Saturday 5th December, 2009 was the day all Huddersfield Town and Leeds United fans had been waiting for as the two sides went head to head for the big West Yorkshire derby clash.
A lunchtime kick-off at the request of the police in front of a near capacity crowd of 36,723 (including over 2,700 away fans), easily smashing the League One record attendance for the season so far. Whilst the big West Yorkshire derby day may not attract quite so much media attention as the likes of the Merseyside and Manchester derbies, it means every bit as much (if not more) to the people of Huddersfield and Leeds. This is the most important match of the season by a mile for the fans and players of both clubs, one of only two fixtures to really look out for (the other being the reverse of course). It has been dubbed by many as their ‘cup final’, with bragging rights undoubtedly at stake.
Leeds United were always going to be clear favourites with the bookmakers, sitting six points clear at the top of League One with a game in hand. The whites had just one defeat to their name, conceding less than half a goal a game and an unbeaten home record stretching back to January. However, Huddersfield Town were never going to be pushovers, occupying fifth place in the league and boasting three consecutive victories against their West Yorkshire rivals.
Yet, Lee Clark’s men got off to the worst start possible, conceding as early as the second minute. Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass capitalised on a rare mistake from Huddersfield keeper Alex Smithies to give the league leaders an early advantage.
Huddersfield responded almost immediately, but Jordan Rhodes saw his effort rebound back off the post. The travelling supporters were in vociferous mood as their side enjoyed a great deal off attacking play with Gary Roberts a constant threat down the left flank.
Whilst the home side always looked dangerous on the counter-attack with the pace of striker Jermaine Beckford, Leeds could have few complaints when Lee Novak tied the match at one apiece early in the second half. The former Gateshead forward netted for his seventh of the season, sending the away supporters into ecstasy.
The momentum was clearly with the Terriers, but a double stroke of luck for the Whites saw their lead restored midway through the second half. Goalkeeper Casper Ankergren appeared to handle the ball over the line, but the referee waved play on despite the furious protests for a Huddersfield corner. A route one clearance found Beckford, who then appeared to foul the goalkeeper in winning the ball before substitute Max Gradel hammered home past two defenders on the line.
To add to their frustrations Huddersfield were then denied a penalty for what appeared to be a blatant handball. Undeterred, the terriers battled hard and went on to equalise for the second time in the match. Jordan Rhodes netted a close-range header to claim his 14th of the season and end his recent goal drought. The Terriers were desperately unlucky not to win the game late on as Anthony Pilkington’s last minute free-kick smashed against the crossbar.
A magnificent performance from Lee Clark’s men as they extended their unbeaten record over their West Yorkshire neighbours to four matches. Nevertheless, Simon Grayson will have been happy to take a point in this blood and thunder derby match as Leeds maintain their unbeaten home run. A scintillating match from a neutral perspective, which truly epitomised what derby days are all about.
Highlights, courtesy of the bbc, can be seen here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_2/8398343.stm
Tags: Huddersfield Town, League Two, Leeds United