By Josh Grainger
Huddersfield 2 - 4 Leeds
Atkinson 11' Tonge 35'
Clayton 43' Becchio 37'
Neil Warnock’s Leeds continued their fine run of form as they stretched their winning run to three games, with an impressive 4-2 victory over local rivals Huddersfield. The win sees Leeds win three consecutive league matches for the first time since 2010, and leaves Leeds still to drop a point since the GFH Capital takeover went through.
Spirits were high amongst the Leeds camp in preparation for the match, after impressive wins against high flying Crystal Palace and then Leicester. The match also saw former Leeds manager Simon
Grayson face Leeds for the first time since leaving the club last season. Grayson wasn’t the only former manager, Leeds boss Neil Warnock himself had managed Huddersfield to promotion some years ago, and a warm reception was expected for both. On the pitch there were also players facing their past
employers. Adam Clayton was facing Leeds for the first time since his move to Huddersfield in the summer, whilst Leeds captain, Lee Peltier was returning to the ground where he had spent two years. Jermaine Beckford was also in contention to face the club in which he had gained legendary status, however a hamstring problem ruled him out.
Leeds made one change to the side that saw off Leicester on Tuesday night, Ross McCormack returned to the starting line up for the first time since facing Cardiff on September 15th, he took the place of El-Hadji Diouf, who was on the bench. That meant Leeds lined up in a 4-4-2 formation that read: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Tate, Peltier, Green, Norris, Tonge, Thomas, McCormack, Becchio.
It was Huddersfield who dominated the early exchanges of the derby clash, a tense start saw little pressure from Leeds, with a number of half chances falling Huddersfield’s way. However Leeds began to come into the game, with some good passing play, this made it slightly surprising when the first goal of the day was scored. After Peltier had failed to clear the ball fully, a smart through ball from Adam Clayton, was calmly slotted home by Chris Atkinson. The Whites could afford to feel slightly hard done by, by the early goal, however there was plenty of time to turn it round. Leeds battled to try and impose themselves fully on the match, desperately trying to rediscover the form they’d shown in their previous two matches, however it just didn’t seem to be going Leeds’way. Leeds continued to huff and puff but just couldn’t create any real chances, whilst Atkinson again tested Kenny, with an 18 yard volley.
Just as Leeds may have been thinking it wasn’t going to be their day, the fortunes turned. Paul Green crossed in to the far post after a smart run, Luciano Becchio cushioned the ball down and it seemed as if the attack was fizzling out, however, the ball found its way to Michael Tonge on the edge of the box, who’s low shot looked to be a comfortable save for Alex Smithies, but the young goalkeeper disastrously allowed the ball to squirm under his body, and gifted Leeds an equaliser.
Leeds were encouraged by their fortuitous equaliser, and almost straight from the kick off were on the
attack again. Michael Tonge sent a brilliant long ball over the top for Ross McCormack to chase, the Scot collected the ball on the edge of the area and held it up, before teeing up strike partner Luciano Becchio, who expertly curled the ball past Smithies into the top corner. The near 4,000 travelling Leeds fans were in ecstasy, within the space of two minutes, they had turned the game on its head.
Just as Leeds were trying to see the game out until the interval, they gifted Huddersfield the chance to draw level. A free-kick was crossed into the Leeds penalty area, and Becchio was adjudged to have pushed over the Town skipper Peter Clarke and subsequently a penalty was awarded. Former Leeds man, Adam Clayton stepped up to take the spot kick and despite the away fans efforts to distract him, he calmly sent Paddy Kenny the wrong way. Clayton respectfully didn’t gloat in front of his former fans,
however instead ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of Warnock, the manager who had sold him. Warnock greeted the celebration with sarcastic applause, would it be him that would have the last laugh?
The half time whistle blew, with the score tied at 2-2. The spectators wondered if the frenetic pace of the match would carry on in the second half.
They weren’t to be disappointed either, the second half began with a similar fast pace to it, with chances falling at either end. First Huddersfield striker Alan Lee sent a free header over the crossbar, whilst at the other end, Jerome Thomas sent a volley just wide. The game slowed down, not helped by a number of substitutions. However it was Leeds who benefited from this. Leeds substitute Ryan Hall toyed with the Huddersfield defence before finding David Norris in the box, the former Portsmouth man controlled the ball, before expertly finding the bottom corner. The Leeds fans again went crazy, hoping that this time they could hold on to the lead.
Huddersfield tried to get themselves back in the game, but it seemed it wasn’t destined to be their day now. The win was complete in 86th minute when Hall again tricked the home side’s defence, before crossing brilliantly in for Luciano Becchio to send a powerful header past Alex Smithies. Leeds comfortably saw out the remainder of the match, their every pass was greeted by cheers from the jubilant away fans.
The whistle blew and Leeds got a deserved three points, extending their winning streak. The team’s confidence really showed at the end, and 4,000 Leeds fans roared their winning side off the pitch. Adam Clayton offered Neil Warnock a handshake, which the Leeds manager accepted and admitted that their were no hard feelings towards Clayton, despite his celebration. Michael Tonge was particularly impressive throughout the match, it will be interesting to see whether Neil Warnock can wrap up a permanent deal for him in the January window. Ross McCormack also impressed in his first start since injury, looking a constant annoyance to the Huddersfield defence.
The win sees Leeds move to 10th in the table, 4 points off Watford in 6th place. The Whites travel to Derby next week, for another early kick off, will they be able to make it four straight wins? Here’s to hoping.