’s clearance into the net but referee Scott Duncan disallowed the effort for handball.
Bartley was then booked for hacking down Hughes but Derby made a mess of the free-kick.
Leeds, though, squandered another good chance themselves just before the hour when Souleymane Doukara scuffed his effort wide after more great play from Hernandez.
Derby then narrowly escaped in the 63rd minute when a fine low cross from Roofe was about to present Hernandez with a tap in before the Rams desperately cleared.
Derby then countered and only a brilliant block from Lewie Coyle kept out a goalbound shot from Vydra.
As part of a thrilling second half, United again went mightily close to bagging a second when Gaetano Berardi fired just over from 25 yards.
But after Derby made their final change in bringing on David Nugent for Bent, Leeds then upped the ante in their quest for a second with Vieira’s shot beaten out by Carson before Hernandez then fired across goal and wide - both in the 77th minute.
Roofe then blazed an effort just wide in the 79th minute, shortly after being subbed for Stuart Dallas.
But still the lead was only a slender one as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Derby, though, rarely threatened and Hernandez was taken off to a standing ovation for Alex Mowatt with four minutes left.
And a miserable night for Derby was summed up by the dismissal of Johnson who was shown a second yellow card in the 89th minute for a foul on Dallas.
Leeds then had to ‘survive’ four minutes of injury time but Derby never even came close and indeed it was the home side who so nearly doubled their lead in the final minute of injury time when Wood fed Vieira whose low shot was saved by Carson.
Leeds United: Green, Coyle, Ayling, Bartley, Berardi, Bridcutt (c), Vieira, Roofe (Dallas 79), Hernandez (Mowatt 86), Doukara, Wood. Subs not used: Silvestri, Denton, O’Kane, Phillips, Antonsson.
Drerby County: Carson, Baird, Keogh (c), Shackell, Hanson; de Sart (Hughes 45), Bryson, Johnson; Ince, Camara (Vydra 45), Bent (Nugent 68). Subs not used: Mitchell, Russell, Pearce, Weimann.
Referee: Scott Duncan.