KEMAR ROOFE’S first goal since January means Leeds United will go into next Wednesday’s play-off semi-final second leg with a precious one goal lead.
The United top scorer chose the perfect time to break his personal drought to cap an impressive display by Marcelo Bielsa’s men against Derby County.
He struck ten minutes into a second half that saw the Rams, first, awarded a penalty only for referee Craig Pawson to overturn his own decision after consulting with linesman Eddie Smart.
The change of heart left Frank Lampard fuming but the former England international could have few complaints with the result on the balance of play.
After weathering an early storm of pressure, Leeds were superb and could have won by a bigger margin but for home goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
Roofe, whose last goal had come in the January win over Derby, made the breakthrough courtesy of a sublime first-time finish.
The United striker, however, will surely be the first to admit his fourth goal against the Rams this term owed everything to the quality of Jack Harrison’s pass.
Collecting the ball out wide on the left after referee Craig Pawson had played an excellent advantage after Tom Lawrence had clattered into Stuart Dallas, the Manchester City loanee looked up and curled a pass so exquisite Derby stood no chance of intercepting.
Roofe needed no second invitation as he fired past Kelle Roos.
Roofe, who missed two months through injury early in the New Year, almost had a second two minutes later, his shot seeming destined for the net only for Roos to save brilliantly.
Pablo Hernandez should have doubled the visitors’ advantage just after the hour when he was presented with an excellent chance by Jamie Shackleton only to miss his shot completely.
Derby briefly stepped up a gear in the final quarter and Jayden Bogle was unfortunate not to convert a Scott Malone cross.
The Rams continued to push and were awarded a penalty by referee Pawson when Bogle went down under a challenge from Harrison.
However, after consultation with his linesman, the official then reversed his decision much to the fury of the 31,723 crowd.
The first half had seen Derby start at a frantic pace only for Leeds to gradually take the sting out of the home side’s threat.
Gaetano Berardi pulled off a fine block to divertn a David Nugent shot side. Otherwise, though, the Rams rarely troubled Bielsa’s side.
Kelle Roos, like Leeds counterpart Kiko Casilla, had little to deal with in the opening 45 minutes but that was more down to the visitors’ poor final ball.
Several promising situations went begging, perhaps the best coming just before the interval when Luke Ayling skipped past Scott Malone and Fikayo Tomori wide on the right.
However, with Derby suddenly vulnerable, the full back made a hash of his pass and the hosts were able to clear.
Leeds finally got it right in terms of capitalising on one of those promising positions ten minutes into the second half and went on to be worthy winners.