Smith strike sees Leeds United end Derby hoodoo

Matt Smith, who scored Leeds United's equaliser against Derby County.
Matt Smith, who scored Leeds United's equaliser against Derby County.
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Leeds United ended their Derby County hoodoo when they earned a deserved point from a 1-1 draw in their entertaining final game of the season at Elland Road.

After 11 straight defeats against the Rams it was a much improved effort this time as the Whites overcame a shaky start before they were ultimately unlucky not to earn all three points.

It looked like a familiar story at the start as play-offs bound Derby produced some crisp passing football and went ahead in the sixth minute when Simon Dawkins was left with a tap-in after Jack Butland had saved from Jeff Hendrick.

They could have already have been ahead before then when left-back Craig Forsyth burst clear only see his angled shot well saved by Butland.

Leeds finally got forward and Michael Tonge saw a goalbound shot blocked by Connor Sammon before striker Sammon was involved at the other end, getting in on the angle of the box, but shooting wide.

In an action-packed opening Matt Smith then had a header well saved at point blank range by Derby keeper Lee Grant and saw another header acrobatically tipped over.

Sammon’s shot was easy for Butland at the other end and the Leeds keeper had to get down well to saved again from Dawkins, but United also carried a big threat with Smith having a header blocked on the line and Danny Pugh’s shot being saved by Grant.

Will Hughes then came to Derby’s rescue with a clearance off the line and Grant made his best save yet to deny Michael Brown’s a spectacular goal from outside the box in possibly his last game.

Ross McCormack, looking for his 30th goal of the season, got on the end of a Smith flick-on, but his attempted lob cleared the crossbar.

Rudy Austin’s attempted lob also went over and Tonge saw a shot hit the hand of a Derby defender, but no penalty was forthcoming and somehow the game reached half-time at just 1-0.

Leeds started the second half strongly with another Tonge shot going inches wide before they grabbed their equaliser on 50 minutes, McCormack cleverly playing Smith in and the big striker producing a deft finish, chipping the ball over onrushing keeper grant for his 13th goal of the season.

It was all United now, but they could not add a second goal as Tonge went down in the box only to be denied a penalty again, Smith volleyed over and McCormack saw a free-kick deflected over.

Derby’s threat was more sporadic, but Patrick Bamford did have a shot saved by Butland and Hendrick hit a shot over from distance.

It was Leeds who looked more likely to win it with McCormack’s free-kick being punched away by Grant and Pugh hitting the side netting after ghosting in at the far post to get a header in.

McCormack had one last chance to get his 30th goal when was unmarked to meet Pugh’s cross, but he could only head the ball straight at Grant.

When Tonge’s shot from the edge of the box was comfortably saved by Grant it was all over bar the shouting and Derby had got away with a draw.

Leeds were happy to have ended their run of defeats against this opposition, however, and the result did mean they finished in 15th place as the top Yorkshire club in the division.

Manager Brian McDermott was pleased with the performance.

He said: “We played some good stuff against a very good Derby side.

“Matt Smith took his goal very well off a terrific pass by Ross McCormack and you have to say he is getting better and better. He is a real handful.

“Michael Brown covered every blade of grass and if Leeds United fans see performances like that and that level of commitment, quality and effort they are happy.”

Match facts

Leeds United 1

(Smith 50)

Derby County 1

(Dawkins 6)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sky Bet Championship

Att: 29,724

Leeds: Butland; Lees, Wootton, Pearce; Austin, Brown, Tonge, Murphy (White 45), Pugh; McCormack, Smith.

Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Whitbread, Forsyth; Bamford (Russell 90), Eustace, Hendrick (Bryson 90), Hughes, Dawkins (Bennett 78); Sammon.

Referee: James Linington.