MAYBE controversial Leeds United president Massimo Cellino had a point after all.
Not over his madcap attempts to deny the Sky Sports cameras entrance to Elland Road for last night’s visit of Derby County.
He who pays the piper calls the tune in that respect and without the millions pumped into English football season after season by the satellite channel surely dozens of clubs would now be bankrupt.
Where Cellino may have been on to something in trying to keep Sky out is in United’s quest to hold on to Sam Byram.
The 22-year-old, coveted by a host of Premier League clubs, is ripe for picking come the January transfer window due to having just six months remaining on his contract. Head coach Steve Evans admitted that much in the wake of Sunday’s draw at Nottingham Forest.
Last night, as had been the case in the recent televised fixtures at Wolves and Forest when he netted three times, may well have persuaded any top-flight manager watching at home that Byram is worth a punt.
Certainly, the skill and delivery he displayed to create Chris Wood’s eighth goal of the season was of the highest order. As was the cool manner in which he created United’s first goal for Sol Bamba following a howler from goalkeeper Lee Grant.
But for Tom Ince’s late leveller, Byram’s creativity would have claimed a notable league double for Leeds against a Derby side that looks well equipped to prevail in the Championship promotion race.
The Yorkshire club may not have been able to claim a second win of the season against Paul Clement’s men, but they did end one of the more notable records in this season’s Football League.
Namely, how the Rams, once ahead, invariably go on to claim all three points. On the 13 previous occasions that they had led in the league prior to last night’s visit to Elland Road, they had won every one of them.
Credit, therefore, is due to United for the manner in which they fought back from falling behind inside 13 minutes. Jeff Hendrick was the scorer, the midfielder displaying great balance and poise to ride two challenges before dinking a delightful shot over Marco Silvestri.
For United, it was the worst possible start and they looked strangely subdued for the next half hour or so.
Hendrick should have done better than tamely shoot into Silvestri’s hands before Liam Cooper bravely threw himself in front of a ferocious drive from Jacob Butterfield.
The value of the former Hull City defender’s block was underlined four minutes before the break when the hosts drew level.
Lee Grant’s rash dart from his penalty area created the initial opening that saw Byram’s shot blocked.
Byram quickly reclaimed possession before chipping a cross into the six-yard box, where a frantically back-pedalling Grant could only palm the ball into the path of Bamba and he fired into the net despite the presence of Stephen Warnock and Cyrus Christie on the line.
Derby almost responded straight away, Andreas Weinmann being played through only for Silvestri to bravely dive at the feet of the Austrian.
The visitors did much of the pressing after the restart, too, but came up against a determined wall of white shirts.
Scott Wootton, Charlie Taylor and Cooper all displayed tremendous tenacity just as Derby looked to have fashioned an opening to ensure the closest Silvestri came to action was punching clear a couple of crosses.
This resolve was rewarded 18 minutes from time when Wood, who had looked an isolated figure due to the midfield struggling to get forward in support, headed the hosts in front. Wonderful work from Byram on the right flank created the opening for Leeds’s top scorer who headed beyond Grant.
Clement’s response was to bring Ince off the bench and the former Hull City man equalised with an excellent finish after being played in behind the defence.
This set up a frantic finale as Silvestri saved brilliantly from Bradley Johnson and then Hendrick had a goalbound shot diverted over.
At the other end, Luke Murphy had a free-kick beaten away by Grant before Lewis Cook fired over when well placed as the home side pushed for a late winner. It did not come, but at the final whistle the appreciation of the 23,027 crowd was clear for all to see as Evans’s men were given a rousing reception.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton,Bamba, Cooper, Taylor; Bridcutt; Byram (Phillips 89), Adeyemi (Cook 64), Murphy, Dallas; Wood (Doukara 75). Unused substitutes: Bellusci, Antenucci, Coyle, Peacock-Farrell.
Derby County: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shackell (Shotton 36), Warnock; Hendrick, Butterfield, Johnson; Russell, Bent (Martin 62), Weinmann (Ince 75). Unused substitutes: Baird, Hanson, Thorne, Mitchell.
Referee: M Heywood (Cheshire).