A THOROUGHLY DOMINANT derby display from Leeds United piled on the pain for struggling Huddersfield Town in a powerhouse home performance at Elland Road.
In what is expected to be Neil Redfearn’s final game in charge as caretaker head coach, with Sturm Graz manager Darko Milanic set to be appointed as the permanent head coach shortly after leaving the Austrian outfit, United produced an accomplished showing to continue their rise towards the business positions in the Championship.
Goals in the first half from Rudy Austin and Mirco Antenucci were supplemented by a third strike on 69 minutes by Souleymane Doukara, the frontman netting his fourth goal of the season in front of a big Elland Road crowd of 29,131.
The home side’s efforts were lapped up by United punters, while for Town, it continued their abject start to the campaign, with the side having triumphed just once in their opening Championship eight matches of 2014-15.
The only downside for Leeds was the dismissal of Gaetano Berardi for two bookable offences in the second half, the sole downside on a fine afternoon for the hosts, with the Swiss.
The defeat may not have reached the levels of Town’s 5-1 battering in February, but it was not too far behind on a day when little went right for the visitors.
United made just one change from the side who produced an excellent final half-hour to turn the tables on Bournemouth and claim an excellent 3-1 triumph in midweek, with Billy Sharp dropping to the bench and Danish international Casper Sloth starting.
Steve Morison was named on the bench for the first time this term after shrugging off a calf problem, with Scott Wootton making way.
Town, who had accrued just one point from Chris Powell’s opening two games in charge, make three changes, with Harry Bunn, Sean Scannell and Jonathan Hogg coming in.
Jon Stead, who scored the winner in the fixture at the John Smith’s Stadium last autumn, former Leeds youngster Danny Ward and Tommy Smith were the ones to drop out.
In front of an impressive looking crowd, it was United who had the first dangerous moment on eight minutes, with Jack Robinson’s underhit back pass giving Sloth a sniff of goal, but Smithies managed to come out and clear the danger in the nick of time.
Town captain Lee Peltier, jeered on his first return to Elland Road following his summer move across the A62, then conjured the visitors’ first threatening moment, cutting inside before supplying Wells, who steered an effort off target.
With Tommaso Bianchi and Lewis Cook policing the area in front of the defence and Austin giving licence to power forward, United looked the more menacing and composed and it was the latter who took the plaudits after firing an emphatic opener on twenty minutes.
The Jamaican was given a helping hand by Joel Lynch, who fatally delayed a token clearance to clear his lines, with his clearance eventually diverting off Antenucci into the path of Austin.
The midfielder showed no hesitation in pulling the trigger with his fiercely-struck effort flying high past Smithies before rippling into the back of the net.
Leeds fans soon stoked up the fires with a brazen chant of ‘Going Down’ directed to the Town following in the West Stand, but it was the visitors who were presented with the next meaningful chance to threaten goal.
Bellusci was penalised by Chris Foy for a lunging challenge on Hogg, but from a dangerous central position, just outside the box, Wells’ effort sailed into the Kop.
Hogg then headed wide following Bunn’s cross, before fine interplay between Sloth and Antenucci almost dissected the Town defence and saw the Italian through on goal, but his touch was heavy and Smithies was able to gather.
Bunn, on the left, showed a decent lack of composure to fire wildly off beam after cutting inside Berardi, on a booking for an earlier foul on Robinson.
Despite a decent amount of possession, Town struggled to muster anything meaningful with United providing themselves with a two-goal buffer moments before the interval.
With numbers upfield, Town were caught on the counter, with centre-back Bellusci powering forward and after switching passes with Antenucci, the Italian was handed a clear sight of goal with his delicious chip sailing over the stranded Smithies and hitting the bar, with Antenucci on hand to steer home the rebound.
It left Town with a mountain to climb in the second half and while they had one of two moments on the restart, they couldn’t claim a way back into proceedings.
Mark Hudson headed wide following Jacob Butterfield’s curling free-kick and Wells’ produced a half-hearted effort when well placed in the box after good work by Bunn, with Bellusci blocking the danger.
Playing on the counter and looking fairly well suited to it, it was Leeds who had the most pertinent opportunity with Austin slipping in Doukara, whose low angled shot was saved by the legs of Smithies.
It was the Frenchman who sealed matters on after more poise from the hosts on 69 minutes.
The powerful striker, rapidly becoming a favourite at Elland Road, was set up superbly by Austin as Leeds surged forward with purpose, with the move having been instigated by the impressive Tommaso Bianchi.
Doukara kept his composure to fire home a precision low shot past the helpless Smithies to follow on from his midweek strike at Bournemouth.
Soon after, Berardi blotted his copybook after receiving his second caution for a foul, but despite the full-back receiving his marching orders, it was Leeds who went closest to the next goal.
It almost arrived late on when Town players were caught hopelessly upfield with Antenucci racing clear on goal with Conor Coady in pursuit, with the striker’s low shot saved by the fingertips of Stead and clipping the outside of the post.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Berardi, Bellusci, Pearce, Warnock, Bianchi, Cook, Sloth (Byram 74); Austin (Tonge 90+2); Antenucci, Doukara. Unused subs: S Taylor, Cooper, Adryan.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Peltier, Hudson, Lynch, Robinson; Coady, Hogg (Ward 59); Scannell (Stead 74), Butterfield, Bunn; Scannell. Unused subs: Murphy, Dixon, Wallace, Smith, Majewski.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).