Rams Claim Elland Road Win
Attendance: 26, 761
First half goals from Rob Hulse and Kris Commons gave Derby County a deserved victory at Elland Road as they beat Leeds United 2-1 at Elland Road on their return to the Championship. There were some nervous moments towards the end as the home side piled forward but in truth it could and should have been a far more comfortable victory for Nigel Clough`s side as Kasper Schmeichel made three point blank saves to keep his side in the match. Hulse rifled in the opener on thirteen minutes after being teed up by Paul Green but Leeds struck back three minutes later when The Rams gave the ball away and Luciano Becchio struck from close range. A foul on Tomasz Cywka gave the visitors the chance to retake the lead almost immediately and Kris Commons calmly stroked home the penalty. Schmeichel denied Derby a third with close range saves from Commons, Green, Hulse and Barker and despite some late pressure they stood firm at the back to claim their first victory of the season.
Their were full debuts for Gareth Roberts, James Bailey and John Brayford whilst Nigel Clough went with Rob Hulse up front against his former club as he stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that featured heavily in pre-season. Kris Commons created the first opportunity of the match when he ran at the Leeds backline and the defence opened up in front of him but his fierce effort from the edge of the box was just over the top. Leeds came back strongly giving Derby no time on the ball and forced their way back into the match but the visitors took the lead on thirteen minutes with a quick break. Paul Green won the ball back in the middle of the park and ran at the Leeds defence before sliding the ball to Rob Hulse who took a touch before thumping home past Kasper Schmeichel.
The lead didn`t last long with Simon Grayson`s side hitting back three minutes later after a defensive mix-up, Robbie Savage gave the ball away in the middle of Derby`s half and Jonny Howson ran at goal before squaring the ball to Luciano Becchio who shot low into the net from close range. Richard Naylor nearly gave his side the lead on twenty three minutes when a long free kick was flicked on and he turned and volleyed against the bar from eight yards but it was Derby who struck next to regain the lead. Tomasz Cywka was released through the middle and his run on goal was ended by Lloyd Sam`s sliding tackle with the referee pointing to the spot as he took the strikers leg. Up stepped Kris Commons and he coolly sent Schmeichel the wrong way rolling the ball to the keepers left.
James Bailey curled an effort wide of the target from the edge of the area and Kris Commons was denied at point blank range by Schmeichel when he met a curling delivery from Robbie Savage inside the six-yard area. Neill Collins threatened the Derby goal when he met an in-swinging delivery but his downward header bounced up onto the bar and over but the chances were coming at the other end. A neat passing move saw Commons feed Paul Green but his effort was straight at Schmeichel when anywhere else would have seen The Rams increase their lead. Commons had the next effort with a right foot shot from the edge of the box but it didn`t really threaten the home goal and Derby deservedly went in ahead at the break.
Nigel Clough was forced into a change at the interval with Russell Anderson suffering from a tight groin meaning a surprise return to the action for Shaun Barker who had not played a minute in The Rams pre-season. Despite this Barker showed his worth with two important blocks inside the opening five minutes of the second half. Stephen Bywater was then called into action diving to his right to deny Bradley Johnson from the edge of the area.
Paul Green was denied at point blank range again by Schmeichel after a header back into the area flicked off a Leeds head and found the Ireland international in yards of room but the ball wouldn`t sit down for him and his effort was blocked. At the other end Bywater claimed a Neil Kilkenny shot as the Leeds man let fly from just outside of the area. Clough made a change on seventy-four minutes bringing on Ben Pringle in the place of the tiring Tomasz Cywka and Schmeichel again reacted superbly to prevent his side falling further behind. A ball into the area caused chaos in the home defence and the ball sat up nicely for Rob Hulse but his volley was kept out by a smart reaction save by the Leeds keeper and as the ball rolled across the six yard he was on his feet to deny Shaun Barker with another sharp save.
Barker flung himself bravely in front of a Bradley Johnson free kick with the ball spinning out for a corner and Gareth Roberts cleared off the line from Naylor`s header from the resulting corner. Chris Porter was introduced with six minutes to go in place of Kris Commons and he almost made an immediate impact but his header from a Savage cross was easily held by Schmeichel. Four minutes of added time were announced with the home crowd baying for the equaliser but despite their pressure Leeds couldn`t threaten Bywater`s goal and Derby left Elland Road with all three points.
Leeds United: Schmeichel, Connolly, Collins, Naylor, Kilkenny (Clayton 77), Becchio, Sam (White 70), Howson (Grella 86), Johnson, Watt, Bessone
Subs: Higgs, Bruce, Hughes, Bromby
Derby County: Bywater, Brayford, Roberts, Anderson (Barker 46), Leacock, Savage, Bailey, Cywka (Pringle 74), Green, Commons (Porter 84), Hulse.
Subs: Deeney, Buxton, Moxey, Doyle