Derby games are always special regardless of all the old cliches that invade the media on the week before the game such as “it's just another 3 points to play for” and “It’s your Cup Final”. Rubbish! Derby’s are about Passion, Pride and that gut wrenching fear that you lose against your noisy neighbours from down the road. It matters not whether it’s El Classico, Glasgow or Fleetwood v Blackpool the recipe is exactly the same and I for one love it. So on a big weekend for derbys across the UK I, along with 28,000 others, were heading to the Theatre of Hope full of anticipation for our clash with the early season Championship top dogs from down the A62. Town’s lightening start has been impressive and attracted much press attention to the Wagner revolution in Huddersfield but could Monk’s embryonic team and system burst their bubble in the white hot atmosphere of Elland Road? We were about to find out.
Garry Monk replaced Cooper with Jansson, Vieira with Phillips and Hernandez with Mowatt as the teams kicked off in front of a raucous derby crowd. The opening exchanges weren’t the usual blood and thunder you expect from two local rivals more a cautious sparring session as both teams played conservatively waiting for a chink in the armour of the opposition. Wagner’s Germanic influence on the Town team was clear as they played with plenty of energy and pressed hard each time Leeds had the ball. Payne and Mooy were the lynchpins for the visitors in the centre of midfield as Bridcutt and Phillips struggled to make any impression. It was fully 28 minutes before Leeds fashioned anything like a chance only for Mowatt to sky his shot high into the South Stand. Not the most rivetting opening to a derby I've ever seen.
On 29 minutes there was a minutes applause from all corners of the ground for the Leeds fan, Paul Rodgers, who passed away before Mooy slid a shot just past Green’s post from 20 yards. Town looked the most threatening at this stage but neither goalkeeper had had a real save to make as the game limped to half time. Mooy received a yellow for a shocking foul on Bridcutt as the game petered out to the break but not before Antonsson had a good penalty shout turned down after been tripped in the box. HT 0.0. "Leeds need to get some blood on their boots” a disgruntled member of the urinal philosophers thought whilst another frustratingly stated “They’re all over us like rash ever time we get the ball” There weren’t many happy punters amongst the Leeds fans after a surprisingly dull first 45 minutes. Maybe the 2nd half would be better? I pondered.
Pontus Jansson had had a good first 45 minutes and he started the 2nd period on the front foot by venturing forward with the ball before another foul from Town halted his progress. The match needed a boost and on 55 minutes it got one but not in the way I wanted. Huddersfield attacked down the left flank and Van L Parra got to the bye line but the ball appeared to go out, play on shouted the ref?……….Jack Payne recovered the ball and played it back to Mooy who was 25 yard out. Almost in slow motion I could could hear myself screaming “close him down” as the ponderous Leeds midfield looked on as the Aussie picked his spot and cracked a stunning drive past Green in the Leeds goal. The travelling Town fans were delerious as the Leeds team trudged back to the half way line quietly for the restart. No bollockings, no animated inquests, no nothing from the Leeds team! It’s a f****** derby for f**** sake at least show a modicum of passion.
Wanger’s well drilled and energetic team were now in their element and started picking Leeds off on the counter with Mooy, van La Parra and Payne ruling the roost. Palmer nearly added a second with an audicous chip from 40 yards that Green did well to save. Mowatt forced a save at last from the Town goalie on 69 minutes as the match became a stop start affair as Town clinically attempted to close the game out. Mooy should have had another yellow for yet another Town foul. Doukara replaced Antonsson and Roofe came on for Sacko. Neither substitution altered the status quo. Leeds were 1.0 down in the West Yorkshire derby with 15 minutes to go and there were some players who were hardly breaking sweat. It was mortifying to watch.
8 minutes of added time were no use to Leeds as the game ended with Town thrashing Leeds 1.0. The Huddersfield fans celebrated their win as the disillusioned home fans headed for home. Wood missed two headers he should have done better with. Jansson and Bartley looked reasonably solid at the back but overall the performance lacked cohesion, guile and any sort of threat from Leeds whilst in contrast Town were more than good value for their win and their current lofty position in the league. They played to a set plan and with high energy that in effect bamboozled a woeful Leeds team. Statistics can be misleading but 4 shots and only 2 on target at home in a derby speaks volumes for the current Leeds team. Garry Monk has a huge task in front of him that is if he survives the Mad Italian’s hair trigger finger.
Mighty Blackburn arrive at Elland Road on Tuesday with huge problems of their own. Defeat against them is unthinkable isn’t it?