Why Derby performance confirmed Leeds' promotion credentials?

Leeds United manager Garry Monk

Leeds United climbed to third in the Championship table following a hugely impressive 1-0 win over Derby County.

Leeds United moved up to third in the Championship on Friday night following arguably their best performance for many years as they beat play-off rivals Derby County 1-0 at Elland Road. 

But what was so impressive about the performance and what proved exactly why Garry Monk's men should now be considered as genuine promotion contenders was the fact that several key members of their squad were missing or playing out of position for the encounter.

There is no question that the squad that Monk did select was a strong one, but it is perhaps not the team that fans would have picked had every player been available.

Leeds' Pontus Jansson celebrates scoring their first goalLeeds' Pontus Jansson was suspended for the game

The obvious absentee that many expected to hurt Leeds was Pontus Jansson. The centre-back has been a revelation this season, and his suspension was deemed to be a major blow to their chances of keeping the Rams at bay.

Meanwhile, in an ideal world, Monk would have surely loved to have had Charlie Taylor available given the form that Derby winger Tom Ince is in, but the left-back remained sidelined with injury.

And given the strength that Steve McClaren's men boast in midfield, including a player of Eunan O'Kane's quality and consistency may have been a tempting option for Monk.

And certainly, Derby would have been forgiven for fancying their chances of coming away from Elland Road with three points when they saw the starting line-up.

Luke Ayling was the man chosen to fill in at the heart of the defence alongside Kyle Bartley, and he maintained the excellent form he has shown at right-back.

Ronaldo Vieira continued his development with another impressive display that persuaded Monk to leave O'Kane on the bench for the entirety of the game.

Derby's Chris Baird in action with Leeds' Ronaldo VieiraDerby's Chris Baird in action with Leeds' Ronaldo Vieira

But it is perhaps Gaetano Berardi's performance that deserves the most credit. The Swiss has done well when deployed at left-back - perhaps better than when he is used in his favoured position on the right - but dealing with Ince was arguably the toughest test he has faced all season.

And while the Derby man got the better of him on a couple of occasions, Berardi did a fantastic job of frustrating him and making sure that he had little impact on the game. 

It must also be mentioned that, obviously, with Ayling moving into the middle, Leeds had to cope without their first choice right-back, but Lewie Coyle's performance was arguably as exceptional as any other member of the squad's was.

And with Leeds not only winning, but also dominating the Rams - McClaren admitted as much (via Sky Sports) - and doing it without a handful of key men, it is likely that anyone who doubted the Whites' promotion credentials before Friday are starting to believe that they could be right in the mix.

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