A BIG win, in every sense, for Huddersfield Town and one that David Wagner clearly relished.
After steering the Terriers to their most emphatic victory at Elland Road since 1960, the German strode onto the field to thank all his players before turning to the 2,082 visiting fans.
The Huddersfield head coach raiseed both arms aloft in triumph before launching into a three-punch salute that the equally elated supporters returned, complete with a trio of huge cheers.
Wagner’s joy was understandable. This was the sort of derby victory that Huddersfield will be able to dine out on for years.
It also eased any fears that the Terriers might be dragged into trouble at the wrong end of the Championship.
When Leeds had led during the first half, Town had been just four points clear of the bottom three.
With the first week after the international break bringing meetings with Yorkshire’s promotion-chasing trio of Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Hull City, Huddersfield nerves may well have been jangling if that points margin had remained the same at the final whistle.
As it was, a fightback that began with Mark Hudson’s equaliser just before the break and culminated in a glorious three-goal salvo inside just eight minutes – together with Milton Keynes Dons losing at home to Brighton & Hove Albion – means Town’s advantage over the relegation zone now stands at eight points.
No wonder Wagner’s face positively beamed as he spoke to The Yorkshire Post on the touchline 20 or so minutes after the last of the celebrating Town fans had made their way out of Elland Road.
“We have a very happy group in the dressing room right now,” said the 44-year-old.
“Just like the fans are happy, too. It was a fantastic day. A massive result to get three points in a derby. I know we have made a lot of people happy, and not just the chairman.”
Wagner is right. Dean Hoyle will not be the only member of the Town hierarchy overjoyed at how the recent trend of the away team prevailing in this West Yorkshire derby continued.
Those responsible for maximising season-ticket sales will have been equally elated, as surely there can be no better advert than a thumping win at the home of a major rival.
Certainly, if Wagner’s Terriers can reach similar heights on even a semi-regular basis next term then the £179 cost of guaranteeing a place at the John Smith’s Stadium for 2016-17 is going to seem even more of a bargain than it does at present.
Town trailed for the best part of 20 minutes in the first half after a mistake by Dean Whitehead was ruthlessly exploited by Liam Bridcutt.
After dispossessing his midfield rival, Bridcutt sent over an inviting cross for Stuart Dallas to head in his first goal for Leeds at Elland Road.
But, even when behind, Wagner’s men were creating chances, Philip Billing having a shot clawed away by Marco Silvestri and Joel Lynch prodding over when picked out by a Jamie Paterson free-kick.
Earlier, Town had also spurned a penalty when Silvestri had pulled off a fantastic save to deny Nahki Wells after Sol Bamba had illegally brought a weaving run from Joe Lolley to an abrupt end.
These wasted opportunities meant Huddersfield could not be begrudged their equaliser four minutes before the break.
Again, Paterson was involved with it being the midfielder’s flighted corner that Hudson met with a firm header that gave Silvestri no chance in the home goal.
Leeds had one excellent opening 10 minutes after the restart when Souleymane Doukara released Dallas but, with Mirco Antenucci waiting for the pass, the Northern Ireland international made a hash of things and the momentum was lost.
With that went any hopes of a fourth straight win for the hosts, who played a part in their own downfall with some sloppy play in the 69th minute. First, Alex Mowatt sold Silvestri short with a back pass and the Italian could only slice the ball behind for corner.
United followed that by failing to adequately clear the flag-kick and Harry Bunn took advantage by drilling in off the post.
After that, Town went for the throat as Wells, after being played clear by Tommy Smith, showed tremendous presence of mind to beat Bamba before providing Karim Matmour with a tap-in. Wells then rounded off the rout with his 16th goal of the season, a first-time shot from eight yards proving too much for Silvestri as Town sealed a fifth triumph by an away team in the past eight meetings between these two clubs.
“It was a really enjoyable afternoon,” said Hudson, ahead of the Terriers players being given a couple of days off this week by their delighted head coach.
“Now we are looking above us and trying to grab the teams ahead of us by picking up more points. Leeds had been on a really good run so this is a big three points for us. We showed good character at a tough place.”