There was a touch of magic in the air around Leeds last night and while the residual dust falling from Pablo Hernandez’s boots may have contributed, it’s the collective excitement of our fanbase that’s brought the city back to life.

A 1-0 win against a decent Derby County side sounds like a good, if not entirely remarkable result when you consider we came into the match above them and were on home soil. And there’s undoubtedly some truth to that – Leeds were the favourites after all.

But without key defensive players Pontus Jansson and Charlie Taylor, there was genuine cause for concern amongst our fanbase. Derby are a decent side and a lot of our good form has stemmed from a rock solid defence, so while ever a question mark hung over the defensive situation, it was fair to conclude Leeds might struggle.

Those concerns proved unfounded. In fact… they proved downright silly.

This wasn’t a 1-0 performance by any stretch of the imagination. From the first whistle, Leeds were all over Derby, pressing them in every area of the pitch and totally dominating the play.

When the only goal of the match came – a wonderfully guided Chris Wood header from one of many, top-drawer Hernandez deliveries – Leeds could. and probably should, have been totally out of reach.

But such was Leeds’ dominance, the usual trepidation that goes hand-in-hand with watching your team fail to convert chances never occurred. Leeds were playing at an entirely different level to Derby and at no point did I worry about the result.  The goal would come. There was no doubt in my mind.

Derby were second-best in every department, left totally stunned by what Leeds were doing to them and there was simply nothing they could do to resist the inevitable outcome of this match.

If any credit is to be offered Derby’s way, McClaren did manage to rally a bit of a reaction out of them in the second half, but it was a short-lived matching of our own performance at best. Their resistance was futile.

The only time Leeds fans had anything to worry about was when Rob Green smashed a clearance against Derby’s forward, whom it richoted off and went into the back of his net. An absolute howler, though his embarrassment was spared by the referee correctly ruling for handball.

Had that goal stood (and there’s an argument for ‘ball to hand’ I suppose), you knew Leeds had it in them to step things up again. Leeds weren’t going to be denied. This side has a hunger and self-belief I haven’t seen for many years, there was no danger of heads dropping and us giving up the points.

What really created the magic though was the crowd. All night long I was struggling to shake David O’Leary comparisons – the young manager, young team, handful of top quality pros serving as role models to a talented younger generation. But above all that, it was the atmosphere under the floodlights. It felt like the early 2000s again and while the opposition was Derby and not Deportivo, that magical feeling when the whole city comes alive and gets behind its football team had returned.

It struck me that for many fans, this is the first time they’ve truly experienced what Leeds is like when the football team is performing well and the whole city seems to be buzzing off it. We saw it under Simon Grayson to a degree, but that being League One, promotion always felt like a foregone conclusion.

Last night, and increasingly in the days between matches, Leeds is starting to feel like it’s being brought alive by the football club. Suddenly, there’s less Chelsea/Scum/City shirts around the city, replaced instead by kids running around in Leeds United shirts again. Everywhere I go, people seem to be talking effusively about the club. Gone have the resigned nods of mutual suffering when you pass someone in a Leeds top in the White Rose, replaced instead by a hearty Leeds salute and massive smiles.

The players believe, the fans believe and once again, the city is abuzz with talk of Leeds United’s potential. It’s been a long hard slog through the second and third tiers of English football and all the chaos that’s gone with it, but finally, Leeds are on the rise and all about the football. And what a wonderful feeling that is.

Man of the match 

No contest, Pablo Hernandez by some distance. 95% of Premier League midfielders aren’t fit to lace his boots. Quite what he’s doing at a Championship club – or stranger still, what he was doing in Qatar? – I have no clue, but we should all be thanking our lucky stars he’s chosen to revive his career at Elland Road. An outstanding player with outrageous ability.

Every other player on the pitch deserves credit too. Doukara and Wood defended from the front throughout, chasing down lost causes for the hell of it. Ronaldo Vieira is as stupidly good as his name dictates he must be. We were worried about the scrambled together defence, but Luke Ayling (out of position) and Lewie Coyle performed wonderfully well.

I could just go through every player and heap praise on them, but you get the point. We did good. We did very good. On and on…

  • CupraSam

    Having only vague memories of O’Leary’s team and growing up in Nottingham this is the first time I’ve really felt a buzz like this. All thanks to me moving up to Leeds for university in September no doubt! First game was Blackburn in the league, we’ve barely looked back since. I was content to be there or there abouts a month ago but the more this goes on its hard to see how this team can’t challenge for the top 2 now. On and on!!

  • tim campbell

    Carry on at this rate and we’re going up as champions – best side in this league in my humble opinion MOT

  • The Leeds Avenger

    I had a hundred quid on a top 6 finish at the start of the season ,, odds 5/1
    So I’m well chuffed but not surprised to see leeds were they are ,, best odds now !! 2/5…
    I also had a tenner on them getting auto promoted at 121 , more in hope than expectation , but after Friday night who knows..
    MOT