Huddersfield Town 3 Leeds United 2: Stead bags Terriers winner

Match winner Jon Stead.
Match winner Jon Stead.
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A MILESTONE 77TH-minute strike from Jon Stead settled a compelling see-saw West Yorkshire derby in favour of Huddersfield - who ended their six-match winless streak in the autumnal sunshine against their near-neighbours.

Stead rounded off an excellent display in when he troubled United’s back three and didn’t give them a moment’s peace when he swivelled impressively before firing a precision low right-footed shot past Paddy Kenny following a cutback from substitute Sean Scannell.

It was the Honley lad’s first goal in his second stint at Huddersfield, with his previous goal for the Terriers coming way back in January 2004 in football’s basement ahead of his move to top-flight Blackburn Rovers.

It had looked like honours would be even between the two derby foes after a goal with his very first touch as a Leeds United player from super-sub Dexter Blackstock made it 2-2 on 73 minutes.

This came ten minutes after the unfortunate Tom Lees had diverted a cross from Adam Hammill into the net to give Town, for whom Adam Clayton, Martin Paterson and Anthony Gerrard left out of Mark Robins’ 18-man matchday squad despite being fit - in a surprise development ahead of kick-off - a 2-1 lead.

Promising attacking midfielder Duane Holmes, so impressive after being his debut from the bench in the televised draw with Blackpool, was handed his full debut for Town, with veteran enforcer Keith Southern making his first Championship start of the campaign - with Jon Stead and Jazz Richards also starting.

Leeds, perhaps unsurprisingly after their vibrant Sunday-best performance against Birmingham City, fielded the same line-up who bulldozed the Blues, with new signing Blackstock having to settle for a spot on the substitutes bench.

If Brian McDermott had any fears that United wouldn’t carry on from where they left off against Blues, he needn’t have worried, with the visitors taking the lead inside seventy seconds.

Incredibly, they went close to an opener even before that with Matt Smith, fresh from his two-goal haul against the Brummies, seeing his goalbound downward header from Tom Lees’ high ball parried in the nick of time by Alex Smithies.

From the resulting corner, the giant ex-Oldham striker fared better when he rose above the Town defence with Smithies also rooted to his spot following an inswinging corner from Alex Mowatt - his fifth goal of the campaign and third in six days.

Against hosts with one win in their previous eight matches and with their pre-match game build-up somewhat hit by the mystery absence of Clayton, Paterson and Gerrard, it should have been the precursor for Leeds to go for the throat early on.

But to their credit, Town dusted themselves down and got back in proceedings, led by the promptings of Stead and Hammill, who both started brightly and helped haul the hosts back into the game.

The hosts’ endeavours were quickly rewarded on nine minutes with a picture-book leveller, although the Whites defending will not have particularly enamoured McDermott.

A chipped corner from Hammill found Danny Ward on the edge of the 18-yard box and he set himself before taking aim and firing a terrific rasping drive past the clutches of Paddy Kenny - with the visitors’ culpable for switching off and not picking up the Town man.

For the reminder of a competitive half, Town edging proceedings with ingenuity from Hammill seeing his curling shot tipped over by Kenny on 23 minutes, while a timely challenge from Jason Pearce then blocked a close-range effort from Holmes.

The final chance of the half arrived to the hosts with Ward’s toe-poked effort going wide.

The fluidity of the 3-5-2 system which operated so seamlessly against Birmingham was not so evident for Leeds, no doubt cajoled by McDermott to up things a little at the interval.

In the event, it was Mark Robins who played a hand first, bringing on Scannell for Holmes.

After a tepid start to the second period in beaming autumnal sunshine - the main action seeing Ward head wide from Southern’s cross - the game burst into life around the hour mark.

The first salvo saw Luke Murphy inexplicably miss a golden chance in front of goal from close range, with the £1m man somehow missing the target with the goal gaping after build-up play by Byram and Rudy Austin and a clever step-over by Smith.

The ex-Crewe midfielder and side were immediately made to pay when Town took the lead at the other end, when Hammill’s dangerous cross was diverted in off the head of Leeds.

With their tails up, Town almost made it 3-1 soon after with veteran Stead sent clear, but the heavy touch which took the ball around Kenny forced him out wide, with his effort from a narrow angle hitting the outside of the post.

Blackstock entered the fray for Murphy and within seconds, he showed his predatory instincts to head home following Mowatt’s corner, his first touch since netting for parent club Nottingham Forest against United on Boxing Day.

But it was another striker in need of a goal who played the decisive act, with Stead rewarded for an impressive performance.

Leeds pressed for a leveller late on with Smith nodding wide at the back post following Byram cross and saw late appeals for a penalty turned down after Stead challenged Austin.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Clarke, Lynch, Dixon, Richards (Woods 73); Southern, Hogg, Hammill (Gobern 78), Holmes (Scannell 46), Ward, Stead. Substitutes not used: Bennett, Norwood, Wallace, Carr.

Leeds United: Kenny; Lees, Wootton, Pearce; Byram, Mowatt, Murphy (Blackstock 73), Austin, Warnock, McCormack, Smith. Substitutes not used: Cairns, Peltier, Varney, Brown, Tonge, Poleon.