Huddersfield At Home 15/16 – The Magic Returns

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.

 

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Huddersfield At Home 2014/15 – Bore Draw

Sometimes, having a Twitter account is a bad thing. Posting to something that restricts you to 140 characters in the heat of the moment can be a bad idea. Luckily I have this blog here where I can try to explain myself a bit further. Last night, on about 80 minutes Teixeira made a lunge for the ball that he couldn’t possibly hope to win without fouling, and in doing do picked up an injury that looked very nasty indeed. Andy D’Urso booked him anyway as he lay in agony, prone on the turf. My comment on the incident was not meant as a slight on Tex but rather the way he has been used and developed by the club. Let’s make that clear.

Players can be loaned out for a couple of reasons. The first is to get some dead wood off the wage bill, which is how we ended up with Leon Best. The second is to give a young player experience and return them to their parent club better and stronger, which is how we ended up with Tex. There are many games this season where he has pretty much has to be the single creative force in the team, the only one with a bit of spark. This can often lead to him over complicating a move, holding on to the ball for one dribble too many or shooting too late. When he does, to his credit, he always tries to win it back. He can be a little lightweight in the tackle going forward and, at times, the winning back attempt can be ill advised. So it was last night that he got injured. The tweet was not meant in any way to slight the player himself but rather to question what he will have learned by having to carry the side all season. Lovely facilities we may have but at Liverpool he will not be asked to be the only creative force. We will be sending him back in a cast I would think, a result not of his inability but rather his over excitement. We may well have Category A facilities but if I was Liverpool I’d be furious. Meanwhile, those same facilities are being wasted on another loan player who so despises the side he’s ended up with that he trudges off at snails’ pace when substituted with the game still needing to be won.

The Category A status will, of course, start to come in to its own in future years. This is a long term investment and, by all accounts, we already have a very promising group of youngsters. Southampton have had on field success and financial success using this model and there is no doubt in my mind that a man as shrewd as Tony Bloom will get this just as fantastically right over time. If only the present wasn’t so depressing. This is, collectively, the worst group of first team players we’ve had since Mickey Adams Part Two, an era that had also had too many loan players in common. It is producing a truly woeful spectacle that is being played out in front of an ever shrinking audience.

So what was last night good for? Just the pub really. Writing this is becoming like Groundhog Day. A couple of friends mentioned they were looking forward to what I’d come up with, which was nice, but I was thinking “I haven’t got a clue”. Nothing original anyway. Back in the pub after the game, Boy-less as I was, we did indeed have a fine old time and many agreed they wished they’d been there all evening. When that group includes a well known friend of the club, another who gave up more during the Gory Years than most and a third who used to tramp all over the country with me in the 90s you know something is wrong. These ARE the die hards. The latter of the three had left twenty minutes early to go back to the boozer. Can you honestly blame him?

Can anyone remember a more wretched, poor quality game than this at this level? We had all of the ball but did not manage to produce a single shot on target. The closest we came being a mis-hit Bruno cross that brushed the woodwork. Huddersfield had none of the ball at all and yet Stockdale was still our man of the match, because, on their very rare forays forward they at least managed to target their chances. The one exception being a woeful period of play late in the second half where they left our defence for dead before missing a series of opportunities my eight year old could have put away.

Visiting aliens, coming across the game would not have come to the conclusion that this was an end of season game between 17th and 19th in the league. They would have come to the conclusion that the people involved, all of them, were crazy and irredeemably backwards before heading off to find a rock concert and some hot chicks.

The bad news is that we are still not safe. Should Millwall win their game in hand there will only be a four point gap between them and us. We still have to play Watford and Middlesboro, neither of who will be as woeful as Huddersfield were last night. True, Rotherham have to play Fulham and may yet be penalised for fielding an ineligible player against us. True, next up are Wigan and we may scrape a result there. But we are not out of the woods, thanks to our inability to break down a barely average side that parked the bus.

No wonder our one bright, creative spark got frustrated.

Huddersfield – More Damp Squib Than Christmas Cracker

I didn’t bother writing up the Middlesboro game as it was being played at the same time as I had my  Christmas get together with my mum’s side of the family. My following of the game consisted of me and my brother sneakily checking our iPhones for the score a couple of times and pulling satisfied smiles when full time came around.

Huddersfield was going to be different though. Huddersfield was a good chance of a win. It was a Christmas drink with old friends. It was grown men in Santa outfits (I’m looking at you Simon). It was…a bit meh really.

I blame the PA announcer. Still recovering from being corpsed when reading out the teams by a missing photo of Ince and the subs’ pictures flying by at light speed he then said ‘get ready for a Christmas cracker’. If every anything was more likely to make a game end 0-0 this was it (after all I write as someone who credited Chaos Theory with beating Blackburn). 0-0 it was and afterwards I condemned it as workmanlike and average. It seems not everyone agrees.

It’s true there were stand out performances. Bruno was still Old Bruno. The man put on the performance of the day on either side. Apparently only the sponsors didn’t notice. Spanish Dave was also Old Spanish Dave and the link up play on the right between the two was sublime. Unfortunately this meant Buckley wasn’t on the right and this meant he spent most of the game going missing. One can only hope it was return-from-injury-itis. The centre backs were once again as solid as Rohan Ince and Chuck Norris hiding behind a steel fence. Ward had his moments, good and bad.

There were several words to describe Huddersfield including, but not limited to, organised, dirty, negative, unable to shoot and boring. Again some on social media haven’t agreed but that’s the way I saw it and that’s the way I’m calling it.

Most teams this season will now come to the Amex for a point. It is credit in a way to what Oscar and Poyet have achieved over the last two seasons but there are going to be games where we struggle to break these teams down. It most certainly doesn’t help when you miss two gilt edged chances and sadly Barnes did, having been down as my most improved player of the last couple of months. He missed an open goal when the ball rebounded to him too quickly and bouncily (opinion was split afterwards between ‘he couldn’t react in time’ and ‘a natural finisher would have reacted in time’ – I’m in the first camp) but how he missed a clear and unmarked header from about three yards I will honestly never know.

That was it for goalmouth action though. Two chances all game, badly muffed, while at the other end Sexy Pete was barely called on.

Not a huge disappointment. Nothing to get worried about. Other results went for us too. But combined with the PA cock up and the fact there were no staff left to pour beer after the game, rather putting a dampener on the Christmas drink, it was all nothing to write home about. Which is why this is short.