Town fell to a disappointing derby day defeat at Leeds United in Chris Powell’s third game in charge.
A defensive error was punished by Leeds to put Town behind, who then had themselves to blame for letting Leeds break to double their advantage right on the strike of half time.
Town had spells of possession, but never really worked the Leeds goalkeeper and the hosts made them pay with a third goal in the second-half.
The first chance of the game came when left back Jack Robinson played a back-pass towards his own goal that was badly under-hit, but thankfully Alex Smithies was sharply off his line and slid in to clear to safety ahead of Leeds striker Mirco Antenucci.
After Leeds had enjoyed most of the possession in the opening quarter of an hour, Town hit back. A neat back-heel from the recalled Sean Scannell found Lee Peltier’s run into the right side of the penalty area, but his low cross could only be stabbed past the near post by Nahki Wells at an acute angle.
The first goal soon followed, with Town being severely punished for a piece of slack defensive play. Joel Lynch got his positioning right to cut out a pass intended for Antenucci, but he took too long over his clearance and the Leeds striker got a block in. The ball ran kindly for midfielder Rodolph Austin; he took aim and smashed the ball goalwards from 20 yards out and although it passed Smithies closely to his right, the Town ‘keeper was beaten by the power of the hit.
After the goal, Town responded with long periods of possession. Harry Bunn was having a real battle with Swiss right back Gaetano Berardi, causing problems with his direct style, but he wasted two of the better chances of the half for the Terriers – firing high and wide in wasteful fashion after doing well to make space for the two opportunities in the build-up.
Leeds looked dangerous when they attacked with pace on the break, but Town had shown enough to suggest a one goal deficit could be overturned in the second 45 minutes – only to concede a second goal in the one minute of first-half added time. Town overcommitted men forward and Leeds drove at Lynch and Hudson, with a deft chip over Smithies hitting the bar before Italian striker Antenucci scored the rebound – just – capping his lively performance.
Town started the second-half in decent fashion, with Hudson putting two headers wide from Butterfield set-pieces, but they often left gaps for Leeds to exploit by pushing numbers forward.
Bunn was still Town’s brightest spark down the left, but on two occasions when he beat the right back and pulled the ball back, Wells and then Ward didn’t do enough – with tentative prods at the ball being blocked by defenders.
The power of Austin in midfield was a constant threat and he, combining with midfield colleague Tommaso Bianchi, looked to have put the game to bed with around 20 minutes remaining. Austin slid in Souleymane Doukara and the imposing attacker stepped inside Hudson before slamming the ball into the bottom corner.
Leeds went down to ten men with 15 minutes remaining when Bunn’s trickery forced Berardi into another rash challenge and left referee Chris Foy with no option than to brandish a second yellow card.
Substitute Jon Stead wasted Town’s best chance of the game with six minutes remaining after Ward knocked Doukara off the ball and released Wells into space; Stead taking aim from 12 yards out, but curling over.
At the other end the busy Antenucci enjoyed the freedom of Town’s half on one late breakaway – but on this occasion Smithies denied him a second goal with a fingertip reaction save.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Jack Robinson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson, Lee Peltier (c); Conor Coady, Jonathan Hogg (Danny Ward, 59); Harry Bunn, Jacob Butterfield, Sean Scannell (Jonathan Stead, 74); Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Paul Dixon, Murray Wallace, Tommy Smith, Radoslaw Majewski
Joel Lynch (90)