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Huddersfield Town 2 Watford 3 (29/09/2012) 30/09/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five thunks from a dramatic afternoon in West Yorkshire.

1- Another game, another change in formation, shape, line-up. Unlike a week ago however, where the fielding of three diminutive strikers raised eyebrows, the changes applied today made obvious sense… 3-5-2 would enable Cassetti and Pudil to push up without us being so exposed, would add numbers to our midfield stiffening it up and would provide a front two to work each other. And unlike last week, when we got a point from a game that we wanted to win, here we took three points when most would have been happy with one at the start of play, away at one of the form sides of the division. Zola has already demonstrated a willingness to experiment, but here was a solution that clearly suited us and was hugely effective on the afternoon.

2- Not that it started well. Town pelted at us for the opening ten minutes or so and it appeared that our optimism regarding the change in formation was misplaced. We were being turned around far too easily with Simon Grayson, who conceded after the game that he was surprised by our change in formation, clearly having instructed his charges to put pressure on our three-man back line. That back line comprised Fitz Hall, making his full debut for the club; Tommie Hoban, making his full league debut for anybody, and the precarious Neuton. The Brazilian had a particularly sluggish start, uncharacteristically clumsy in possession and apparently unsure of where he was supposed to be and who he should be covering. We rode the storm, the closest the Terriers came in this spell a Keith Southern header from a corner which Almunia blocked sharply having anticipated well. Then, having seemingly gotten away with our poor start, we conceded… a silly free kick given away by the below-par Abdi clouted goalwards by Ollie Norwood. Almunia seemed to react late, got a touch to it but could only deflect inside the near post.

As the game wore on we grew in assuredness at the back as Huddersfield’s threat waned. Neuton settled down considerably, and put in perhaps his strongest 45 minutes to date in the second half – albeit Zola later suggested that he still need to toughen up a bit. Tommie Hoban put in a sound shift, one heroic diving block during the second half denying a goal. Almunia redeemed himself with a stunning first half save to a low drive from Novak. Key, however, was the monstrous Fitz Hall… a huge, uncompromising presence and a much-needed leader, organising, cajoling, and frequently adding his significant height to our attacks, to particularly good effect in the second half.

3- If the change in shape ultimately helped us defensively, it also asked different things of our forward line. Much has been made of the number of goals we have been conceding, but this is really only a problem in context. Set piece idiocy aside, we are playing an open game and are thus always likely to concede chances. That’s only a problem for as long as we’re not capitalising on our often dominant possession. Bluntly, we need to be scoring more.

To this end, it was heartening to see Troy Deeney pick up where he left off last weekend. And then some. A simply colossal performance from the striker, describing it as “Mooneyesque” would scarcely do it justice. When the ball needed holding up, he held it; when it needed laying off he did so, and when no other option presented itself he turned on his marker and ran at Huddersfield, frequently scattering or dragging markers in his wake.

Alongside him, Fernando Forestieri struggled to impose himself in the first half… slightly peripheral, he began to attract the attention of the crowd by exaggerating any contact, a sign both of the different footballing culture in which he has been educated and his frustration at his impotence. As Zola was later to insist, his quick feet were getting him to the ball ahead of his opponent and invited contact… but he did himself few favours with his dramatic tumbling even if, unlike Marco Cassetti, he avoided a card for simulation.

In the second half, however, he turned the burners on and began to run at the backpedalling, nervous Huddersfield defence. The winning of a penalty, the goal that ultimately decided the game, was always a possibility… significant that, perhaps swayed by what had gone before, the referee didn’t give the award, ultimately ceding to his better placed assistant. Despite the hysterical catcalls of many in the stands that greeted the decision and escorted Forestieri off the pitch on his replacement, however, it was the right decision, as Simon Grayson was gracious enough to admit.

Heaven knows what Deeney and Forestieri can achieve if they ever get around to linking up. Or rather, if Forestieri gains some kind of awareness of what’s going on on the pitch around him. As it was they presented very different but ultimately independent threats to Huddersfield’s backline… Forestieri is like the hogger in the playground, aggravating those around both by trying to do it all himself and, ultimately, by often being good enough to do so. The deflection on his shot after another twisty turny run across the box, taking the ball past Smithies, might have been the most significant touch of the afternoon. There was only one winner thereafter.

4- Much to be positive about then, but to set the victory in context Huddersfield were disappointing, their performance a shadow of that which saw off Blackpool on Monday. Not our problem of course… but we were aided in no small part by what turned into a ragged and rather indisciplined display by the home side. We were picking up loose passes in the midfield before the end of the first half; in the second, the Terriers sat back and broke slowly, frequently rattled and unsettled by the challenges being put in front of them. Significantly, James Vaughan’s persistant, combative presence was missing, replaced by that of Jermaine Beckford. The former Boothroyd target had been signed late the night before and looked it… clearly keen to impress, he engaged in a first half running spat with Neuton and struggled to impose himself thereafter.

5- The other positive was the amount of heart on display. This was a gutsy victory; Deeney and Hall we’ve already talked about, Chalobah, Hogg and Pudil all worked extremely hard, and if Marco Cassetti’s susceptibility to being run at by Danny Ward looked like it might have been our achilles heel had the home side exploited it a little more, the Italian nonetheless looked more comfortable in the wide midfield role where he could emphasise his attacking threat and had Hoban’s pace as cover behind. Mark Yeates, of all people, epitomised this spirit with his cameo, which involved some positive, aggressive running that we could have done with a little more of from Almen Abdi. As Forestieri was being trodden into the ground by Paul Dixon (and giving some back, in fairness) he released Yeates galloping down the right to cross for Fitz Hall to give us the lead for the first time. Connor Smith, on later for the limping Chalobah, provided a very tidy contribution with a role in the move leading to the penalty, although he was harshly booked for what looked like a clean tackle, the only occasion when the ref looked like losing control of a bad tempered game.

More welly up front, in midfield, at the back, then… and many grinning faces heading back through the idyllic Yorkshire Dales towards the M1. Much, much better.

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Comments»

1. David Wooll-Rivers - 30/09/2012

Agree totally Matt with your view of the game. I was sat near the halfway line with Huddersfield Town supporting friends, who also picked out Deeney for his impressive work rate and all round performance. I was also rather impressed with Cassetti, if only because having been booked for a very theatrical dive, he then became the arch-villain and was roundly booed every time he touched the ball. But from the expression on his face, he seemed to relish the exchanges on and off the field and one rather warmed to his commitment to the cause. As you say, the formation put him under less pressure. Hoban I thought looks a terrific prospect.
I was surprised by the sprinklers that popped up from under the grass and drenched the pitch before the start. They made the pitch very slippery and one could plainly see the spray from the player’s boots. Strange considering the amount of rain in Yorkshire the last few days.
Very encouraging performance though.

Matt Rowson - 30/09/2012

Yes, that was very odd. The pitch was extremely slippery early on, which perhaps contributed to the bitty first half.

2. Steven Vigar - 30/09/2012

Any news on Chalobah’s injury? I just hope we can get some kinfd of team stability, so would be a shame if he was out for Tuesday’s game at Charlton.

Matt Rowson - 30/09/2012

No, not heard. Tuesday team will be interesting, wouldn’t be surprised if Hall and Deeney can’t do two in four days yet, but both are key.

3. Andy C - 30/09/2012

Great to hear you again on Hornet Player Matt. The five thunks are getting more and more comprehensive – which is brilliant – evoking the heady days of BSAD and definitely the most incisive match report on the Hornets available anywhere. Sounded like a really good Hornet support (600+?), especially for such a trek. Well done you yellow army! Looking forward to the short hop to the Valley on Tuesday!

4. paul caruso - 30/09/2012

Just one for pedant’s corner that the Yorkshire dales do not extend down to huddersfield.

Matt Rowson - 01/10/2012

noted.

Jim - 07/10/2012

Just one pedant?

5. oldhorn - 01/10/2012

Agree with all said although leaving the ground and walking “against the flow” we were subject to a bit of verbal from some unhappy locals. I do however remain a little unconvinced about Cassetti. No doubt he has an excellent football brain, but his lack of pace I fear will cost us.

6. Ralph Jackson - 04/10/2012

The locals weren’t too happy with Forestieri about the penalty,were they?

Still,very enjoyable match for us especially in the second half with fine performances from numerous Watford players,particularly Forestieri,Pudil,One Size,Chalobah,Tommie Hoban I thought as we put to bed our iffy past record at this venue. Deeney seemed almost to have discovered an extra dimension while doing porridge. Almunia seemed to act as though initially unsighted for that free kick but made up for it afterwards,backed by the support he was getting from the visiting ‘Orns. Interesting place to visit,although my 66th away ground and the first time on the way to a football match I’ve been approached by a “lady of the night” touting for business (following directions to a cash machine before the game). Afterwards decided to nerdily work out where Huddersfield’s old Leeds Road ground used to be (across the Colne and into that retail park,with the huge terrace away to the farthest side). There was meant to be a metal plate plate where the centre spot used to be but apparently this was stolen about 8 days before this game!


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