SATURDAY was just a terrific performance from Leeds United; far and away the best of the season so far.
I know we have played well in periods of games before, but have not done it for the 90 minutes previously.
When you think of the calibre of team we played against and how we passed the ball around, it was great stuff.
We played with a bit more vibrancy and passed the ball around a bit quicker and got the ball forward. Sometimes, before, we were having the ball 20 yards inside opponents’ half and then it was going back to our goalkeeper.
Now, we are looking to go forward and lot of the credit for that goes to Neil and the young players he has introduced. With Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook; yes they will make mistakes. But they look to get forward all the time.
I do think the likes of especially Mirco Antenucci are really benefiting from that.
I thought the whole team were terrific. Defensively, we looked very solid and the captain, Stephen Warnock, had a great game while the two young players in midfield were also fantastic when you think of the quality of players they were playing against.
You look at Derby’s midfield, but the likes of Will Hughes weren’t really in the game. All credit to Cook and Mowatt for their performance and Antenucci was terrific too.
He is having a good season and I was impressed as soon as I saw him for Leeds. It’s his movement and goals and he also looks very confident and is quick and sharp around the box. He was very unlucky not to score a hat-trick against Derby. What we showed was the benefit of getting players to that dead-ball line and cutting balls back across the face of the box and away from defenders. Both goals came from that; the first with a good ball back from Mowatt to pick out Antenucci, who netted with a great finish.
It was a similar fashion and goal for the second, with the cross this time from Stephen Warnock on the left side. The shot ended up in the same corner away to the goalkeeper’s left.
We scored two terrific goals and while Derby are a good side, they didn’t look exceptional on Saturday.
Steve McClaren’s comments suggested he was very disappointed in how his side performed. When that comes from a manager whose side are top of the league and have scored more goals than anybody in this league, it reflects well on our team.
It has got to give us great confidence to push on, but after playing the top-of-the-league side, we now play the side who are second top in Ipswich and it won’t be easy.
You could not really criticise anyone on Saturday. The only player who was not involved in was probably our goalkeeper, who had nothing to do.
I was actually talking before the game about the team selection. Neil picks the side and made the right decisions. The result proved that.
Before the game, I would have played Rudy Austin and maybe given one of the young boys a rest, especially given who we were playing against and how strong they were in the middle of the park.
But Neil made his call and played the two young boys in midfield and I thought they were outstanding.
The centre-backs also played well – a right-sided and a left-sided centre-back and I think that will have been in Neil’s thinking to bring in Giuseppe Bellusci for Jason Pearce to provide balance.
Obviously, a few players left the club to go out on loan last week and it made sense for them. More importantly, it makes things a little bit easier for Neil because he will want to work with the group who he sees as important to him; his 20 players or whatever and a few young boys. If you get lots of experienced players who are not getting involved, it can turn a bit, not sour, but be a case of: ‘What are you doing here training with the younger boys?’.
If you get a squad of 18 to 20 players with a nice mixture of youth and experience where they are all fighting for places, that’s what you want.
You feel for those who are just hanging about and not really involved. It is better for them to move on and go further their careers elsewhere.