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Watford 3 Huddersfield Town 0 (27/10/2018) 28/10/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- “Well I’d like to think we can get a point but… I can’t really see it”.

Such was the glum prognosis of the Huddersfield fan accompanying us for navigation purposes pre-match.  He was taking his lad to as many away games as possible, he explained.  The unspoken subtext was that such an opportunity perhaps best not be taken for granted.  Difficult to argue.

Nonetheless, here was a challenge we’ve rarely experienced before, certainly since the 1980s.  That of being the side… not just favourites but comprehensive favourites, odds-on favourites, expected to win in a top flight game.  As with all unfamiliar things it doesn’t feel altogether comfortable, as positive an indicator as it may be of the status to which we’ve elevated ourselves.  You’re much less open to disappointment – and pressure – as the underdog.  Nor had this edginess been improved by finding ourselves placed at exactly the same spot in Wagamama as we had been pre-Bournemouth.  Or by discovering, now as then, that it was much bloody colder than anticipated necessitating hat purchase for the second home game on the trot.  (Or, as an aside, that the hat was too small.  The costume fitters of the Adhoc theatre group will roll their eyes, full of complaints at the the prohibitive size of my head.  Nonetheless…  a one size fits all hat shouldn’t be too small…).

Only in the ground, at our seats, were nerves assuaged.  Pre-match pondering over selection was answered decisively.  Same team.  Holebas and Kabasele return from suspension to a place on the bench.  You get yourselves suspended, you’ll have to win your places back.  As soon as we heard we knew it was the right call, too damn right. And the 4-2-3-1 retained, despite suggestions that this was specifically to counter Wolves’ midfield.  Our own midfield riches need to be accommodated, it seems.

2-  The start of the game certainly didn’t suggest that a comfortable win was on the cards.  After Bobby Pereyra made brief early inroads the visitors came right back at us with World Cup winner Erik Durm twice finding aggressive space on the flank stretching us wide and Aaron Mooy warming Ben Foster’s gloves.  This looked in danger of becoming the game we’d feared as Huddersfield appeared aggressive, purposeful and together in the way that a team without a win in late October really shouldn’t have;  grumbles reflecting as much began to echo around the Rookery.  Not for the first or last time, this game could have headed off in another direction altogether.

That it didn’t was due, essentially, to the quality with which this squad is liberally sprinkled (and some tentative defending).  Pereyra, the source of magic as on so many occasions this season, uncovered Huddersfield’s greatest failing by simply running at them.  This was a strategy that was to pay off repeatedly, since for all their character and discipline the visitors simply couldn’t cope with being committed in this way.  From the Rookery it became impossible to follow his scampering beyond the bodies left in his wake, the outcome clear as the ball hit the net with the full detail of what preceded it only revealed by the replay.  My brother’s vantage point in the Upper GT gave him a better view, his description citing Pele’s tactical input to “Escape to Victory” as below.

Within ten minutes it was two, and this time there was no mystery about the passage of events, Deulofeu skinning one Huddersfield defender to his right, another to his left before cruelly slugging a shot through Jonas Lössl.  As at Molineux a week earlier we’d put ourselves into complete control with two goals of the highest quality.

3- The thing is, Huddersfield weren’t that bad.  Blunt, certainly;  short of goals but critically also short of a source of goals.  I know that I over-rely on this comparison but…  Neal Ardley dumping a cross to the far post for Heidar to propel in somehow, anyhow, was a stock goal that was there for a fairly limited side to fall back on.  Huddersfield have nothing like that, and not nearly enough angel dust to generate enough special goals like the Bobby Pereyra one, or even halfway to it, to sustain them.

That said they came closer and threatened more frequently than the scoreline suggests.  Chris Löwe nearly pulled a goal back straight away, his fierce drive nicked onto the bar by Ben Foster.  Philip Billing clubbed a shot towards the top corner, clawed away.  Less spectacular but dealt with in wonderfully unfussy fashion were a number of low drives that all required concentration and the awareness not to spill the ball to an opponent.  A magnificent performance from Foster.

As for Huddersfield, for all that Javi Gracia’s warnings that they were better than their results suggested were backed up and despite strong competition it’s difficult to see them staying up.  This was a side playing to the limits of its ability;  admirably single-minded despite their poor results, defensively capable (fragility when committed notwithstanding), competitive in the midfield but beaten 3-0.  They won’t always play this well.  As above, they just don’t have any goals…  when you see that there’s a long throw expert you think maybe that’s an option, except that the long throw expert and the 6’6″ target are the same bloke.  They’re screwed.

4- Into the second half and the game continued to toe a line between several possible outcomes.  Certainly a series of bad decisions at the last moment – and a couple of bad finishes – were all that was between us and a more decisive win.  Often we screamed out from the back with the last pass agonisingly lacking as Huddersfield scrambled back.  On one such occasion Deulofeu hared beyond the defensive line and touched the ball around Lössl only to find Schindler a sufficiently large and patient obstacle, the Spaniard’s attempt to curl the ball into the empty net not quite good enough.  An elegant move concluded with Pereyra darting across the ball to apply a masterful flick with his heel to leave Hughes in front of goal.  He couldn’t have been more dramatic with a wand and a puff of green smoke, but Hughes too seemed surprise and his stabbed left foot shot was much too comfortable for the Terriers’ keeper. Ken Sema, desperate to make a positive impression, bundled joyously into the box only to slug a shot wide.

Another possible outcome remained a much tighter, nervier finish and as Huddersfield gained in confidence again the third goal appeared increasingly to be a necessity rather than a cherry on the cake.  I was about to suggest that “fortunately it arrived”, but fortune had nothing to do with it.  This was a set piece as exquisitely borne of discipline and teamwork as the first two were of individual brilliance and owed nothing to tentative defending.  The moved concluded with Étienne Capoue arcing a looping ball to find Kiko Femenía barrelling down the right; his scuffed ball across the box fell perfectly to Isaac Success; Huddersfield’s defence completely blindsided.  The big Nigerian had been as guilty as anyone of bad decision making but his performance was nonetheless a tour de force;  impossibly powerful but deft and clever and aware too.  Uniquely suited to the lone striking role, his goal was well earned.

5- Game over, then.  And get us, we can play moderately well against limited but spirited and competitive opposition and make it look easy.  So much for struggling when expected to do well.  And because it’s fun, because it emphasises quite how stunning a job the club management have been doing, let’s roll off some of the names not involved today: Deeney, Chalobah, Cleverley, Holebas, Janmaat, Prödl, Gomes, Navarro.  The youngsters, Quina, Wilmot.  Goodness me.

Two away games to come next, different challenges in their own way but both against sides struggling to score goals but in front of home crowds who will expect a result against The Likes Of Watford despite what the League table suggests.  With our dizzy, spinning brilliance on the break – and one or two more sensible decisions – that ought to suit us.  Let’s see.

Yooorns.

*Foster 5*, Femenía 4, Masina 3, Cathcart 5, Mariappa 4, Doucouré 4, Capoue 4, Hughes 3, Deulofeu 4, Pereyra 4, Success 4
Subs: Sema (for Deulofeu, 65) 3, Gray (for Success, 83) 0, Kabasele (for Cathcart, 85) 0, Wilmot, Holebas, Okaka, Gomes

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Comments»

1. ukmalc - 28/10/2018

Great report as always. However. Wagamama? I must admit I have also been there pre-match and it just didn’t feel right. Whatever happened to a pint and a packet of crisps at the Two Bridges followed by a dodgy burger on the walk up to the Vic?!?

2. Martin Bayfield - 28/10/2018

Glad I was not the only one that left the ground thinking that Foster was man-of-the-match. As you suggest, without his performance this game could have gone in a different direction.

3. John parslow - 28/10/2018

I contend that Huddersfield have been unlucky this season and on another day could have got something in this game . The fact we have that special extra quality to turn a performance in our favour does indeed speak volumes .

But more importantly – my dad wasn’t wearing the hat I bought him recently and had an old woolly one on. I asked him why and he said it was too big and slipped over his face .
This one size bloke must be something special also.

PEDantic - 28/10/2018

That’s the thing for Huddersfield though, isn’t it? Lack of extra quality. They played really rather well – probably as well as they can – but still lost 3-0.

4. Harefield Hornet - 28/10/2018

Not sure if it’s just my perception but the atmosphere seemed a bit down yesterday and the win wasn’t greeted with the usual rapturous applause at the final whistle. I suppose this being expected to win lark takes a bit of getting used to? Admire Huddersfield’s honesty though – no whining or cheating or rolling around etc – certain South coast team to take note!

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2018

Agree with all of that

Mike Smith - 29/10/2018

Yes agreed No rolling around or complaining.
And that’s right about a certain S.Coast team. Just how many pens have they had?
How often in previous seasons when we’ve gone down do we think we’ve played really well but still lost.

5. Old Git - 28/10/2018

Two thunks from me.

1. For fifteen minutes or so, before the third goal, we were looking ragged and unfocussed. Had Huddersfield pulled one back, we’d have been seriously worried. What I felt we were lacking at that moment was a leader. A Deeney-esque rallier of the troops. I am not advocating a recall for Deeney at the expense of Success because young Isaac is looking terrific and will surely benefit from a run of games, especially considering the next two opponents. But Deeney has qualities that I felt we were missing for a very important part of the match.

2. When Slavisa took us up to the Prem, were were surprised, not to say shocked, that his contract was not improved and extended. But looking at Fulham’s predicament, how wise that decision now looks. So I heartily agree with Matt – hats off to our brilliant management!

6. mudlark109@gmail.com - 28/10/2018

A 3 nil win and a clean sheet, some brilliant individual performances but I came home a little disappointed! Ben had too many shots to save, he was the busier keeper. Another day, another team with a bit more up front and it could have been very different.
Mudlark

7. Leaveden 'orn - 28/10/2018

As we now settle down to our role as ‘established’ this now has hallmarks of our 1980’s period. For those of us old enough to ‘clearly’ remember it.

Rarely troubling the top and never dropping into the bottom 3.

Didn’t attendance drop over that period as wee became used to being established?

I agree the atmosphere was subdued but with the club well organised and set for a long stay, what next?

A decent cup run I think or with our squad a trip to europe.

I think with a forth season in this league this has to be our next stage.


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