Phil Hay’s Verdict (highlights) - Leeds United 1 Derby County 2: How Whites got spooked by Rams’ comeback

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HALLOWEEN brought more demons to Elland Road, joining those left behind by Sheffield United last week. Thomas Christiansen’s prediction of first-goal-wins came to nothing and Leeds United failed to shed the appearance of a team in trouble.

The Championship table gave a different impression beforehand but this is Leeds and six defeats from eight games is a record which managers in these parts dread.

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Christiansen needed some respite last night and Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s early strike promised to provide it until United’s nerve failed them and Derby struck twice in the final 18 minutes. None of the club’s previous losses hurt so much as this.

There was more to the result than the goals alone and arguments raged about a penalty referee Simon Hooper refused to give Leeds before half-time and the highly contentious award which allowed Sam Winnall to win the game 10 minutes from the end.

Hooper’s influence reigned over Christiansen but the poor results are mounting up for a head coach who watched the tide turn against him last night.

Derby have all the momentum they need – United’s impetus has stopped dead.

The make-up of Christiansen’s squad, the nationalities and the prior experience of his players, invites inevitable questions about their suitability for the division they are in but Derby’s squad could hardly be heavier on Championship nous, from Curtis Davies at the back to Chris Martin up front.

They were out-thought and outmanoeuvred by Leeds for an hour and in line for a first defeat in seven matches. A late and dramatic brace from Winnall, bagged as United lost their composure, forced Christiansen to swallow a third straight loss at home. Leeds are likely to surrender their position in the Championship’s top six this evening.

Leeds knew that anything less than a win might eject them from the division’s play-offs zone, a standing they have held for all but two weeks, and Christiansen’s insistence that the table only matters so much this early in the season will not have halted accusations that his team are in reverse gear. There were no frills or flamboyant excesses against Derby but United dug in at first like a team who felt the need to turn the corner. Their work-rate took a leaf from the book used by Sheffield United last Friday but dipped badly as the second half wore on.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga scores for Leeds

Pierre-Michel Lasogga scores for Leeds

Christiansen’s pre-match analysis of Leeds’ predicament was to say, quite plainly, that the first goal wins. Simplistic though it sounded, the trend he identified goes back far beyond him and this season, showing 99 defeats from 162 games in which the club have conceded first since their return to the Championship in 2010. What Christiansen ordered came after just eight minutes, via the trusty right boot of Lasogga.

Ronaldo Vieira made the chance, pinching possession from Tom Huddlestone after a poor touch from Joe Ledley on halfway and sending Samuel Saiz running into space. Saiz weighted a pass to Lasogga nicely, leaving the German to do the rest with a low drive which flashed inside Scott Carson’s near post.

The first goal should have been followed by the second minutes later as Derby left themselves short of numbers again. Vieira advanced on two defenders with Saiz and Gjanni Alioski either side of him but his attempt to play Alioski in gave Derby time to scramble in front of the winger inside their box. The comparison to the feeble tempo against Sheffield United could not have been more pronounced.

The reality, despite Christiansen’s focus on the opening goal, was that his defence had been as much to blame for Friday’s loss to Sheffield United as any other area of his team. One problematic position, the left-back slot, was tackled in unconventional fashion by the selection of Stuart Dallas ahead of Vurnon Anita as Gaetano Berardi served the final match of his three-game ban. A new left-back already looks like a potential priority for the January transfer window, though an able audition from Dallas gave Christiansen something to digest.

The poor results are mounting up for a head coach who watched the tide turn against him last night. Derby have all the momentum they need – United’s impetus has stopped dead.

The YEP’s Phil Hay

Derby were slow in finding a way through and succumbed to a sliding tackle by Matthew Pennington when Sam Winnall shaped to shoot from 14 yards out on 20 minutes. Badly out of position for Sheffield United’s opener last week, the Everton loanee was perfectly placed to see Winnall off with good timing. Leeds were well placed again to kill the threat when Chris Martin advanced onto a through-ball during County’s next attack.

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Throughout the first half, United packed players in front of most of Derby’s attacks and offered their midfield no time to think. By the half-hour, Gary Rowett’s decision to leave seven-goal Matej Vydra on the bench began to feel like an unaffordable luxury. Injury meant David Nugent was not involved at all.

What helped Derby was Hooper’s refusal to award Leeds a penalty five minutes before half-time. County were stretched by a counter-attack and as Kemar Roofe hung up a cross at the back post, Andre Wisdom appeared to prevent Alioski nodding it home by pushing him in the back. Hooper waved the appeals away, prompting angry complaints from Christiansen to the fourth official.

The absence of a second goal ensured that the second half’s steady start did not last for long. Alioski came close to finding the top corner with an opportunistic hit from the left wing and Saiz smashed a shot over after Leeds broke from a corner but Chris Martin was a fraction short of sliding in a low cross from Bradley Johnson on 62 minutes and the forward tested Andy Lonergan with a low effort soon after. Elland Road felt cagey for the first time since Lasogga’s goal an hour earlier.

Ronaldo Viera and Craig Forsyth battle for the ball.

Ronaldo Viera and Craig Forsyth battle for the ball.

The change in mood had a predictable effect 18 minutes from time when Craig Forsyth bombed forward unheeded on the left and banged in a cross which Winnall dispatched from a couple of yards out.

A kick in the teeth for Christiansen almost became a full-on beating when Roofe fractionally avoiding turning substitute Andreas Weimann’s cross into his own net but there was nothing the Dane could do when Hadi Sacko’s trip on Tom Lawrence on the very edge of United’s box convinced Hooper to point to the spot.

Leeds protested helplessly but Winnall held his nerve amid the arguing, sending Lonergan the wrong way from the spot. Christiansen looked on, shocked and deflated.

Fright night it was.

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Yorkshire Evening Post

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Samuel Saiz is held by Tom Lawrence

Samuel Saiz is held by Tom Lawrence

Pierre-Michel Lassoga celebrates his goal

Pierre-Michel Lassoga celebrates his goal

Ezgian Alioski's header goes wide

Ezgian Alioski's header goes wide

Sam Winnall scores Derby's equaliser past Andy Lonergan.

Sam Winnall scores Derby's equaliser past Andy Lonergan.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Leeds United's shortcomings are clear for all to see, admits boss Heckingbottom