Derby County 0-1 Leeds United

Before this game kicked off, Marcelo Bielsa watched patiently as Frank Lampard made his way down the line of Kappa-clad Leeds United coaching staff before turning reverently to the smiling Argentine to shake his hand.

Now trailing his opposite number 7-1 on aggregate over the course of the season, you still get the feeling that Bielsa is getting a very good deal on accommodation in Frank’s mind.

So authoritative was the visitors’ performance that The Rams were restricted to the point where they failed to register a shot on target. Their best spell, to be fair to Frank, was in the spell following his changes from the bench.

Derby huffed and puffed, taking advantage of their brief purple patch to forge their best opportunity, a tumbling Harrison appearing at first glance to have conceded a penalty, only for eagle-eyed linesman Eddie Smart to outline the actual nature of events to referee Craig Pawson.

There was relief for Roofe who finally ended his goal-less run, racing onto a tantalising ball from Jack Harrison to finish past Kelle Roos. Kemar’s renaissance was palpable and in the next move he stung Roos’ palms again. This can only bode well for the remaining (hopefully) two games.

There were a number of talking points during the game. Sky Sports staff deemed some of them ‘controversial’, but as they began their day’s coverage with continued nauseating references to that which shall not be named in this column, the fact that Leeds had the audacity to turn up would have been ‘controversial’.

Baby Shack

24 minutes into the game Adam Forshaw fell to the turf and stayed there. In a prepubescent substitutes’ bench, Bielsa turned to a man (boy) with relative experience – Jamie Shackleton.

It was a prospect many of us have been longing for throughout the season. Flashes of his brilliance at senior level have been restricted to late cameo appearances, but his displays at U23 level have been the stuff of LUTV legend.

Baby Shack’s introduction was a turn of events for which not even the hugely analytical Lampard was prepared and the youngster took full advantage, thrown into his natural midfield habitat. He terrified The Rams.

His pace, trickery and determination delighted the visiting hordes and he was responsible for Leeds’ third shot on target, volleying Harrison’s flick back against the fists of Roos. This was a truly thrilling performance from Shackleton, who surely has to start at Elland Road on Wednesday.

Left Side? Strong Side!

In the preview to this game I mentioned how Derby may look to get at Leeds down The Whites’ left flank where recently Dallas and in particular Jack Harrison have been failing to cover themselves in glory, or even competence.

Today it was different. Northern Ireland international Dallas found his stride early in the game, adding a little shithousery by running into the back of Duane Holmes for good measure. His driving runs and link-up play with Harrison were a feature  as rather than be attacked, the much-maligned duo were those doing the attacking.

Dallas even nearly re-created a fine goal from this writer in a DAWFL Sittlington Cup game back in 2016 (0:59 – you know you want to) in the 12th minute, his effort dipping narrowly above the crossbar.

Harrison’s perfectly weighted pass for Kemar Roofe’s winner was the stuff of dreams. The kind of pass that draws an audible purr from the crowd. The kind of pass that begs to be rolled home. Roofe did the honours and Harrison notches the assist.

A much more polished performance from Leeds’ left-wing alliance this evening.

The Warrior Berardi

His 11th minute block on David Nugent set the tone for the afternoon as the Swiss defender carried out his role with professionalism and resolve.

His inclusion for the injured Pontus Jansson raised a few concerned eyebrows among the fanbase, but it was vital in allowing the pivotal Kalvin Phillips to continue to anchor the side. When Kalvin has to revert to centre-back, we struggle in midfield.

Gaetano was sharp at the breakdown, won the aerial battles and quietly shut down the Derby attack alongside Captain Cooper. His yellow card was a soft one and should Pontus regain fitness in the days ahead, Bielsa will have a hugely difficult call on his hands.

Tomori Two-Feet

As always when these two collide, there are the inevitable unsavoury moments that we of course, not-so-secretly crave. We arrived at one of these junctures early in the afternoon as Derby centre-back Fikayo Tomori’s attempt at the long jump almost torpedoed Baby Shack.

Around the half-hour mark, Shackleton chased a 50-50 with the rangy centre-half. Tomori, to give him his dues, got there first. Thankfully. Had he not, the prodigious Leeds all-rounder could have been looking at a potentially serious injury.

His two-footed lunge rightly drew a dressing down from Craig Pawson, but we’ve all seen them given as red. Lucky.

Was it a Penalty? 


Possibly the biggest talking-point of the game, if Keith Andrews is to be believed, was the romantic will-they-won’t-they waltz between referee Craig Pawson, the tumbling duo of Harrison and Bogle and assistant referee Eddie Smart.

An awkward-looking collision it certainly was and on first viewing I was cursing Harrison for his assumed stupidity. An irate (and already-booked) Richard Keogh was the first clue that maybe we were going to get away with this one.

Eddie Smart’s intervention ensured that justice was implemented, in a way. The free was awarded to Leeds for a Bogle foul. It wasn’t a free, nor was it a penalty. It should have been a Derby corner, as Harrison’s attempted clearance rolled behind while the two were allowing gravity to take its course.

Huddlestone’s Awkward Elbow

With the game ebbing towards a conclusion, Dallas played a quick one-two from a throw-in. Tom Huddlestone, evidently irritated at the lackadaisical method employed by the Tyrone native, launched himself at poor Stuart.

There was no initial contact on either the ball or Dallas, but this seemed to merely irk the Derby man further. He continued his advance, connecting with the left-back’s turning forehead.

A booking. No further action required really and I’m sure Stuart is grand. But still, noteworthy.

The Curious Case of Klich’s Collision

It would be remiss of me not to mention the other noteworthy incident that should require no further action.

Having held the ball for what seemed like an eternity, Mateusz Klich was finally dispossessed on the edge of the area. As he returned to a standing position, there was a coming together that left the cherubic Tomori and Bradley Johnson particularly incensed.

The Polish international’s head appeared to move towards Tomori’s chest. Pawson cut through the noise and brandished the yellow card which, like Huddlestone’s elbow, should be the end of it.

Half-time then in this Championship Play-Off Semi-Final. There are plenty of positives to be taken from Pride Park.

Roofe’s return to the scoresheet is by far the biggest boost, but the performance of Shackleton and Berardi shows that every man in a Leeds jersey is ready and willing to put in a shift of the quality, intensity and application required.

Last night as I lay dreaming, it wasn’t of pleasant days gone by. I dreamt that Leeds lost this game 4-0.

I even dreamt of reading Phil Hay tweets about a fired-up Bielsa referencing Pochettino’s Spurs and Klopp’s Liverpool by way of saying ‘this is not over’.

In the end, Bielsa again made my dreams come true, but not in the way I’d imagined. His reference was cautionary rather than rallying. His way of dampening any overexcitement. As if any Leeds supporters are getting overexcited.

We’re halfway there. You know how the rest goes.

See you on Wednesday.

Elland Road floodlit on a May evening.

Beautifully Bueno.