Steve Evans declared himself “proud” of his team after a 2-2 draw between Leeds United and Derby County drew attention away from Massimo Cellino’s bitter battle with the Football League and Sky Sports.
Last night’s game at Elland Road was in danger of being overshadowed by a threat by Cellino to block Sky from televising the fixture in protest against fixture disruption but a compelling clash with in-form Derby saw Leeds denied a precious win by a late Tom Ince goal.
Evans had railed against United’s schedule ahead of the kick-off, claiming his side had been “really disadvantaged” by back-to-back clashes with Derby and Nottingham Forest in space of little over 48 hours, but strikes from Sol Bamba and Chris Wood put Leeds within 19 minutes of a home-an-away double over a Derby side who are second in the Championship.
Ince, however, came off the bench to strike 12 minutes from time and Evans said: “It was always going to be a big ask. From a sporting integrity point of view we felt really disadvantaged that a team as good as Derby had an extra day’s recovery. To go ahead on 71 minutes is when you need oxygen masks in a normal week and that’s probably why Derby got a point.
“Perhaps a point shared might be right but I can’t help but feel immensely proud of the group, their quality and their attention to detail. Derby will feel they deserved an equaliser but we feel aggrieved that they’ve got it.”
Cellino’s unprecedented decision to bar Sky from Elland Road remained in place until around 3pm yesterday when the Italian “reluctantly” agreed to grant the broadcaster access. A strongly-worded statement from Leeds attacked Sky and the Football League for repeated changes to the club’s schedule.
Evans said: “I understand that any broadcaster wants to have Leeds United on TV because of the audience we bring but I’m talking about the sporting perspective here. It’s really tough. It’s not Derby’s fault but I’d like to see some of these clubs play twice in two days.”
Leeds dropped nine points adrift of the play-offs at full-time after Ipswich Town won at Brighton but Evans’ side are now unbeaten in six games.
“It’s maybe a sign of how far we’ve come,” he said. “The disappointed dressing room will be the Leeds United dressing room.”