Leeds United 2 Derby County 0
Mirco Antenucci 43,50
A very 1970’s fixture as the Rams travelled to Elland Road to take on Leeds United, a game that despite the passing of the years, still has a resonance for Rams and Leeds fans of a certain age (i.e. not spring chickens)
The Rams welcomed back fit again Lee Grant in goal in the only change to the starting eleven that won so importantly at Watford. Additionally an illness that kept Leon Best off the bench meant that the highly rated Kwame Thomas took his place.
As the game got underway Leeds seemed to be channelling their 1970’s cynical predecessors in the first five minutes as Chris Martin, Will Hughes and Craig Forsyth were all on the receiving end of fouls.
The Rams did start well though with Johnny Russell in particular looking in lively form but Leeds stepped up after ten minutes and put us under some pressure winning a couple of corners without creating any clear chances
Leeds continuing the aggressive approach they opened with had three players in the book by the half hour mark. The Rams were proving much more efficient, committing only one foul in the first 30 minutes but that also attracting a yellow for Cyrus Christie from referee Mick Russell much to the consternation of the Rams players.
We didn’t cope well with the hectic bustling game that Leeds were determined to create and Omar Mascarell particularly in the first half was struggling to get into the game and was added to the list of bookings when he hacked at a Leeds player.
A regular worry amongst Rams fans, and one repeated after this game is whether we have a weakness against teams that try to rough us up. We have so many skilful touch players but needed a bit more steel in this game to earn the right to play the skilful football we excel at.
Considering the position he plays in much of this kind of thought is expressed with young Omar in mind. He is clearly learning the English game rapidly coming on in leaps and bounds from the start of the season and it may well be that Steve McClaren sees the longer term benefit for us this season in allowing Mascarell to develop further in that crucial defensive midfielder role.
The loss of George Thorne to injury in pre season was a big loss for us and I think we sometimes forget that we are having a good season without, arguably, one of our most influential players of the back end of last season who showed how he could control a game as well as creating chances for us with his excellent passing. If he does end up playing at all for us this season that will be a big bonus.
Leeds won this game with goals either side of half time, their striker Mirco Antenucci being one of three unmarked Leeds players when the ball fell to his feet in the box on 43 minutes and half time optimism was extinguished with a kick in the guts early in the second half as Stephen Warnock’s gallop down the left and cut back from found an again unmarked Antenucci who put away his second of the game on 50 minutes
Derby had more of the ball after Leeds inevitably sat back after the second goal and particularly so after a triple substitution replacing Jordan Ibe, Johnny Russell and Omar Mascarell with Craig Bryson, Simon Dawkins and Kwame Thomas for his debut.
For all of the possession though we did not create a clear cut chance until 82 minutes when Bryson broke free the ball falling eventually to Kwame Thomas who fired over from close range.
This was a well below par Rams performance when despite having more than our share of possession we could not control the game and our precise and pacy passing was not to the fore. It looked like Richard Keogh picked up a hamstring injury towards the end of the game though no word as yet on that.
So our long glorious unbeaten run against Leeds comes to an end after 12 games. As the game ended we found that we were still top despite the result – mainly due to two late goals from Milwall at Bournemouth to peg back the Cherries from 2-0 to 2-2. Football eh?