Huddersfield Town 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Pilkington strike earns derby win

ANTHONY PILKINGTON showed that the dawning of a new year has done nothing to dull his eye for the spectacular.

After a prolific second half of 2010 that saw the 22-year-old plunder 10 goals, he settled a pulsating Yorkshire derby in Huddersfield Town's favour with a trademark stunning strike.

Sheffield Wednesday should have known all about Pilkington's ruthless trait, having seen his beautifully judged lob over Nicky Weaver help seal a 2-0 win for the Terriers at Hillsborough in November.

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But Alan Irvine's men had clearly not heeded the lesson, allowing the wideman to cut inside off the right flank in the 26th minute before unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew over the stranded Weaver and into the net.

It was enough to settle a hard-fought Yorkshire derby that was played at breakneck speed in the first half before settling into a more realistic pace after the interval.

The win is timely for Town, who had claimed just one point from their three previous games over the festive season.

For Wednesday, however, defeat represented a disappointing return to action after going more than a fortnight without a game due to a combination of the recent Arctic weather and burst pipes at Hillsborough.

At the final whistle the Owls' 3,605 fans were left to rue an impressive performance from Town goalkeeper Alex Smithies, who pulled off a string of saves during an end-to-end first half to ensure that Pilkington's strike would be enough to earn all three points.

Smithies was named man of the match by the sponsors, though new signing Kevin Kilbane must have run him close after a hugely impressive display on his home debut in the centre of midfield.

The Republic of Ireland international, on loan from Hull City until the end of the season, showed tremendous poise throughout, while his vision on the ball ensured play was spread to the flanks regularly to keep Wednesday full-backs Jon Ostemobor and Tommy Spurr on their toes.

A delightfully open first half in which neither defence looked more than a few seconds away from gifting the opposition a sight of goal ended with Town ahead courtesy of Pilkington's 11th goal of the season.

It was an effort worthy of winning any game, though in truth the biggest surprise as the players left the field at the interval was that his effort had been the only goal of a pulsating half.

With the pace relentless and action swinging from one end to the other, both Town and Wednesday had created a host of chances.

That the Owls did not take advantage owed much to the agility of England Under-21s goalkeeper Smithies, who made several vital saves or blocks during the first 45 minutes.

He proved particularly adept at rushing from his line to avert danger after slick Wednesday passing had opened up the home defence.

The brave dive at the feet of Neil Mellor just after the half-hour was arguably the pick of the bunch, while the double-save that frustrated Darren Purse and Mellor in the 39th minute was every bit as instrumental in winning the game as Pilkington's strike.

Smithies also acrobatically tipped over Tommy Miller's free-kick, while a combination of a post and Gary Roberts on the line kept out a header from Mark Beevers.

At the other end, Weaver was also kept busy by the enterprising hosts with Pilkington, Lee Novak and Lee Peltier all having efforts saved by the Owls goalkeeper.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first only for the pace to understandably slow around the hour mark.

Wednesday were the first to press, Clinton Morrison getting the ball in the net four minutes after the restart with a fine turn and finish on the edge of the area only for his celebrations to be cut short by a linesman's flag.

Town responded with a sustained spell of pressure but with the Owls' defence, and captain Purse in particular, in much more resolute mood chances were much harder to come by than in the opening 45 minutes.

Kilbane did drag a shot wide after being teed up by Novak before Weaver smartly saved a shot from Jordan Rhodes and Beevers beat away the follow-up from Pilkington. Arfield also brought a stunning save from Weaver, while Wednesday were left to rue Mellor shooting over after hesitation by Smithies had allowed a long clearance to cause panic in the home defence.

By stoppage time, Weaver was charging forward for corners and free-kicks but it was all to no avail as Huddersfield held on to claim a victory that saw Lee Clark's men leapfrog their rivals from the south of the county.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Peltier, P Clarke, Kay, Ridehalgh; Roberts (T Clarke 68), Kilbane, Arfield, Pilkington; Rhodes (Lee 76), Novak (Afobe 88). Unused substitutes: Bennett, McCombe, Gudjonsson, Carey.

Sheffield Wednesday: Weaver; Ostemobor (Jones 75), Purse, Beevers, Spurr; Johnson, Miller, O'Connor (Heffernan 88), Teale (Sedgwick 71); Mellor, Morrison. Unused substitutes: Hinds, Porter, Jameson, Palmer.

Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).