Leeds United’s decision to turn down big bids for Ross McCormack this week paid off instantly as he bagged a hat-trick in a memorable 5-1 derby victory over Huddersfield Town at Elland Road.
McCormack, who appeared to come close to leaving the club in the wake of the sacking of manager Brian McDermott yesterday, took his goal tally up to 22 for the season as the Whites turned round a game that was going wrong again in the first half.
Huddersfield were the better side for the first 45 minutes, but paid for missed chances when McCormack’s first goal gave Leeds a lifeline in first half injury-time.
It was then a different game after the break with four unanswered goals from Leeds and everything that could go wrong doing so for the visitors who ended with 10 men when Anthony Gerrard went off injured after they had made their three substitutions.
United have issued a statement saying that McDermott remains manager, but his assistant, Nigel Gibbs, was described as the “caretaker” before the game and took charge to oversee the ending of an eight-match run without a win that dated back to before Christmas.
Leeds started well enough when Cameron Stewart missed a decent fourth minute chance, shooting wide after finding himself in space in the box. But they were soon forced into something of a rearguard action as Huddersfield carved open several chances.
Two great blocks by Sam Byram denied the visitors while Oliver Norwood hit the post with a low strike from 20 yards out and Nahki Wells headed a difficult chance into the side netting.
It was no surprise when Town went in front on 25 minutes as Ward’s angled shot beat Paddy Kenny.
The Leeds keeper blocked a Murray Wallace header on the line from a corner soon after and made an easier save from Norwood’s weak header following a brief flurry from the Whites when Rudy Austin had shot wide from the edge of the box and McCormack could get no power behind a header from Austin’s fine cross.
The big turning point proved to be in the 45th minute as Wells raced onto a long ball forward and got to the ball ahead of the onrushing Kenny only to see his shot go wide.
It proved a huge miss as in the third minute of injury-time Huddersfield failed to deal with a long ball forward and after Jimmy Kebe miskicked it fell nicely for McCormack to score from close range.
The second half started with a bang for United as well as Alex Mowatt and McCormack combined on the edge of the box to set Kebe clear and the on-loan winger chipped the ball over keeper Alex Smithies to put Leeds ahead.
Town looked to hit back with Wells and Ward both shooting wide twice, but they were caught by a sucker punch on 63 minutes when the Whites broke out of defence, Austin carried the ball well and played in Byram on the flank. A perfect low cross was then finished by McCormack to make it 3-1.
Suddenly Leeds were playing with confidence and after Kebe had a 20-yard shot tipped wide by Smithies they made it 4-1 when McCormack completed his hat-trick with a shot in off the post following a great run and cross by Stewart.
United scored again on 82 minutes when Smithies came flying out of his area to stop McCormack getting on the end of a long ball forward only to collide with his own defender. The ball fell to Mowatt and the young midfielder gleefully produced a perfect lob into the empty goal for his first-ever goal in senior football.
It did not get much better for Huddersfield as Adam Clayton’s shot beat Kenny only to bounce back off the crossbar.
There were no further goals for Leeds although McCormack came close with a long range strike.
Town finished with 10 after Gerrard’s injury and on this most mad of days there was even a referee change after Graham Salisbury had to go off eight minutes from time.
Leeds United 5
(McCormack 45+3, 63, 73, Kebe 50, Mowatt 82)
Huddersfield Town 1
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Leeds: Kenny; Byram, Lees, Pearce, Warnock; Kebe, Murphy, Mowatt (Tonge 87), Austin (Brown 90), Stewart; McCormack.
Huddersfield: Smithies; Smith, Gerrard, Wallace; Woods, Gobern (Scannell 61), Norwood, Clayton, Dixon (Lolley 69); Ward, Wells (Paterson 75).
Referee: Graham Salisbury.