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Leagues: Championship

Vibrant Leeds into third after Wood strikes

London (AFP) – New Zealand international Chris Wood’s 14th league goal of the season propelled slumbering English football giants Leeds United to a 1-0 win over in-form Derby and into third in the Championship on Friday.

Wood’s header right on half-time — his 18th in all competitions this season — sees them move above Reading, who lost 1-0 to QPR on Thursday, and just four points off the automatic promotion places to the Premier League which they have not been in since being relegated in 2004.

Victory — in front of a crowd of over 25,000 — sees Garry Monk’s side stretch their unbeaten run to six whilst it was only Derby’s second defeat in 12 matches.

“I was really proud of that performance,” said Monk.

“We could have maybe taken more of our chances but the performance was superb.

“We’re moving in the right way and enjoying our football and that’s all we have to focus on,” added the 37-year-old former Swansea manager.

Pablo Hernandez had been at the heart of Leeds first-half dominance causing constant problems down the right hand side but Kyle Bartley and the impressive Souleymane Doukara were unable to put away their best two chances.

Wood then met Hernandez’ corner perfectly to beat Scott Carson but Derby almost drew level immediately Tom Ince’s piledriver from outside the area being tipped over the bar by Leeds’ keeper Robert Green.

The second-half started more promisingly for the visitors and veteran former England international striker Darren Bent thought he had levelled only for it to be ruled out because it had gone in off his arm.

Leeds went close on a couple of occasions with Gaetano Berardi’s stunning effort from well outside the box beating Carson but dipping just too late as it went over the bar.

Derby manager Steve McLaren decided with just over 20 minutes remaining it was time to take off Bent and bring on another experienced striker David Nugent, whom he bought for £2.5million ($3m, 2.8m euros) from Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough earlier this week.

However, it was the hosts who looked more likely to add to their lead with first teenager Ronaldo Vieira forcing Carson into a good save and then Hernandez following up with a delicate curling effort that crept just wide of the post. 

Derby’s woeful night reached its nadir when former Leeds man Bradley Johnson was sent off two minutes from time for a second bookable offence as he brought down Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas.

The hosts went close to rounding off the evening in perfect style with a wonderful move ending with 18-year-old Vieira shooting straight at Carson. 

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