By Josh Grainger
After a disappointing draw at home to Peterborough on Tuesday night, Leeds United’s season was hanging by a thread and only three points against local rivals Huddersfield would keep them in touch of an unlikely play-off spot. Prior to the derby, Leeds lay in 10th position, five points behind 6th placed Nottingham Forest. With Forest facing a tricky visit to high-flying Hull, if Leeds could beat Huddersfield in the early kick off, they had the potential to finish the day only two points behind the play-off positions.
Neil Warnock’s side went into the game in mis-leading form, whilst the Whites had not tasted league defeat since a 1-0 loss at Middlesbrough, roughly a month ago, they had only won one game since, when David Norris and Steve Morison’s goals saw them beat Blackpool. Time was running out for Warnock’s Whites and it was common knowledge that Leeds were going to have start turning draws into wins sooner rather than later.
Neil Warnock had fielded the same starting eleven for the past five matches, however injuries meant that he would have to switch things around for the visit of his former team. Ross McCormack, Steve Morison and Tom Lees were all doubtful for the clash, the latter passing a late fitness test and started the match, whilst McCormack and Morison weren’t able to feature. Leeds lined up with Paddy Kenny in goal, a back four of Sam Byram, Tom Lees, Lee Peltier and Stephen Warnock, a midfield trio saw Rodolph Austin come back into the side for David Norris, the Jamaican was accompanied by Paul Green and Michael Tonge. The absence of McCormack and Morison meant that El-Hadji Diouf was recalled back to the starting line-up, whilst Habib Habibou was handed his first start for the club since a loan move in January. Highly-rated youngster Chris Dawson was included on the bench. Huddersfield included former Leeds man, Adam Clayton in their midfield, the central midfielder had scored in the reverse fixture earlier this season and celebrated his goal under the nose of Whites boss Neil Warnock.
Huddersfield manager Mark Robins had told the press that Leeds favourite Jermaine Beckford would not be fit for the clash, however the former whites striker was fit enough for a place on the bench.
The game had been subject to the ‘paint it white’ scheme, in which Leeds fans were urged to where home colours to the match, whilst White cards were provided for supporters in the Kop to be held up before kick off.
The match started very brightly, Leeds were inches away from taking an early lead, but Luke Varney’s header was blocked on to the bar by the Huddersfield defence. The game soon settled down and Leeds weren’t able to build on their early pressure. Habibou, Varney and Austin all picked up early yellow cards in a fairly dull opening twenty minutes. Despite this, Leeds again were denied an opening goal, this time Alex Smithies was on hand instead of the crossbar, the Huddersfield keeper got down well to tip El-Hadji Diouf’s shot round the post for a corner. Leeds were nearly made to pay for their missed chances when James Vaughan found himself unmarked in the penalty area, however the forward’s header came back off the crossbar. The match looked likely to be goalless at the interval, this may not have been the case, if Paddy Kenny hadn’t have been on hand to brilliantly save a close range header.
The two sides emerged for the second half unchanged, and neither side showed any signs of breaking the deadlock in the early stages of the second period. Nine minutes in however, the deadlock was broken. Slack Leeds defending meant the ball remained around the Leeds penalty area, a smart pass found Neil Danns who hadn’t been watched by the disappointing Green, and the Leicester loanee volleyed the ball past Kenny from close range. The 1,644 travelling fans celebrated wildly, whilst the angered home fans were forced to watch on.
Neil Warnock responded to the goal by bringing Ryan Hall and Aidy White into the action, in place of Habibou and Green. The changes made an immediate impact. A long ball into the box evaded everyone, except Aidy White who was on hand to head home with one of his first touches. The immediate response pleased Warnock, as well as the majority of the 23,814 crowd, the goal was Aidan White’s first in the league for the club. Leeds hoped that the equaliser would act as a catalyst in sparking a comeback for the Whites, this was nearly proved to be the case, Rodolph Austin’s spectacular volley cannoned back off the crossbar. Leeds lost their momentum and to Huddersfield’s advantage, the game settled back down. With four minutes to go, Huddersfield regained the lead. A flowing counter-attack gave James Vaughan a chance inside the area, and the Norwich loanee sidefooted the ball passed Kenny into the Kop end goal. Substitute Jermaine Beckford nearly finished the game off however his shot was straight at Paddy Kenny. Leeds failed to recover from the late goal and Huddersfield rode out the game, with the score finishing 2-1 to the visitors. None of the Leeds players performance’s warranted more than 7/10, Paddy Kenny arguably the pick of the bunch.
The result leaves Leeds eight points behind Forest. The loss was seen as the final nail in Leeds’ season, many feeling that the play-offs were now out of reach. Neil Warnock received some criticism for the loss, and it seems almost certain that he will not be in charge next season. Leeds’ next fixture sees them travel to Ipswich in a week, however the majority of the fans believe that the Yorkshire side will definitely be playing Championship football next season.