Goals from Neil Danns and James Vaughan gave the Terriers the bragging rights in the second West Yorkshire derby of the season at Elland Road this afternoon.
Town avenged the home defeat by Leeds back in December with a robust performance in an entertaining game, with chances falling to both sides throughout the 90 minutes.
Danns’ first goal for the Terriers gave Town the lead early in the second half before substitute Aidy White restored parity, but a ninth of the season from top scorer James Vaughan – set up brilliantly by Jack Hunt – gave Town all three points.
James Vaughan and Danny Ward returned to the starting line-up as Mark Robins fielded a strong looking starting XI for the West Yorkshire derby, with Theo Robinson and Lee Novak dropping to an attack-minded bench.
Town started with Ward playing in a central area just off Vaughan, but the hosts took the initiative in the first quarter of an hour – looking particularly dangerous at set piece situations.
As early as the fourth minute Leeds pressed when El-Hadji Diouf won a corner off Paul Dixon. Warnock’s in-swinging delivery found the near post run of Varney, who had lost his marker, and it took a superb goal line clearance from skipper Peter Clarke – via the crossbar – to keep the scores level.
Town had an early chance of their own from a free kick three minutes later after a silly trip on Dixon by Leeds striker Habib Habibou. Oliver Norwood’s initial delivery into the area was cleared but the midfielder returned the ball towards the penalty spot, where Clarke challenged Kenny for the ball. Leeds were looking for the offside flag as Kenny claimed at the second attempt, but it never came.
The Terriers were still giving the hosts too many opportunities by giving away lots of free kicks and corners and United came back at Town. Sam Byram was having a real battle with Neil Danns down the Town left, but he found space to cross into the area and Varney chested the ball into the path of Diouf – who saw his placed shot turned behind brilliantly by the strong left hand of Alex Smithies. Varney eventually scuffed another dangerous corner delivery high and wide on his weaker left foot.
Mark Robins switched Ward onto the right side soon after and Town got a foothold in the game. Leeds midfielder Paul Green misplaced a pass straight to the returning winger on the 20 minute mark and he picked out an unmarked Vaughan in the area – but he planted a firm header onto the crossbar with Kenny stood watching. It looked like the rebound would drop to former Leeds man Adam Clayton, who was getting roundly booed by the home support, but defender Tom Lees denied him with a great recovering block.
Ex-Town defender Lee Peltier had to be alert to block Ward’s shot behind moments later as the winger came into the game in the attacking third for Town, whereas at the other end Alex Smithies was aiding his defence with a series of decisive claims and punches as Leeds played balls into the box.
A good passing move from Town led to a good chance for Clayton with six minutes of the half remaining. Norwood picked out his midfield colleague with a pass and he had space between Leeds’ defence and midfield lines, but he disappointingly lifted his shot high into crowd.
Leeds fought back on the cusp of the 45th minute when Diouf spotted Varney’s surge into the area, but Anthony Gerrard had also seen the run and got across to brilliantly snuff out the opportunity.
Town had one final chance in the two minutes of first half added time – and it was a great one. Neil Danns held the ball up on the right flank before passing back to Jack Hunt; his deep cross was met by the head of Byram, but Clayton managed to head the ball back where it came from and Danny Ward flicked a header towards the far post – only to see Kenny fling himself across and tip the ball around the post.
The second half started in scrappy fashion, with neither side finding their passing range early on, but the Terriers made the first chance of the half count.
The move started when Peter Clarke found Jack Hunt on the right side and the full back did well to get past the more physical Austin and cross into the box; Byram headed up into the air before Vaughan’s snapshot flew into the sky again, but as the ball dropped the striker flicked a back-header into the danger zone and with Clayton in close attendance Neil Danns connected with a superb volley that flew between Kenny and the near post for his first goal in Town colours.
That goal seemed to rattle the hosts and a quick-fire double sub from Neil Warnock followed, with wide players Aidy White and Ryan Hall coming into the match.
The next chance fell to Town when Clayton played an intelligent ball over the top for the pacey Vaughan, but the former Everton man took the shot on first time and the ball drifted wide of Kenny’s right hand post.
White made an immediate impact, levelling the scores on the hour mark. Tom Lees played a big diagonal ball towards the far post and when Peter Clarke and Luke Varney barged each other off the ball, Hunt was caught on his heels – and the left winger stole in to nod the ball past the stricken Smithies.
Town fought back with a clever break from a Leeds corner. Dixon found Ward down the line and the winger rolled Peltier to get goal side before striking a powerful volley towards goal from an acute angle. Kenny punched the ball away and Leeds countered, but referee Andre Marriner waved away the claims when Varney went down under a shoulder barge from Clarke inside the area.
Sam Byram headed Diouf’s near post corner well wide of the near post in the 72nd minute as the game settled down after the quick two-goal salvo, but Mark Robins mixed things up with his own double change in the 76th minute – with Scannell and Beckford replacing Norwood and Ward.
Immediately upon the restart Leeds’ Jamaican midfielder Austin almost broke the crossbar with a volley from the edge of the box after a free kick into the area was half-cleared; Smithies was near enough to it that the rebound hit him on the back before rolling to safety!
Town were now playing 4-4-2 with ex-Leeds man Beckford joining Vaughan in attack, with the latter looping a header from an 81st minute corner into the waiting hands of Kenny as Town searched for a possible winner.
At the other end goalscorer White knocked down Diouf’s cross into the path of fellow sub Hall on the edge of the box, but Clayton’s half block made the shot comfortable for Smithies to dive on.
Beckford then drove at the Leeds defence, driving inside Lees onto his right foot before sending a low drive too close to Kenny.
Town made the next chance count, with Vaughan notching his ninth of the season in the 87th minute. Jack Hunt received the ball in space down the right and dribbled a long way into the heart of the Leeds defence before sliding a superb pass into the feet of the striker, who had peeled off Lees intelligently. James’s first touch put the ball perfectly onto his right foot inside the area and he made no mistake in placing the ball out of Kenny’s reach and into the corner.
With only minutes of the game remaining, Mark Robins immediately put Vaughan on the right wing in a five man midfield. With four minutes of added time, both teams looked very leggy as the pace of the game took its toll. Calum Woods came into central midfield with the spent Gobern going off to shore things up too.
A late corner, conceded when Dixon tackled Austin, evaded Danns at the near post and fell to the unmarked Byram, but in acres of space he inexplicably volleyed over the bar.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon, Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (c), Jack Hunt; Oscar Gobern (Calum Woods 90), Oliver Norwood (Jermaine Beckford 76); Neil Danns, Adam Clayton; Danny Ward (Sean Scannell 76); James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Lee Novak, Murray Wallace, Theo Robinson
Paul Dixon (12); James Vaughan (87)
Leeds United bookings:
Habib Habibou (6); Luke Varney (26); Rodolph Austin (36)