STEVE EVANS made it back to back wins as head coach of Leeds United as a clinical Whites side raced to in impressive 3-0 success in Saturday lunch-time’s Championship derby at Huddersfield Town.
United raced into a 2-0 lead with two goals inside three minutes of first-half stoppage time as first Mirco Antenucci and then Chris Wood finished off flowing counters.
And the icing on a very tasty Leeds cake was provided by another 25-yard peach from Alex Mowatt - four days on from his magnificent match-winner in Tuesday night’s 1-0 success against Cardiff.
Academy manager Mark Lillis took charge of Huddersfield as new head coach David Wagner looked on from the John Smith’s Stadium stands.
But Wagner had decided he had seen enough just after the 80 minute mark by which point United were already home and hosed and, for the time being at least, just six points off the play-offs.
Whites head coach Steve Evans had a tough selection decision to make with captain Sol Bamba back available from suspension but Evans opted to stick with Giuseppe Bellusci alongside stand in captain Liam Cooper at centre back.
The available again Tom Adeyemi and Lee Erwin were both named on the bench but there was no place for Sam Byram anywhere in United’s 18.
Bellusci immediately made the wrong impression when conceding a first minute free-kick but danger was averted for a Huddersfield off side as the ball was swung into the box
But the Terriers began at a high tempo and looking totally up for the derby with Joe Lolley and Martin Crane lnking up well down the right hand side.
Kyle Dempsey’s deep cross then beat Harry Bunn and sailed out of play.
Leeds then threatened to build a spell of pressure with two consecutive free kick but Mirco Antenucci lost possession allowing Huddersfield to break down the left through Lolley whose shot was importantly blocked by Liam Cooper.
But just two minutes later Cooper’s game was over as the stand in skipper clashed heads with team-mate Scott Wootton in the Huddersfield area and both went down.
Wottoon eventually rose to his feet but Cooper was seemingly laid out and after a six-minute stoppage he was stretchered off for Sol Bamba.
There was then little action of note for the next five minutes until Stuart Dallas showed good skill to beat two men and cut inside for Leeds but Huddersfield ended up breaking through the impressing Kyle Dempsey whose right flank run and turn ended with a low shot being saved.
Then, just one minute later, Wootton was booked for a late challenge on Jason Davidson and United’s Bellusci was then fortunate as he left the ball in the area wrongly left a Huddersfield through ball which Lolley failed to capitalise on as Luke Murphy cleared.
Huddersfield then picked up their first booking as Martin Crainie was booked for a foul on Mirco Antenucci on the halfway line but a Leeds attack again ended with Huddersfield countering and building momentum which ended when Harry Bunn’s low shot was well saved by Marco Sivestri.
And as the clock reached the half hour mark, Town were forced into making their first change through injury with Phil Billing withdrawn for Emyr Huws.
Leeds, meanwhile, were yet to have a single attempt on goal but that changed when Alex Mowatt produced a fine bit of skill to beat two defenders before feeding Chris Wood’s whose effort was deflected out for a throw.
From that throw, Mowatt fizzed an effort across goal that had the crowd gasping even though the ball went out for a throw.
As a fairly uneventful game then meandered towards half-time, Bamba was then twice let off the hook - first when failing to lead a long high ball that almost let in Nahki Wells and then when taking out Bunn on the edge of the area.
Wells’ free-kick was blazed over the bar as eight minutes of stoppage time were announced but then it was Wootton who received a let off when fouling Huws amidst desperate calls for a second yellow from the home faithful.
But referee Graham Scott opted to give the centre back a final warning and, incredibly, just three minutes later, Leeds led 2-0.
It had so far been Huddersfield producing all the counter attacks but this time Leeds burst into action down the right flank with Chris Wood feeding the ball to Stuart Dallas whose fine quick low cross was met by an onrushing Mirco Antenucci to give United a 45th-minute lead.
Antenucci was booked for taking his shirt off and barely three minutes later United were celebrating their second.
From another counter attack, this time Antenucci turned provider as he raced clear one on one at Joe Murphy at an angle.
The Italian rounded the ‘keeper and while he looked to have taken the ball to far the striker produced a perfect cut back to Wood who had an open goal which he gleefully smashed in to.
Both goals sent the United away end into raptures amid chants of “2-0, in your cup final” and Huddersfield were duly booed off in parts at the half-time whistle.
The hosts were immediately on the attack after the interval with Lolley’s shot from edge of the box running through Wells’ legs at close range.
Bamba then produced a fine sliding tackle to prevent Wells from shooting and force a corner which was cleared.
But Town continued to pile on the pressure with Bunn dancing around the Whites defence before his low shot was saved.
Huddersfield were forcing the issue so much that a frustrated Evans was practically on the pitch arguing with the fourth official but, from nothing, nine minutes into the second half Leeds led 3-0.
And again Whites fans were treated to an Alex Mowatt screamer with the rejuvenated midfielder again letting fly from 25 yards with similar consequences to Tuesday night’s match-winner at Cardiff.
Once again the youngster brilliantly found the top corner, but this time the top left as his curler gave Murphy no chance.
United’s fans were in dreamland and treated the home faithful to a rendition of “you should have gone Christmas shopping” but Leeds were then indebted to Silvestri for maintaining their lead as he produced a superb one handed save to keep out sub James Vaughan from close range.
Vaughan had just been introduced for Wells on 57 minutes as Town sought fresh attacking impetus and ten minutes later Silvesti was again required to make an excellent save to deny Bunn.
Then, moments later, Dean Whitehead fired a powerful rising effort over the bar, after which Tom Adeyemi was brought on for the tightrope-walking Wootton with 19 minutes to go.
Huddersfield then made their final change by introducing Duane Holmes for Lolley with 18 minutes left but while Huddersfield continued to push forward their threat was minimal with Bunn firing what should have been a dangerous free-kick over the bar.
In truth, a for once clinical Leeds side had long put the game to bed with Evans making his final change with eight minutes left when Jordan Botaka was brought on for Dallas.
Botaka made an immediate impact as his jinking run ended with a blistering curler that was tipped over the bar for a corner that was cleared.
But with Wagner having made his early exit the outcome of the game had long been decided with Huddersfield not even able to cash in on a decent chance for a consolation as Kyle Dempsey’s squared pass went astray inside the area.
United’s delighted faithful, meanwhile, chanted for Evans to give them a wave which he did with a clenched fist salute.
At first, there were plenty who didn’t want him here. Not so much now.
Evans hailed Mowatt a ‘special talent’ after the game, saying: “I told the players at half-time that Huddersfield will come out and have a go,” Evans said. “But we had to remain patient and keep our shape and if we break we break with pace and power.
“I couldn’t have painted a better picture and it opened up to a special young man who’s once again scored a special goal.
“It was a stunning strike but he does it in training most days.
“It’s not just his two goals but his all-round play. (There were) Periods in the second half when he kept the ball and worked hard and was smart and it makes the babies like him and (Lewis) Cook very special.”
Evans also admitted he thought Wootton was lucky to stay on the pitch.
He added: “We gave the ball away cheaply and I think it was Cook that won the second ball and Scott lunges into the challenge.
“I think more and more you see referees try to manage those situations, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had got a second yellow.”
Huddersfield academy boss Lillis was proud of his side’s efforts in defeat, saying: “The performance was good. I was pleased with the way we went about the second half as well. We showed bravery.
“I said to them at half-time when they were having a moan about the sending off, we can’t control that....(the referee) has made the decision.
“Anywhere else on the field, he had been booked and it would have been a booking, but I’m not going to touch on that.
“Their third goal was a fantastic goal but we kept going right to the end.”
Lillis confirmed young Danish midfielder Philip Billing, making his full home debut, was forced off in the first half with a foot injury.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton (Adeyemi 71), Cooper (Bamba 18), Bellusci, Berardi, Dallas (Botaka 82), Mowatt, Murphy, Cook, Antenucci, Wood. Subs not used: Horton, Phillips, Buckley, Erwin.
Huddersfield Town: Murphy, Davidson, Whitehead, Hudson, Cranie, Wallace, Bunn, Lolley (Holmes 72), Wells (Vaughan 57), Dempsey, Billing (Huws 29). Subs not used: Steer, Smith, Carayol, Bojaj.
Referee: Graham Scott.