Leeds Utd 0 Derby County 1: Barnes sinks lacklustre Leeds

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The Independent Online

Such is the bewildering inconsistency of most of the top teams in the Championship that a side like Cardiff can lead the division and then go several hours without scoring. By the same token, Birmingham City were drifting down and Steve Bruce's position as manager was being scrutinised before they went on a run that took them to the summit in place of the Welshmen.

So where does that leave Billy Davies' Derby? After this deserved win, their seventh in eight games, they are showing rare self-belief and consistency and are now second behind the Blues.

This is a fixture redolent of the early and mid-1970s when both teams were at their peak. These are, of course, very different times for both sides but at least Derby can look on their current campaign with some pride, not that Davies was getting carried away with visions of promotion. For Leeds and their manager Dennis Wise, it is only December and yet it is all about damage-limitation and avoiding relegation.

The damage got even worse after just nine minutes. The visitors, through Jon Stead and Paul Boertien, kept possession out on the left before Stead delivered the perfect cross for Giles Barnes, with the midfielder's header far too good for Graham Stack in the Leeds goal.

Ten minutes later and Stead, the former Blackburn Rovers forward, was involved again in a move that should have seen the Rams double their lead. He weighted an accurate pass for Matthew Oakley but from 12 yards out the former Southampton midfielder side-footed his shot horribly wide.

That was a let-off for a Leeds side who were displaying all the confidence of a team with just three wins in the last eight games, which comprise the Wise era. The Yorkshiremen have not shown a propensity for draws, a habit they might like to get into to avoid getting sucked deeper into the relegation mire.

If the home support had nothing to cheer, they at least found someone to boo, namely Seth Johnson. Brought to Leeds from Derby under Peter Ridsdale on famously extravagant wages, the once-capped England midfielder is now back with the Rams and was jeered every time he touched the ball up until his 68th-minute substitution.

Yet booing players doesn't get you goals - shots do. But no one in the all-white strip was able to test Stephen Bywater apart from Matt Heath. He had a header a minute from time, just after Dave Jones had hit the crossbar for the visitors.

Wise felt the "small details" was where his team were falling down but Bywater's fine save was a large detail he could do nothing about. And for once in this division, this was an afternoon where the result was true to form for both teams.

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