BARNSLEY’s first back-to-back victories since November 2010, their first at Elland Road for over 21 years, precious Yorkshire derby bragging rights and yet another goal for star striker Craig Davies. No wonder Reds’ boss Keith Hill was purring.
Even the 88th-minute dismissal of midfielder David Perkins for a second yellow card couldn’t take the gloss off a gutsy performance from Hill’s brave charges.
It’s five goals in as many games for Davies now with the Reds up to a high of 14th in the Championship standings, just three points off the play-off positions.
“It looks good. We’re ambitious, but expectation can lead to a lot of insecurities,” warned Hill. “We’ve got to make sure we remain in the Championship, but it’s there [the opportunity] for the players and for the football club to maybe over-achieve this season.
“Collectively it was a superb performance. I could have made changes but I believed the team that won last week [2-0 at home to Doncaster Rovers] deserved an opportunity to repeat perform. And they didn’t let us down.
“I thought we controlled possession, particularly in the first half, and stopped a very good Leeds side from producing any wave of continual pressure.”
“All the lads are exhausted, mentally as well. We knew Leeds had scored eight last-ten-minute goals, so concentration was key.
“Luke Steele made one unbelievable save at the end of the game – and it’s that concentration level that can de-energise and drain you.
“But it was a very good performance, I’m delighted for our supporters.”
Hill could have easily been tempted to change his side with Manchester United loan midfielder Danny Drinkwater back from suspension and Newcastle United loan striker Nile Ranger champing at the bit to make his debut.
But Hill resisted the temptation to tinker and his bold decision reaped the rewards he was looking for as the Reds claimed their third victory in their last four games, with all those wins having come in derby matches.
“Our strategy was to take away the support from the home supporters; we kept them quiet until the second half,” admitted Hill.
“I just wanted the players to receive the same great reception they got at half-time at the end of the game. We did get that and it was special.
“My sister, my nephew and my brother-in-law were here to watch me, it’s just great to be able to share these moments with my family, the supporters and the players.
“But I’m realistic and we still might be fighting a relegation battle this season; it’s something we’ve got to guard against. If we finish above the bottom three we’ll have been massively successful.
“I’m a really positive person, but football has balanced me out because there’s knee-jerk reactions to results and not development.
“I’m trying to diffuse the situation somewhat, but I’m very ambitious and so are the players.”
Andy Gray was the only player unavailable to Hill, absent with an Achilles injury which required the striker to have two painkilling injections.
But with new recruit Ranger on the bench, as well as fit-again Danny Haynes, there were plenty of attacking options if needed.
Former Bolton Wanderers striker Ricardo Vaz Te stepped up to bag his third goal of the season, while Davies kept his hot scoring run going with his third goal in his last two outings.
And although it was the hosts who had the first chance of the afternoon when midfielder Robert Snodgrass rifled wide from distance, the Reds were worthy of their three points and their first win at Elland Road since 1990
In fact, Steele, tipped as a potential England keeper, only had two saves to make in the entire match.
The industrious Jim O’Brien picked out Vaz Te with the Reds’ first chance and, although the midfielder scuffed his shot, he connected well enough to see the ball loop over Reading loan keeper Alex McCarthy.
Centre-back Stephen Foster headed over from skipper Jacob Butterfield’s pinpoint 41st-minute free-kick, but two minutes later the visitors doubled their lead through Davies.
Butterfield’s powerful shot was only parried by McCarthy and Davies pounced, coolly slotting home into the bottom right corner.
Matt Done dragged a shot wide of the left upright just 22 seconds after the resumption, before Leeds finally came to life and Snodgrass was unlucky to strike a post.
Ross McCormack netted his 11th goal of the season in the 55th minute, his superb curling free-kick just too good for Steele as he saw the ball fly into his top right corner.
McCarthy parried Jay McEveley’s fierce long-range shot with ten minutes remaining, but this time there was no Reds player on hand to poke home the rebound.
Perkins nearly scored a bizarre own goal with an attempted headed clearance and, having been booked earlier in the match, was then given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Snodgrass had a shot deflected over for a corner from the resulting free-kick and there was still time for another sub Ramon Nunez, in injury time, to force a wonderful save from Steele.