Mojos. They’re funny things and they can come and go like a vaguely familiar jobbing actor in East Enders. One minute your Albion mojo is at such a low ebb that you miss the Wolves game in favour of an impromptu New Year’s Day get together and watch bits of it through your fingers as your young, promising centre back scores the only goal at the wrong end, the next you’re texting friends wildly with the message “can’t wait for the game”. All it takes is a few weeks off and a Bobby-inspired away win in the snow at a Northern grief hole.
However, in that few weeks off it is just possible to lose, temporarily misplace or forget your season ticket card. I didn’t but a friend did (honest guv). Don’t do this, for you will be charged a whopping five pounds EACH ticket to have a paper one printed. In the case of an under ten that’s only three quid less than a match day ticket. Outrageous. At least this season it’s paying for something decent. Last year it would simply have paid Kemy Agustien to conduct a one-man plus size modelling career on Twitter.
Tickets finally purchased we went to the concourse. The eagle eyed among you will have noted my running post and will now be assuming I had a Bovril. WRONG. Rules – particularly self imposed ones – are there to be broken. There is no doubt I am going to have to observe some temperance, particularly in March and April, but having gone nineteen days dry in January I got ill and had a hot toddy or two in the bath, then helped clear a beer mountain (mostly self purchased) at a cards night. A quick Harvey’s before a much anticipated home game didn’t seem too bad an idea. I thought people would castigate me for my weakness. Instead there was tacit approval. “It won’t do any harm” said Steve who joined me in a couple of pints. “Drink, schmink” said a well known podcast presenter. “I seem to be the only one who has to do this” opined Mark, an official marathon running expert.
So I got the two pint glow while watching something worrying. Huddersfield’s form had improved immensely since appointing David Wagner as manager. Wagner has known Jurgen Klopp longer than his wife. And Klopp’s Liverpool were on telly coming back from 3-1 down to win 5-4 at Norwich with the last kick of the game, Norwich having pulled back to 4-4 in injury time. There was fighting spirit, attacking instinct and comedy defending. Would that be what we were up against too? It seemed a mile away from mild-mannered Chris Powell.
In discussing the game on the train we had mentioned Anthony Knockaert’s highlight reel, particularly the two worldies he scored for Leicester against, yes, Huddersfield. The Boy, who is becoming a nine year old sage, thought it would be Wagner against Knockaert and he wasn’t really far wrong. In fact, though, Huddersfield were scarily recognisable. With better ball retention, excellent closing down and very little cutting edge they didn’t half remind me of us, particularly the Oscar era, but with nods to every little nuance we’ve displayed since moving in to The Amex.
Though Huddersfield had much of the ball there was an early chance for each team. First Lynch (remember him?) had a header cleared off the line for Town. Then Murphy skipped free down the left and cut inside, but with three waiting in the middle he instead chose to shoot for the far post, the ball rolling inches wide. Hemed, once again in need of a goal looked particularly annoyed. Still, on thirty minutes it was all forgotten as we scored from our opponent’s corner with a lightning fast break. Now WHO has that happened to all season? Huddersfield’s corner was headed out of danger by Zamora and controlled neatly around the midfield by Kayal who found Knockaert who had sprinted into yards of space. He legged it off down the right. Meanwhile the veteran Zamora had hauled his legs the length of the pitch on the blind side. Knockaert’s superbly chipped ball found him and he cushioned a volley home, first time, in to the far corner. A cracker.
Inevitably Huddersfield came back in to it (which is just what a Poyet / Oscar / Hughton hybrid would have) and after a spot of head tennis on the edge of our area Wells blasted a glorious chance over from about eight yards. Still, though, our defence can’t keep clean sheets at home. With less than a minute to go till half time a cross was threaded round the jockeying Ridgewell and Harry Bunn (and why isn’t a player named that playing Rugby Union?) rose to nod in. Good work all undone.
The second half was the Knockaert show. Firstly he hit a free kick on to the outside of the post. As we ran at their defence they took turns in fouling us. A look at the card count shows almost all of the cards to them, yet the ref got so many 50-50s wrong in their favour that The Boy had him marked at minus five hundred by the hour mark. They were as niggly as us under Poyet in other words.
And then, just when you could ignore their blue and white home kit, Vault away kit and distinct lack of striking options no longer they went the Full Brighton and gave away a defensive howler. A harmless ball was somehow cleared at snail’s pace out to our right. Knockaert spotted he could keep it in and did so, beating their defence and teeing up Wilson for a wonderful header that he had to twist his whole body to reach. 2-1. Much dancing, air punching, jumping and high fives.
Having had to take the injured Stephens (dead leg, shouldn’t be dramatic) off at half time, Hughton had recognised they could not cope with pace. Wilson had come on for Zamora before scoring and now Lua Lua arrived to torture a tired defence. Inevitably they fouled and, inevitably, Smith lost count of his total and hauled Lua Lua down for a second yellow. Reduced to ten men Huddersfield were more or less finished, a single free kick from twenty five yards aside, which they wasted, Brighton like.
So all hail the new hero Knockaert (can we call him Knockers? We’ll see). All hail Zamora the Scorer. All hail pace and endeavour. All hail teams with great technique but not much finishing. All hail beer.