Garry Monk was the epitome of calm here, refusing to look too far ahead after watching his Leeds side overcome Sheffield Wednesday.
Chris Wood scored the only goal of the game – his 20th in the league this season – and the Leeds goalkeeper Robert Green saved Jordan Rhodes’s penalty in a match of few chances but two pivotal moments.
It was an eighth victory in nine home games for Leeds, who are now back on track after a recent wobble that had seen Wednesday eat away at an eight-point gap in the Championship less than four weeks ago to arrive in West Yorkshire level on points. Seven points from the last three games have quelled the home fans’ nerves with 12 matches remaining, during which they will face several promotion contenders including the top two, Newcastle and Brighton.
While acknowledging the importance of the victory, Monk would not be drawn into diverting from his mantra of taking each game as it comes. “We haven’t achieved anything,” he said. “My focus is on improving my team and I think you can see from the start of the season and to where we are now how far we have improved.
“I can’t remember them having any shots on goal apart from the penalty so that was very pleasing.
“The pressure that’s there to win these types of games, both teams on the same points, a derby game. I thought we handled the pressure really well today and I’m very pleased with the players.”
If Leeds do go up to the Premier League, they will owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wood, who has scored almost half his side’s league tally of 46 goals.
The New Zealand centre-forward has more than repaid his £3m transfer fee from Leicester in the summer of 2015 and Saturday was further testament to his clinical finishing, poking home Gaetano Berardi’s cross in the 24th minute as the visitors’ defence stood still appealing for offside.
Wednesday had created little before half time but were offered a lifeline eight minutes into the second half when Sam Hutchinson was pulled down by Souleymane Doukara at a corner and referee Michael Jones pointed to the penalty spot. Rhodes though could not take advantage, Green diving to his left to push his weak shot on to a post.
“It was a fantastic save,” said Monk. “I think that was reward for the way we defended when we had to, attacked when we had to, played some good football when we had to and I think overall we deserved that win, we were the most creative team on the pitch.”
Defeat capped a poor week for Wednesday, who were also beaten by Brentford at home on Tuesday as their four-game winning streak came to a juddering halt. Still in the play-off places, they are now casting a nervous glance over their shoulders to Fulham and Norwich, who they play on Saturday.
Save for substitute Barry Bannan’s long-range drive which went just wide, Wednesday created little but their coach Carlos Carvalhal was happy with his team’s performance.
“You can see how hard we tried to win the game but we conceded a goal we should not have done and then missed a penalty,” Carvalhal said. “Of course we are disappointed with the result but not with the performance.
“ Without those two moments we played well enough to get something out of the game.
“Now three of our next four games are at home which is a big opportunity for us,” Carvalhal added. “I take responsibility for the individual errors – we win together and lose together.”