Derby County 1 (Russell 56)
Leeds Utd 0
Leeds had nothing to show for their effort at Derby County’s iPro Stadium in a match that saw them denied twice by the woodwork – at the death of each half – as well as some last-ditch defending from the Rams.
The Whites should have been in front at half time but Kyle Bartley’s free header from a wicked Mowatt corner hammered the crossbar and, with the last chance of the game, Marcus Antonsson’s marvellous curling effort thumped Scott Carson’s left-hand post.
In a game of few chances, Rob Green had to make just the one save, such was Leeds’ organisation at the back but Johnny Russell’s low effort proved the difference.
With just over a minute on the clock, United charged down the right through Sacko’s powerful run, allowing Hernandez to clip in a tasty cross, but the ball just wouldn’t drop for a blue shirt.
The best Derby could offer in the opening stages was a wayward attempt from Bradley Johnson that sailed over from 25 yards as both sets of fans gave it their all.
The ball was bogged down in midfield with neither side giving much away in the opening quarter and, consequently, chances were at a premium.
Again, the hosts’ sniff of goal came from distance after Hughes robbed Phillips before presenting Butterfield with the chance to strike, only to slice harmlessly over the top on 26 minutes.
United responded with the best move of the match that started with Hernandez and ended with Wood heading just wide. Ayling picked up possession down the right after some slick, one-touch passing but the big striker just couldn’t direct his powerful effort on target with 28 gone.
At the other end, Matej Vydra flashed a shot wide from a relatively tight angle after getting in behind, but the Whites were looking more than comfortable at the back.
United finished the half on top with Hernandez and Sacko linking up well but the latter was penalised for a foul on Anya as he looked to latch onto Hernandez’s perfectly-weighted through-ball. Just before half-time whistle came, Kyle Bartley was so unlucky to see a vicious header rattle the crossbar as he met Mowatt’s corner six yards out.
Any potential rhythm to the start of the second half was halted by an injury to Derby’s Anya – who limped off to be replaced by Johnny Russell on 52 minutes.
Four minutes after his introduction, Russell didn’t need a second invitation to a half-clearance from just inside the box as he smashed through a crowd of bodies and past Green for the opener.
The Whites made a change just before the hour mark as Kemar Roofe replaced Hadi Sacko out wide.
Rob Green was forced into a fine save to deny Will Hughes’ rising drive on 64 minutes for what was his first save of the match, such was Derby’s shot-shy nature.
United were well up for the scrap and didn’t let any pass die, as they chased and hurried the hosts. Their persistence almost paid off on 66 minutes as Luke Ayling snatched at a loose ball following a deep cross but too many white shirts were in the way.
The home side thought they had doubled their advantage as Vydra turned home Ince’s cross following a lightning break but the striker was offside when the ball was played.
Kalvin Phillips lined up a 25-yard free-kick on 72 minutes and brought a good save from Carson low to his left. From the follow-up, Roofe was thwarted by a brilliant tackle that denied a certain leveller.
Derby were happy to let Leeds control the play and they almost punished them through Roofe on 82 minutes. Charlie Taylor whipped in a delicious cross that just couldn’t get over and direct on target.
United were turning the screw as they searched for the equaliser - Hernandez bending just wide via a deflection from the left-hand side of the area after some great build-up play from O’Kane and Taylor.
As Garry Monk’s side kept pressing in the closing stages, a counter-attack from the hosts was inevitable but O’Kane ended hopes of a Derby second with a fine interception to prevent Ince’s pass from finding Vydra.
Six minutes were added for United to find a goal and it almost came straight away. Bartley found time to chest down a clearance eight yards from goal but his effort bounced into the grateful arms of Carson as the defender didn’t get a clean connection.
The Rams were panicking in the dying embers of the game as substitute Marcus Antonsson bent a delightful effort towards goal only for it to rattle the outside of the post. His strike was to be the last real action of a tight and tense affair and there would have been no complaints from the Derby contingent should the Swede’s shot have sailed home to give United – and their fantastic following of over 3,000 – a deserved share of the spoils.
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Anya (Russell 52), Ince, Johnson, Pearce, Butterfield (Bryson 75), Hughes (Baird 84), Vydra, Lowe.
Subs not used: Mitchell, Bent, Wilson, Weimann.
Leeds Utd: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Wood (Antonsson 82), O’Kane, Jansson, Hernandez, Taylor, Phillips, Sacko (Roofe 59), Mowatt (Grimes 80).
Subs not used: Silvestri, Cooper, Vieira, Coyle.
Referee: Tony Harrington
Assistant Referees: Daniel Leach & Geoffrey Russell
Fourth Official: Oliver Langford
Attendance: 31, 170 (3,132 Leeds)