LEEDS United boss Neil Warnock was able to celebrate a happy birthday after seeing his side get the bragging rights over West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.
A 4-2 victory lifted the Whites above Town and back into the top half of the Npower Championship. It also gave sprightly 64-year-old Warnock a big personal win over his predecessor in the match of managers against their former clubs.
Warnock (pictured) was delighted with his team’s display and a third successive win.
He said: “It was an excellent performance especially coming away from home in a local derby.
“They dominated the first 15 to 20 minutes but we got back into it then and I thought: ‘Ok, let’s play now’ and after that we were very good.
“Our shape was very good, my midfielders ferreted away all game and we were on fire in front of goal.
“We dominated the second half and played some good football really. The boys have been on fire all week and we hoped they wouldn’t leave it on the training ground.
“The finishing has been out of this world in training and you could see that. To see it in a game was great, sometimes I had to look twice.
“We turned a corner beating Crystal Palace last Saturday to end a run of seven games without a win. But I’m not getting carried away because the Championship is such an open league and things can turn around quickly.”
Warnock hailed the performance of top scorer Luciano Becchio, who took his goal tally for the season to 14 with two more.
He added: “It’s amazing what he can do when he sets his mind to it. One or two of my friends from other clubs say when Becchio plays, you seem to play.
“We’ve got a better team now to give him the ball in areas he wants to be, but he hasn’t always performed to the best of his ability and it’s a shame that. But hopefully the penny’s dropped and he can continue in that form.”
It did not start so well for Leeds as they fell behind to a 12th minute goal when midfielder Chris Atkinson was left in space in the box and produced a low finish past keeper Paddy Kenny.
But the game suddenly exploded into life for United with two goals in two minutes as first Michael Tonge’s shot squeezed under Town keeper Alex Smithies then Becchio produced a calm finish from the edge of the box from a pass by the recalled Ross McCormack.
Huddersfield were handed a penalty to equalise just before half-time when Luciano Becchio was adjudged to have pulled down Peter Clarke. Replays showed there was minimal contact, but Town did not mind as Adam Clayton stepped up to score from the spot.
The goal was sweet for the midfielder surprisingly sold by Leeds in the summer and his celebration showed how much it meant as he ran all the way back to the touchline to salute right in front of Warnock, the man who did not rate him enough to keep him at Elland Road.
The Whites boss responded by applauding Clayton and said afterwards that he had no problems with the player’s celebration. A repeat if he was to score at Elland Road in the return match would be ill advised, however.
Warnock had the last laugh on this occasion as his team took charge after the break and went ahead through David Norris’s good control and volley in the box.
Becchio then made sure of the points with a powerful header from a fair way out from Ryan Hall’s accurate cross.
United have been handed a home draw in the third round of the FA Cup when they host Birmingham City on Saturday, January 5.
Huddersfield Town 2
(Atkinson 12 Clayton 43, pen)
Leeds United 4
(Tonge 35, Becchio 37, 86, Norris 70)
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Huddersfield: Smithies, Hunt, Clarke, Gerrard, Lynch (Woods 56), Arfield (Hammill 74), Atkinson, Clayton, Ward, Lee (Vaughan 63), Church.
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Tate, Peltier, Green, Norris, Tonge (Brown 90), Thomas (Hall 62), McCormack, Becchio (Gray 90).
Referee: Mike Dean.