Grayson determined Leeds will prove far less porous when they tackle Barnsley

MANAGER Simon Grayson has challenged Leeds United to prove in today’s derby with Barnsley just how much they have improved over the past year.

The Elland Road club, who are fifth in the Championship following back-to-back wins on the road against Leicester City and Burnley, struggled against the Reds last season with their 5-2 thrashing at Oakwell being one of the low points of Grayson’s near three-year reign.

A 3-3 draw in the return last February may have been a hugely entertaining contest but, for Leeds, it represented another disappointing night with the Reds twice coming from behind to rescue a point.

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Grayson was understandably angry with the defending that allowed Barnsley to plunder eight goals against his side last term but believes United have improved hugely since then.

He said: “Yorkshire derbies are always tough games, and the atmosphere is always decent.

“The Hull City game at Elland Road (when Leeds won 4-1) was a good atmosphere and it was great to send our punters home happy.

“We had two entertaining clashes against Barnsley last year, most notably the one away from home. That was not the best of nights for us.

“The game against them here was entertaining as well but I think we have progressed as a club since then.

“Barnsley have also moved around in terms of a different manager and personnel. But we certainly believe we are capable of winning it.”

Leeds will be chasing their first win on home soil in almost two months, Portsmouth succumbing to a 1-0 defeat on October 1.

Since then, Coventry City and Cardiff City were able to leave with a point apiece from 1-1 draws. And, from a Leeds perspective, the less said about their last home game – a 5-0 thrashing by Blackpool – the better.

Following the crushing manner of that defeat, United’s players deserve praise for a response that has brought a 1-0 win at Leicester and last weekend’s 2-1 triumph at Burnley.

The six points have helped power Leeds up to fifth, negating any desperate need to strengthen ahead of the loan window deadline two days ago.

United, who loaned out Paul Rachubka and Alex Bruce, are understood to have had a few feelers out but Grayson said: “I feel we have enough competition within the squad and am fine with it. I only wanted us to bring in someone who would go into the first team.

“There are players coming back from injury and others who feel they should be in the team.

“I only wanted someone to go into the first team so it was not too much of a problem to me (that nothing happened).”

The transfer deadline and the dramatic win at Burnley are not the only stories that have dominated the news agenda at Elland Road this week with the row between Grayson and Andy O’Brien that led to the defender refusing to play at Turf Moor also having eaten up the column inches.

Asked if the saga might disrupt preparations for today’s game, Grayson said: “No danger.

“As it stands right now, the squad are in good spirits and looking forward to a big game against Barnsley this weekend.

“They are disappointed with what has happened but these things happen in football from time to time.”

Maik Taylor will make his first appearance on the United bench today after the 40-year-old Northern Ireland goalkeeper signed a short-term contract in midweek.

He will act as back-up to loanee Alex McCarthy until Andy Lonergan is fit to return after a dislocated finger.

McCarthy has been hugely impressive in his first two games since joining from Reading but an extension to his month-long stay seems unlikely, as Grayson concedes.

He said: “When we signed Alex, his first port of call was to get games.

“It was always going to be tough to extend (his loan) after the Watford game because we have Reading at home straight afterwards. But we might ask the question anyway.”