White Saturday Follows Black Friday as Leeds Slam the Rams – by Rob Atkinson

Antenucci at the double: United's bearded wonder celebrates

Antenucci at the double: United’s bearded wonder celebrates

Leeds United 2, Derby County 0

There had been a definite feeling of optimism – the kind of optimism where you’re not really sure what it’s based on – ahead of this clash between Leeds United and league leaders Derby County. Whether it was a sort of pre-Yuletide glass-half-full ebullience, or merely good old Yorkshire blinkered pig-headedness, the vibe in the ether had been remarkably positive. There were a lot of “funny feelings” that Leeds could – would – win. And sure enough, by the final whistle, the joke was very much on the Rams, our one-time rabbits but more recently an irritating nemesis. Leeds had won decisively, 2-0, with current pin-up boy Mirco Antenucci scoring either side of half time to give us our first success over the sheep since 2005.

The game started with the visitors as the more measured side, as befitting their lofty status. Derby had that ever so slightly arrogant air about them, redolent of aristocrats pitched against peasants in a village cricket match. Their early play suggested a blithe expectation of victory – but they failed to capitalise on this brief superiority and, when the young midfield guns of Leeds started to blaze in and around “Schteve” McClaren’s bewildered officer class, the writing was very much on the wall. In the end, for all their occasionally threatening encroachment into the United defensive third, Derby were sunk without a trace and subsided with barely a whimper, never mind any truly threatening signs of defiance. No shots on target over the whole piece is a damning indictment of supposed promotion favourites and ultimately the White tide simply swept poor County away.

Antenucci the Adored

Antenucci the Adored

Antenucci’s two goals were deft finishes of contrasting types, one tucked neatly away from a quality low cross from Mowatt, the other a precise finish after the luxury of a touch on the ball to set up the strike, following more good work, firstly from Mowatt. He prepared the way for a fine pass from Warnock to the Bearded Wonder, who languidly scored the clincher. Two goals and a clean sheet might appear to have been ample reward for Redders’ improving unit but, in truth, United could and should have had more. Still, after a nine year famine against these opponents, enough was as good as a feast, with subsequent near-misses providing the lightest of desserts for discerning Leeds palates.

We’re often told that we’re “not famous any more”; we’ve even been known to throatily echo that sentiment as the Elland Road Kop indulges in a little post-modern irony. But defeat at the hands of Leeds really does hurt Derby; in a rivalry going back even before the feuding of Hunter and Lee, we’ve always been a desperately desirable scalp for the ovine followers of the Rams – right up there with Forest in that respect. So a long overdue victory against them is all the sweeter for the pain etched so deeply across County faces, souls, and indeed the entire #DCFC Twitter feed. Schadenfreude has a flavour all of its own and, like revenge, is a dish best served cold. It’s been cooling away nicely for nine years and it tasted just right yesterday.

So what now for Leeds? As the Redfearn touch continues to mould the youth, talent, Latin flair, vigour and experience of this squad into an ever more cohesive unit, there are grounds for guarded optimism. We’re not there yet, not by a long chalk. There are still worrying deficiencies, vulnerabilities that might have been exploited by a team with more stomach for battle than this somewhat effete Derby side. But the Leeds work in progress is starting to show signs that progress is indeed being made. Those signs were there also in rather unlucky defeat at Blackburn last week; seven days on, they were stronger and still more promising. One pundit in the Leeds blogosphere dared to speak the word relegation yesterday morning; he may now conclude that he was being needlessly, almost treacherously, pessimistic. Defeats are hard enough to swallow, surely there’s no call for defeatist talk.

Make no mistake, Leeds beat a fine side yesterday and beat them well. Derby will play worse and win in the face of less gutsily determined opposition. Leeds for their part will have to strive to maintain at least the standards they set on Saturday afternoon; in fact, they will need to raise the bar still further if any real upward momentum is to be generated. If a young side of such rich potential can do this, then they will expect to win more than they’ll lose – a verdict that the defeated Mr McClaren might well now be prepared to endorse.

24 responses to “White Saturday Follows Black Friday as Leeds Slam the Rams – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Granulated

    Great article!


  2. Ropey Wyla

    Slamming the rams is of course not to be confused with shagging sheep. Great win today, should inspire confidence, let’s hope we can stuff fulham and ross mcpaycheque next


  3. I wasn’t really expecting a result today. Had it in my head that with some of the teams coming up i couldn’t see us putting together a string of results together till January. I believe we have a decent team as today showed, but they’re gelling quicker then I expected. Great result today and if we can beat them, then just maybe we’re finally getting the rub of the green. Plus with talks of Cellino investing another 20mil into the club looks like it might be a white Christmas after all!


  4. RoystonLUFC

    I don’t want to get carried away by unbridled optimism, nor wallow in Leeds-like pessimism – but reality seems to suggest that gradually – gradually – we are learning a vital lesson: that games last 90 minutes, not 45. And that lesson in itself is worth a million Cellinis!

    For years I’ve been saying that we’re almost climbing the hill again, just a few tweaks, etc – only to be felled by behind-our-backs reality. But now it seems like it’s not just my woeful optimism: we really seem to be moving in the uncharted, yet surreal, forward direction. For once I feel as though the team that Reddders is assembling is not going to be sold off to the lowest bidder so that some b(w)anker can make a quick buck; rather, it seems like the great MC is going to realise his (and our) potential by taking us to the next stage.

    Not just in a fly-by-night Ridsdale fashion, but in a sustainable way that could be a gold-fish free trend back toward the upper echelon.

    Someone pinch me please – preferably if you look like MC’s daughter! But seriously, I really am immune to getting carried away, but the team looks like (for the first time in years) that it really has a future. Oh Don, I’m getting carried away…

    Rob, is it just me? Should I see a shrink? I’m going to answer that question: no f*****g way. We really are on the up! In spite of all the whinging and disappointment after Ewood Park, at least we played the part there – we weren’t just the straw man waiting to be blown down. So a couple of mistakes cost us the game: we’ve learnt from that and we’re moving on.

    Under our previous “head coaches” we would have been trounced today. NR is now undoing all the wrongs and making things right. That doesn’t mean automatic promotion, or even the play-offs. But at least we’ll have a team we can be proud of. This is the most exciting team I’ve see wearing a white shirt for as long as I can remember. And it’s even better because all the anti-foreign f**kwits are going to have to eat platefuls of humble pie: from now on they’ll be wearing Italian colours, ha ha!

    Sorry Rob, too much Chateauneuf-du-pape this eve. Well, I was waiting for the right moment to pull that cork…


  5. Well happy with a shock 3pts think we will have a few more ups and downs this season but hopefully we can put a run together before the season ends because i think we will only get stronger as the season gets longer MOT


  6. Isn’t this all a little bit biased?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sniffersshorts

    Great article great win Redfearn is showing his metal…. One dampener on everything the daily heil ….. Why is it when we have a great day they have to stick the knife in with their hatred … Maybe I should just ignore it but it will roll on again for weeks put a dampener on things … Well let’s just hope we can rise against it and show what we can do on the pitch MOT


  8. The crowd were also reminiscent of a bygone day – great atmosphere. I always seem to associated a partisan and vocal South Stand with successful matters on the pitch?
    Only a few seasons ago we did a similar job on QPR; only that spring board resulted in a massive bellyflop. The impetus must be kept up!


  9. Dirty Deputy Dane

    Hi Rob. Great article and as usual with Your superior vocabulary and play with words. May every Saturday become White Saturday. Saw the game on Bet365 and agree that it was great stuff shown on the pitch. Can’t help thinking that if Austin came in at the same minute against Blackburn we had won this game, too. Seems like NR learnt a lesson there :). I have also noticed that we tend to play well against teams with high self confidence and playing with the ball on the floor. With this in mind I believe next game against The tractor boys who seem to play a very physical game and with long balls could cause our defense serious trouble. Yesterday’s last 15 minutes showed some defensive difficulty in getting rid of the ball in a constructive fashion. If we get a result at Ipswich then we can get results against any side in the Championship. Usually i fear the games in the festive season but I have a strange positive feeling that we will be getting several good results for the remainder of 2014. MOT on on on


  10. Re Dirty Dane – can’t help but notice that we have struggled to cope with physical hoofball, as in second half vs Rotherham & Blackpool. N R needs to sort out some defensive strategy to cope. We are better against teams who try to play football – it won’t take long for other teams to work this out.


  11. Cautiously optimistic for a climb up the table. If we can get a run of wins happening, that rise can be very fast indeed.
    We’ve approached Christmas a few times recently in good positions, only to crash and burn after too much turkey and pud, but this time I feel very different.
    We appear to be playing a much more attractive and sustainable brand of footy, and the youngsters are staking their claims to a shirt which is always exciting.
    I did see the Varney-esque miss near the end, when somehow Derby missed an open goal twice with our defence absolutely nowhere in front of goal, albeit with a sensational Warnock block in there.


  12. Great result Rob- I know you’ve had a poor run against the Rams- will miracles never cease? first Leeds turn over top of the table Derby, then the prime minister announces long awaited dual carriageway upgrades to the A1 in Northumberland (yet significantly still 20 miles short of Berwick upon Tweed!!)- could the good lord make it three miracles with the Toon smashing Chelsea next weekend? somehow I rather doubt it!!


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