The short trip down the M62 has not always been a favourable one for Leeds United in recent times, losing 1-0 and drawing 2-2 in the last meetings. However, the air around Elland Road has been somewhat lighter since the long awaited takeover was finalised 11 days ago. The optimism the victories over promotion favourites Crystal Palace and Leicester City have given the team, management and most importantly the fans, has been clear for all to see. Back to back victories are a rarity where Leeds United are concerned, three wins in a row would surely be too much to ask? Yorkshire derbies are notoriously difficult to call after all; form goes out of the window!

I decided to start the day early, drinking in one of my old local haunts with 90% Huddersfield town fans, hardly drinking with the Millwall boys though is it…. After a few early morning pints and a structured debate over what the score will end up being led to the assumption that Leeds has little to no chance of victory over famous Huddersfield Town.

So on the way we went, my Huddersfield friend driving me to the game  and arriving in good time to watch the Leeds players warming up, to another great away following. I have never enjoyed the surroundings of The John Smiths stadium, even though Huddersfield fans do protest it was a prototype of our National Stadium Wembley…

The fans would always play a pivotal part in a Yorkshire derby, and Huddersfield would not disappoint with their cup final bringing out every man and his dog for the much anticipated game, it was a strange thing to see the Leeds ex supremo Simon Grayson leading the charge down at Huddersfield now, and stranger still seeing Huddersfield trying to replicate Leeds of old with the Adam Clayton in the middle of the park, and the possibility of the Leeds legend Jermaine Beckford coming back to haunt the Whites. It was, I’m sure, a great relief to see Beckford’s absence from the team.

The game began in good style, a friendly rivalry coming back to life, the Huddersfield fans chanting merrily about being true ‘Yorkshiremen’ and Leeds replying with the chants of ‘MOT’ and ‘We are Leeds’ much to the distaste of Huddersfield. On the pitch Town started the stronger, passing well and causing the unchanged (apart from McCormack) Leeds side minor problems. Huddersfield caused Leeds no serious problems, though it can be said the lead they took was deserved, Chris Atkinson running behind the Leeds defence, (albeit into a suspiciously offside position) for a neat pass to find him, enabling him to coolly slot the ball past the helpless Kenny. 1-0.

As the game progressed, so did Leeds’s involvement. As in previous games, Norris and Tonge controlled the midfield well, distribution was brilliant, and the much missed McCormack was slotting in excellently, causing endless problems for the Huddersfield defence. Collectively the team was looking more confident on the ball and was beginning to take the game to Town. It was no surprise then when Leeds equalised through a good piece of build-up play, Tonge was somewhat lucky to find the net with his shot, but thanks to a combination of glaring sunlight and defenders blocking the view, Alex Smithies (who made his debut in the 4-0 Leeds victory over Huddersfield in 2008) made a calamitous error with the ball slipping in to the net. 1-1

After a short period of Huddersfield dominance off the pitch, with the ever so inventive ‘Jimmy Savile’ chants being sung it fell to Leeds to reassert the status quo, silencing the boys’ pen and the drummer. There was barely time to break into a chant of Marching on Together before Becchio latched onto a well-placed cutback by United’s number 44 to fire Leeds into the lead with a splendidly placed shot into the top corner of Smithies net. 1-2.

The first half was almost over, Leeds were in control and limited Huddersfield to little possession and even fewer chances, closing them down in a solid manner. Byram and Green had complete control of the right flank, McCormack and Becchio were having fun terrorising a frankly poor town defence, and Peltier, Lees and Tate looked as stern as ever. However, on the 42nd minute Leeds were pegged back, an extremely dubious decision to award a penalty for a seemingly harmless challenge by Luciano Becchio granted ex white Adam Clayton the opportunity to level the scores. He did so dutifully, and much to the dismay of the Leeds management and fans, ran over 40 yards to knee slide in front of Neil Warnock. Happy birthday Mr Warnock. 2-2

Half time came as Leeds was still reflecting on the penalty decision, and how we could possibly not be leading the game. The half time entertainment left a lot to be desired, as it would seem the compere had learnt from his previous exploits with Leeds and the fans alike (he was banned for 6 games in 2009 for goading Leeds fans). The second half began then, and much to the surprise of many, Leeds started very strongly, dominating the midfield, with Tonge and Norris passing the ball around as if the Huddersfield midfield had concrete in their boots. Leeds pressed, Jerome Thomas caused the town defence to stretch, and Byram’s overlapping of Green ensured that the Leeds attack pulled apart a poor Huddersfield defence. Thomas went close with a shot just over the bar, and the fans, sensing a victory, really got behind the team, chanting vociferously and letting Huddersfield know who Yorkshire’s number one supported club is.

So on and on Leeds pressed, almost camped in the Huddersfield half, passing fluently, passing it around like a poor man’s Barcelona. Warnock then, surprisingly, made a game changing substitution. Often Warnock has bemoaned the lack of depth in the squad, so it was wonderful to see Jerome Thomas leave the field and be replaced by Ryan Hall, almost with his first touch he took the ball inside, drilled a low hard pass directly into David Norris’s feet, for him to turn, shoot, nutmeg Peter Clarke and smash the ball beautifully into the Huddersfield net. The crowd went wild. 2-3.

“You should have gone Christmas shopping” rang out around the stadium as the Leeds party started, Simon Grayson got the stick, Adam Clayton even more so, the fans dominated the terraces, the players dominated the pitch. Rarely for Leeds, we didn’t sit back, onwards we attacked, confining Huddersfield to long range efforts and a rare corner, and the pressure mounted on Town to try and win for only the second time in seven attempts. However, it just didn’t happen for them, and on 86 minutes, the magical maestro Luciano Becchio guided home a stunning 15 yard header from a Ryan Hall cross. Game over, Leeds beat Huddersfield, bragging rights gained, three wins from three. Team spirit at an all-time high, squad depth existent, fans happy, Warnock buzzing, Leeds United back in the promotion race.

Oh how football changes in 7 days. MOT

  • derbyshirewhite

    Great report thanks Adam. At last we have attacking options going forward and players on the bench who can make a difference. With another seven games in the space of a month no one should be short of match practice.

  • Matthew

    If we can keep Thomas and Tate, and add a few more to our ranks, we should be a sure thing for the playoffs, and a good contender for the 2nd place spot.

    The bubble will soon burst for either Palace or Cardiff, we have to be ready and willing to kindly take their spot that they’ve kept warm for us.

  • Ron

    I think what is exciting is that arguably our best two attackers are short of match fitness in McCormack and Thomas. When Becchio gets good ball he scores and the addition of Ryan Hall with some fitness has made a difference to that very delivery. It feels like the players know that with the takeover in place that those not performing will be on the bench come January. 9 points ago I was staring into the abyss. MOT