Leeds and Huddersfield produce gem of a derby that puts sharpshooters in shade

As lasting images of a third-division December Saturday go, the one at half-time at Elland Road took some beating.

Frank Worthington, in what looked like spats, and Peter Lorimer pinned medals on to 12 rifle-bearing members of the Yorkshire Regiment, just back from Afghanistan, who then fired a three-gun salute, prompting a chorus of ‘We Hate Chelsea’.

But it was a tribute to Leeds United and their energised visitors, Huddersfield Town, that they could top that. These two sleeping, but apparently coming-again, West Yorkshire giants, produced a small gem of a derby.

Leeds legend Peter Lorimer presents Afghanistan service medals

Lasting image: Leeds legend Peter Lorimer presents Afghanistan service medals to 12 soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment during half-time

It was small only in terms of the clubs’ reduced status. In terms of the ambition of both sides to play feet-first attacking football, it was not small.

Nor was it small in terms of interest: of England’s 43 matches on Saturday, the 37,000 present made this the fifth-best attended.

Although somehow it manages to trade under the title League One, this is the third division. Leeds top it still and are on a 21-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Huddersfield were an inch away from ending it when Anthony Pilkington’s furious
90th-minute free-kick smacked off the Leeds bar and struck keeper Casper Ankergren on the back of the head.

Huddersfield would not have been undeserving winners. But Leeds clung on and will be expected to take that unbeaten run to 22 when Kettering arrive for their second-round FA Cup replay on Tuesday night.

Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson: A fair result

The prize is Manchester United away: should Leeds beat Kettering, their unbeaten run will do well to survive Old Trafford.

After two seasons at this level, Leeds’s priority is not the FA Cup. The club are bursting to get promotion and, with 46 points from 19 games, should do so. Leeds’ lead over Charlton is four points with a game in hand.

Going forward, they had more power than creativity on show here and there was enough defensive vulnerability to encourage chasers.

Charlton, Norwich and Colchester are each on promising runs of their own, while Huddersfield manager Lee Clark said ‘the gap’s not that big’. Huddersfield are 14 points adrift of Leeds but have 26 games left.

Clark saw his players twice fight back from behind. An absorbing contest was sent on its way after 90 seconds when Robert Snodgrass profited from Alex Smithies’ fumble.
But Jordan Rhodes, the 19-year-old Clark signed from Ipswich in the summer, hit the woodwork almost immediately and we knew we had a game.

There were chances at either end before Lee Novak’s sharp header made it 1-1 on 48 minutes. On-loan Leeds striker Max Gradel restored the home advantage after brave work by Jermaine Beckford.

Yet that was a breakaway goal initiated by Ankergren’s 70-yard punt.

Huddersfield, with Gary Roberts prominent, were gradually taking over midfield. They were a tidy collective and had a reasonable penalty claim before Rhodes headed in a Roberts cross with 12 minutes remaining.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson did not dispute the fairness of that. ‘It was a real good advert,’ he said.

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