Whoever scheduled an away game for Huddersfield Town at Leeds United on the very same date as the Crufts final day at Birmingham’s NEC must have had it in for the Terriers, who were exposed not only to a football lesson from Yorkshire’s Number One, but also to dog-related chants and (for want of a better word) catcalls from a jubilant home crowd as Elland Road celebrated another derby day success. It was bad enough, surely, for the away following to see their team so comprehensively outclassed, without having to listen to various canine-centric chants from the South Stand especially. Suffice to say that the Huddersfield faithful were hounded relentlessly by their United counterparts on a day when their own manager declared that top dogs Leeds are the best team in the Championship by a country mile. It was a combination of circumstances that conspired to leave each and every travelling Terrier with a hangdog expression and straining at the leash to get back home again.
On the field as well as off, there was only one side in it from the first whistle. Leeds were into their stride early on, surging forward powerfully and fluently and, when Luke Ayling smashed home a wondrous volley in off the bar which left the Huddersfield woodwork reverberating for the rest of the half, you suspected that the game was already up for the dogged but outmatched visitors.
Leeds were not at their best, rarely hitting the heights of that masterful second half display at Hull City, but what they were able to offer was far too good for Huddersfield. Leading one-nil at half time, they were even more in charge during a second half that saw them add another early goal, this time Patrick Bamford tapping in from close range after Town keeper Jonas Lossl made a fantastic save from Ben White‘s towering header. There was plenty of pressure still to come from the home side, who relied on some frantic last-ditch defending to prevent United adding more goals, with Jack Harrison particularly unlucky to be denied, yet again, by the frame of the goal, after his shimmering, jinking run and turn gave him the room to strike a great shot high against the far post.
It seems churlish to point out that things could have gone better for United in this game, when events elsewhere would seem to be unfolding precisely as any Leeds fan could wish. We can only hope for more of the same, as both West Brom and Fulham have been merrily dropping points during United’s run of five consecutive clean-sheet wins. From this point in, it would appear that the only thing Leeds United have to fear, with the possible exception of the Coronavirus, is fear itself. But a head of steam has been built up these past few weeks, together with a nice little seven point cushion between our favourites and Fulham in third, and any of the other teams in the Championship, without exception, would happily trade places with United right now.
The next week or so up until close of business next Wednesday evening should provide further insight into the potential fates of all three main automatic promotion contenders, with Fulham facing Brentford ahead of a pivotal clash at Elland Road in nine days time. Leeds face Cardiff away ahead of the Fulham summit, so that’s two tricky hurdles with no certainty that our dead-legged talisman Kalvin Phillips will be available. But the momentum that has been gathering over recent matches – causing even ex-manager Colin to use the word “unstoppable” about Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds – could well be enough to see United consolidate their position as overwhelming favourites finally to ascend to the Promised Land of the Premier League in this Centenary Year. Now, wouldn’t that be just perfect.
Marching On Together