Mirco Antenucci said Leeds United’s newly-built team was clicking into place after a clinical defeat of Huddersfield Town moved the club into the top half of the Championship table.
Antenucci basked in the glow of United’s best performance of the season and said momentum at Elland Road was building rapidly amid a convincing recovery from a poor start to the term.
United scrambled six points from their first five league matches but have taken 10 from four games under caretaker manager Neil Redfearn, and Antenucci’s first-half goal helped to seal a 3-0 win over Huddersfield on Saturday.
The Italian striker converted a timely volley seconds before half-time, adding to the opening goal from Rodolph Austin.
Souleymane Doukara scored a third on 69 minutes and the dismissal of right-back Gaetano Berardi in the closing stages came too late to offer a struggling Huddersfield side any assistance.
Antenucci, who joined Leeds from Italian club Catania last month, was one of 15 summer signings made by United and part of a clutch of foreign players who came to the club during the recent transfer window.
The 30-year-old said: “I think as a team we are building. We have 15 new players and now we are starting to play together.
“I was very happy with the win and it was important to score but it was more important to win for the team. The team comes first.”
A crowd of more than 29,000 turned out for Saturday’s derby, Elland Road’s biggest attendance of the season, and Antenucci was one of several players who drew praise from Redfearn at the end of a one-sided game.
“In Italy I played in Catania-Palermo, Ancona-Ascoli, Vicenza-Padova and I have scored in derbies,” Antenucci said. “But here there were more people in the stadium. In Italy there are 5,000 or 10,000 in the second division. Here there were 25,000 or more. The supporters are very special.”
Antenucci’s strike was his second in the space of five days, following on from his effort in a 3-1 win at Bournemouth,
The forward was a constant problem for Huddersfield’s defence and Redfearn, whose reign as caretaker is set to be ended by the appointment of Darko Milanic as United’s new head coach, said: “In the last couple of games, Antenucci’s been outstanding.
“He gives you energy up front and no ball to him is a bad ball. He’s got great touch, good awareness and he can finish. Stick him in front of goal and he’ll finish chances.
“Rudy Austin was terrific too and he’s a better footballer than he gets credit for. He’s got touch and awareness and he’s just starting to get going again. Before the game I told the players ‘no one of you is better than anyone else and that means you’ve got to run for each other.’ They did that and you could see it in the performance.”
Berardi is facing another suspension, four weeks after returning from a three-match ban, but Redfearn refused to criticise the right-back after a foul on Harry Bunn earned him a second yellow card on 73 minutes.
“It was a red card,” Redfearn said. “Bunn was a real handful and he caused Berardi a problem.
“I was hoping we were going to ride it but it was just one late tackle too many. There was no malice, it was just late.
“I told Berardi at half-time to stay on his feet and not do things last-ditch but Bunn drew him and (Casper) Sloth together. It was a good bit of play.” Huddersfield captain and former Leeds defender Lee Peltier, meanwhile, conceded that Town had been well beaten at Elland Road.
Peltier, who joined Huddersfield in the summer after severing his deal at Leeds, said: “We were second best.
“We gave away three sloppy goals and I think they were all of our own doing. The goals were terrible.”