Neil Redfearn’s young Leeds United side continued their fine to start to 2015 with victory over Huddersfield Town in a dramatic encounter at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The Whites took control of the tie early as Sam Byram added a goal to his impressive displays as right-winger for Leeds, cleverly flicking the ball over Town’s keeper to open the scoring.

Leeds dominated the opening half hour but Marco Silverstri once again proved indecisive in-goal, failing to collect a cross he should have claimed with ease which then gifted the opposition an equaliser.

The Whites looked like they’d be masters of their own downfall after the costly mistake gave Huddersfield the confidence to go on and dominate the rest of the first half, but Leeds held on and with the scores tied at the break, Redfearn’s side had chance to regroup.

There was drama at the start of the second half as both sets of fans were left incensed by the referee’s poor performance. After handing out very soft yellow cards in the first half, one of Huddersfield’s players made a poor challenge which easily justified a yellow and Rudy Austin – also on a yellow – looked like he’d be seeing red moments later following a similar incident.

But the referee, making the soft yellows he gave out in the first half look even more ridiculous (both these incidents were worse), chose to give neither of them a second booking. No one wants to see red cards settle a derby fixture, but referees can’t be so inconsistent and expect to retain control of a game. His decisions now seemed to be based on whether a player was already booked – zero tolerance, straight into the book if they aren’t on a yellow, no punishment and a free pass if they are.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think any player should have seen red but if a referee books someone for something incredibly minor, then gives no punishment for a worse challenge, his inconsistency must be brought into question. Yellows result in bans too, they shouldn’t just be handed out so the referee can try to show who’s in charge.

As much as I hate referees dominating match reports, those weren’t his only bad decisions unfortunately, he’d also deny Sam Byram an absolute stonewall penalty later in the game as he continued to get the big decisions very wrong.

Sam Byram, man of the match for me, also saw his efforts to win the game thwarted by Mirco Antenucci who he teed up with a sitter of an opportunity inside the area, only to see the Italian make an absolute mess of what should have ranked among the easiest goals he’s scored all season.

After seeing Sam Byram denied a clear penalty and Antenucci fluff a golden opportunity to win the match, it looked like it was going to be another one of those days for Leeds. To make matters worse, Lewis Cook picked up an injury (hopefully just a touch of cramp) and had to be replaced in the dying minutes.

But Cook’s replacement proved to be an inspired choice. Mirco Antenucci, making amends for the sitter he missed earlier, delivered an excellent cross right into the danger area between keeper and the defensive line which substitute Billy Sharp threw himself at to level the tie with Leeds’ first headed goal of the season.

Great scenes followed as Sharp dove into the 4000 travelling Leeds United fans behind the goal he’d just scored in, but as players and fans were celebrating the last minute winner, fourth game undefeated and first back-to-back wins since September, attention started to turn towards Huddersfield Town defender Tommy Smith, who’d just tried to prevent the goal and had remained down on the ground, not moving, ever since.

Whether he’d collided with Billy Sharp or his own keeper is unclear, but there followed a long stoppage as medics came on to the pitch to assess the situation. As minutes ticked away and the stretcher was brought on, concern grew for the player’s condition.

Smith would be carried from the pitch to applause from concerned fans on all four sides of the ground who’d later learn he’d been unconscious and was taken to hospital by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (more on them at the bottom) which landed on the pitch after the game had resumed and played out the final minutes of stoppage time.

Tommy Smith spent the night at Leeds General before being discharged this morning. Huddersfield Town tweeted to say they’re still awaiting a final all-clear, but his release from hospital is positive news and I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all Leeds United fans in wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

Ups and downs v Huddersfield

Another important win for Leeds eases any fear of relegation and builds upon a much improved start to 2015. Once again, Redfearn’s young players shone throughout the fixture, particularly Sam Byram who proved our biggest attacking threat while never shirking his defensive responsibilities.

Sol Bamba was a surprise inclusion after joining the club earlier in the week with very little first team football in the last 12 months, but he repaid the faith Neil Redfearn showed in him with an impressive debut at the heart of Leeds United’s defence.

Marco Silvestri’s command of his area is an evermore troubling concern, there’s simply no excuse for him failing to collect the ball that led to Huddersfield’s equaliser, this is the absolute basics for goalkeepers. His shot-stopping remains excellent but I recall Massimo Cellino hyping Silvestri up and expressing his confusion at why Silvestri wasn’t a regular before joining Leeds and I think we can now see the difference between a chairman and a football scout – a scout would recognise there’s more to goalkeeping than shot-stopping.

I don’t want to be too harsh on Silvestri because he does have genuine quality, but it’s now overshadowed by having zero command of his area and in terms of our defensive unit, he’s become the weakest link. He’s young and can definitely improve, but in the meantime, it may be worth giving Stuart Taylor a few games.

Elsewhere, I’m staggered by how quickly Charlie Taylor has adapted to first team duties and made the left-back spot his own. Lewis Cook misplaced a couple of passes after breaking at pace, but he had another strong performance overall and I’m praying his injury isn’t too serious.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance

This being a football blog, I don’t usually do stuff like this, but in light of the scare with Tommy Smith, I’d like to draw attention to how important the Yorkshire Air Ambulance is.

The area around Huddersfield’s ground is incredibly congested on matchday and would have made it very difficult for a normal ambulance to gain access. Without the air ambulance, the response time would have been much longer and while Tommy Smith looks to be OK, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance has responded to thousands of incidents, many of them life-threatening, providing fast and vital emergency response to the people of Yorkshire.

And what many people won’t realise is that the Yorkshire Air Ambulance is a charity. It isn’t funded by the NHS, but by donations from the public.

It costs £9990 each day to fund Yorkshire’s Air Ambulance and you can help by texting YAAC00 £2 to 70070 to donate just £2. If you’d like to make a larger donation or are looking for more information, please visit the Yorkshire Air Ambulance website by clicking here.

12 Responses

  1. Tyler75

    They say fortune favours the brave and Redders deserves full praise for not settling for a point and going 4-3-3 to win the game. Charlie Taylor is living up to his promise and shows that moving Warnock on was absolutely the right thing to do – we get less exposed down that side of the field because of hs pace and the boy can cross a ball. Absolutely agree that Stuart Taylor should be given a run of games. Silvestri is an excellent shot stopper and will be a fine ‘keeper once he learns to command his area. Would also expect Bamba to start to control things at the back once he settles in – again, another smart move and upgrade from what we had. All in all, positive stuff and hopefully we can now start looking up the table instead of over our shoulders. MOT

    • TSS

      The one thing I would say is that had we kept Warnock – which we should have – Charlie Taylor may have worked as an LM, an area we still don’t have anyone for (unless you count Aidy White, but he’s not been in the reckoning at all). We also have no cover at LB so I don’t think Warnock’s sale can be justified by Taylor’s performance, especially when Cellino can’t possibly have foreseen how well Charlie Taylor would do.

      I worry we’re stuck in a mentality of key players being sold is OK so long as someone else steps up, when it’s always better to keep key players and have strong competition and options.

      • Ron

        We are also still a club losing £7m a season, so although we’d all like to keep our best (often most expensive) players, we need to play the long game for now and hope in the years ahead this changes. Could I have written this comment when we were 1pt above the relegation zone?……………….. I doubt it if I’m honest ;) Ha

      • Irving08

        Just to stir the pot, Pearce would have provided cover at left back as well as in central defence – I recall him having a good game there against Middlesborough, I believe.

  2. Irving08

    Not at all surprised by Taylor. Dawson will surprise you too, if given a chance. Antenucci’s cross was more than excellent : it was a brilliant – just enough backspin to hold it up. Good report TSS.

    • TSS

      I’ve always rated Dawson, but we’ve been struggling with height and physical presence so you can see why he’s not been involved. Think that goes some way to explaining Adryan’s continued absence too.

  3. Ron

    Let’s hope now that we are getting some space from the relegation zone we start looking at playing either Antenucci or Sharp with Morrison from the off. Looks like Cani and Woolford will be joining, so we may have another head to target and some width (almost forgot how to spell it) shortly as well. This division is so close, it so often comes down to standout quality (e.g. Zaha previously) or team spirit. Finally, we are showing the latter. Well done Redders for stoking the fires – not an easy task after the run we had to finish 2014. Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

  4. spellz

    Left it very late but all in all a solid derby win can’t take anything away from the lads grinding out the result,
    M people “moving on up”

    M.O.T AA.

  5. PAUL W

    An fantastic win, to rub our loud mouth, Leeds hating, unfriendly neighbours noses in it, for THEIR third Cup Final on the trot and well done to a brave Billy Sharp.
    This Leeds team now looks a lot more well balanced, than the Leeds team that was half full of foreign players, a few weeks ago.
    Well done to Neil Redfearn for standing his ground by changing the team selection and formation, which has now produced an unbeaten run of four matches, with a strong five man midfield and an impressive Steve Morison, as the lone striker.
    I totally agree that Stuart Taylor should be given a chance instead of the low-in-confidence Silvestri and maybe then, more clean sheets would be achieved.
    One of the only negatives to come out of this weekend, was that nobody in the bottom six in the Championship, lost and Leeds are still only five points above the relegation zone, but onwards and upwards, with this much improved Leeds team.

  6. oldschoolbaby

    Does anyone else think the fitness coaches have too much access to goalkeepers ? Silvestri`s like Lonergan, he doesn’t have enough weight to throw around. Schmeichel hardly dominated the penalty area but he was a significant improvement. I even thought Kenny was a better goalie when he was a roly poly before he got to the PL. Silvestri needs 2 days a week training with, and eating with, the rugby lads.
    And while I`m at it Byram doesn`t look overly healthy at 4% body fat or whatever the target is these days. I`ll be surprised if he gets through the season without taking another knock. That would be a real shame as he`s right back in form. Get the lad some fish and chips.

    • TSS

      In the 6-7 years I’ve been writing this site, I think that’s the first comment I’ve ever seen suggesting we ‘fatten up’ the players! But you may be right, David de Gea had similar issues when he started at Scum, didn’t he? You do get players who are a bit too lightweight and need to beef up a bit, but that tends to involve building muscle, not just having them eat fish & chips… (though I doubt the players would mind lol)

      Most of the time with Silvestri it’s his hesitation and indecisiveness (like v Blackburn) that costs us, he just seems to lack the confidence to command his box. Even in the situation v Hudds, if he was being tugged and blocked, he needs to just lunge into them and send himself flying towards the ball, the ref will blow for a freekick 9 times out of 10 when keeper is felled.

    • PAUL W

      I totally agree with you about Byram and Silvestri being too thin and needing a few good meals inside them, to bulk themselves up, so that they are not easily knocked off the ball anymore.
      I have always thought that goalkeepers of 6ft to 6ft 2, have always been much more agile and stronger than thin goalkeepers of 6ft 4 and over.
      Nigel Martyn was 6ft 1 and was always powerfully built and extremely agile, but John Lukic was 6ft 4, a lot more thinner and not as agile as Martyn.
      You are right, the players should be given fish & chips, even if it’s just once a week, because apparently, that did happen at Leeds, even during the Wilko years.


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