Barnsley prove to be the leading Yorkshire contender

anyone wanting to know why the Championship has become the division to avoid for those who hand over a pound to the bookies every week along with a fixed odds coupon should look no further than this season’s Yorkshire derbies.

That is because the White Rose mini-league that has been taking place in English football’s second tier has been every bit as impossible to predict as the main competition with some stunning victories and thrilling tussles having kept supporters guessing on an almost weekly basis.

Whether it be the unforgettable night when Leeds United were humbled at Barnsley or Hull City’s dramatic last-gasp win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, fans have certainly been given value-for-money.

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Even the odd dreary all-Yorkshire affair – Leeds v Sheffield United springing most readily to mind – has been notable due to the 33,662 crowd likely to be the highest in the Football League during 2010-11 courtesy of the East Stand upper tier at Elland Road remaining closed until next August due to on-going building work.

Similarly, the Blades’ August visit to Middlesbrough – an equally wretched 90 minutes that had the viewers watching at home on TV turning off in their droves – will not be easily forgotten, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

In terms of results, Barnsley have been the standout performers with Mark Robins’s men not only having bagged the most points – 14 from seven outings – but also the most goals (14).

The Reds have also lost just once against opposition from within the Broad Acres – a 2-0 reverse at Hull City in January – while their tally of four derby wins is the highest in the county.

Doncaster Rovers, who in the full league table sit one place behind Barnsley in 16th, have also found derby football to their liking with three wins and two draws from half a dozen games.

Such has been their impressive form against Yorkshire sides, in fact, that another win at Leeds United tomorrow would leave Sean O’Driscoll’s men level pegging with the Reds at the top of the mini-league with three games to play.

For Simon Grayson’s team, derby football has been something of a mixed bag with just two wins – the aforementioned dreary 1-0 win over the Blades when neither side deserved to claim all three points and a much more entertaining 2-1 triumph at the Riverside – and the 5-2 thrashing at Oakwell being interspersed with no less than five draws.

Most of those stalemates have, admittedly, been hugely entertaining affairs with a couple of 2-2 draws against Hull City only being outdone in terms of excitement and incident by last week’s 3-3 thriller against Barnsley.

Leeds will become the first to complete their 10 games against White Rose opposition when they travel to Sheffield United on March 19.

“The Yorkshire derbies we’ve had have all been good games,” said Grayson.

“We went to Doncaster and had a tight 0-0 draw, while we also had two good matches against Hull. Sheffield United was also a good result for us.

“The atmosphere that surrounds the games has been good with the prize being the chance to be the best team in Yorkshire. By that, I mean the team that finishes highest in the division.

“That is what we want to do. We know what is at stake on Saturday (against Rovers), three points that will keep us in that play-off position.”

Whether Leeds can finish this season’s derby programme with two wins remains to be seen. But Grayson is not someone who subscribes to the theory, put forward by Queens Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock in this newspaper last September, that having so many Yorkshire sides in the Championship makes it that bit harder to be successful.

Grayson said: “Derbies should inspire players, not hinder them. I have seen in the past people suggest that teams in London are hampered in trying to win the title by the number of derbies they have to play.

“But, to me, it shouldn’t hinder a team’s season. Instead, it should be something that acts as a motivation because you want to come out on top.”

United’s third place standing in the Yorkshire mini-league is most notably under threat from Hull City, with 10 points from eight games.

The Tigers’ 34 league outings have seen just 75 goals scored, one more than Nottingham Forest who have the lowest tally in the division.

In all-Yorkshire tussles, however, Nigel Pearson’s men have found the net 13 times and conceded the same number of goals.

It is a record that is in contrast to the two clubs who have struggled the most in derby football this term, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United.

For Boro, a tendency to concede late goals has been apparent with Leeds and Doncaster both claiming reward at the death.

Propping up the county’s other six Championship sides are the Blades, though possible salvation lies in Micky Adams’s men having three derby games at the Lane before the end of the season. If they can win two of those then survival may yet be earned, as manager Adams concedes.

“It is good for the Championship to have so many Yorkshire derbies,” he said.

“They are cracking games if players can understand their importance.

“The fans certainly buy into it, you have just got to get the players buying into it. We have still got Leeds and Barnsley to come and they are games we will relish.

“You can be sure the fans will be up for them.”

Let battle commence.