Leeds head coach Garry Monk was frustrated and Steve McClaren admitted he has a lot of work ahead of him despite marking his second spell as Derby manager in the same manner as he did in his first – with victory over United.
McClaren saw Johnny Russell come off the bench to score the goal that earned Derby’s first home league win of the season and the first for six months.
But Leeds hit the woodwork twice and could have ruined McClaren’s return to the club that sacked him 17 months ago.
Leeds should have been in front before Russell struck after Kyle Bartley thumped a header against the bar from a corner in first-half stoppage time.
It was from a corner that Derby scored in the 56th minute when the ball was cleared to the edge of the area and Russell raced in to drive a low shot past Rob Green.
Leeds pressed hard and almost equalised in the fifth minute of stoppage time when substitute Marcus Antonsson curled a shot past Scott Carson but the ball came back off a post.
“I said to the players at half-time that we need to put our game on the pitch a little bit better,” said Monk.
“We had a go in the last 25 minutes and had a couple of chances but overall I think we didn’t do enough of the things we have done really well in recent games with the ball to give ourselves the best chance of getting something.
“We probably deserved something from the game but it’s one of those where you probably can’t complain that you didn’t.”
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Pearce, Lowe, Hughes (Baird 84), Johnson, Butterfield (Bryson 75), Ince, Vydra, Anya (Russell 52). Unused substitutes: Bent, Wilson, Weimann, Mitchell.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor, Phillips, O’Kane, Sacko (Roofe 59), Hernandez, Mowatt (Grimes 80), Wood (Antonsson 82). Unused substitutes: Cooper, Silvestri, Vieira, Coyle.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
Man of the match: Johnny Russell.