Written by Matt Stevenson
For some unannounced reason, the kick-off was at 5:30. Pre-match I’m hoping that this won’t put us off our new found rhythm, with four wins in succession in the league, plenty of goals and a settled formation allowing partnerships to build up. There was only one change to the team that swept aside Coventry, and it is one the majority of fans would have expected with Pearson coming in for Wilshere. Huddersfield have been changing formation in the last three games from 4-2-3-1 which produced a one-all draw versus Brentford, to 3-1-4-2 in an embarrassing 7-0 defeat at Norwich, to 3-5-2 in a 0-0 draw with Rotherham. I’d presume they would have learnt from the way Danjuma and Brooks ripped apart Coventry’s 3 at the back and will play with 4. Not being familiar with the Terriers squad seeing their line-up doesn’t help me work out how they will set up. Huddersfield aren’t out of the relegation battle yet, three points would be a great step forward, but a point edges them away too, and it will be interesting to see if they will settle for 1 point or chase the three points and allow us to counter.
The game started slowly, the lowlight being when a corner routine was enacted woefully with Brooks selling Pearson a long way short. In stopping the break Pearson took a booking leaving a combative midfielder with 80 minutes to play with a send-off hanging over his head. Carter-Vickers then almost landed Pearson in trouble, but we retrieved it and from the clearance, we got a lucky break with the ball being prodded by a Huddersfield defender to Billing who played in Danjuma. The on-form Dutchman went past his man but his shot was saved by Schofield but looped up inviting for big Phil Billing to head home into an unguarded net. Not entirely deserved but 1-0 up against a team with fragile confidence. The goal knocked Huddersfield with Smith and Kelly both getting forward well and it looked like we were the home team, but the Terriers gradually got back into it, with our normal second part of the first half lull, but they never really threatened. There was no urgency from the Yorkshire side and it seemed like they were content only being one down at the break. Just before the interval, another loose ball following pressure by Lerma was picked up by Pearson who rolled it in to Solanke who turned and drove it straight into the top right corner leaving the keeper flailing at thin air. Two-nil and this game should hopefully be over. All being well it might be prudent to take off Pearson at around the hour mark, to avoid the send-off and to try and play Wilshere into form. Although Huddersfield was particularly poor in the first half and was unlikely to play that badly in the second half.
Out of nowhere in the second half, there was a great passing move from Huddersfield culminating in a strike from O’Brien that thudded high off Begovic’s right-hand post almost before he could move. We had a clear break but it was wasted by Solanke who overhit the pass to Brooks after Huddersfield yet again shot themselves in the foot with loose balls out from the back. There was a scramble following a corner but we couldn’t get a clean contact. We were managing the game well and Woodgate replaced our two wingers, Stacey replacing Brooks and Stanislas replacing Danjuma, presumably with the next game against Norwich in mind. Despite looking by some distance the worst team we’d played this season Huddersfield pulled one back. If they were going to score it was always likely to be from a set-piece and a corner was put in flat and Hogg lost Stacey to flick into the far corner. This meant a nervous finish; another fast break saw us overload Huddersfield but Solanke again overhit a simple pass that should have let Stacey fire at goal but had him running away from goal to retrieve the ball. A brilliant run from Stacey ended with a pull back that Solanke caught with his heel and went through his legs when he looked a certainty to score from within the six-yard box and the keeper by-passed. Another good run from Billing saw Surridge who had just come on for Solanke have a good chance that Schofield tipped over. We were still on top, but there was always the threat of a set piece or lapse in concentration which could throw away the three points that seemed secure. In the last seconds of the game, Begovic dropped the ball after a slight nudge but pounced on it before a forward who was looking the other way. Multiple cherry fans hearts stopped beating at the same time. This would have been sickening if we’d had drawn, but the table shows us in 5th with now five wins on the trot in the league.
Man of the match against Huddersfield?
Begovic: 6. Hardly had anything to do, and was not at fault for the goal, but that drop at the end has aged me.
Kelly: 8 (MOTM – just). Whilst he wouldn’t appear on the highlights reel it was an impressive game in both defence and attack. The only blot was looking stunned at the referee following the dive rather than clearing the ball
Cook: 7. Marshalled the centre defence well with Carter-Vickers with little danger in open play
Carter-Vickers: 7. See Cook
Smith: 7. Another solid game
Pearson: 7. Played well considering he picked up an early booking and couldn’t mistime a tackle. With Lerma stopped Huddersfield from making any real progression through the midfield
Lerma: 7. Possibly our most consistent player this season. Has won his centre midfield battle for the last few game weeks allowing out flair players to be more attacking
Billing: 8. Good work to first play the ball out to Danjuma, and then to follow-in for the rebound, also put in a good cross for Surridge late on
Brooks: 6. It didn’t really click for Brooks today, but the minutes will still be useful in reassuring him of his fitness
Danjuma: 7. It was always a hard task to recreate his heroics against Coventry, but he was a threat.
Solanke: 7. A superb strike to ultimately win the game, but following that there were two simple passes to put people through that were overhit, and a chance that looked a sure-fire goal was missed. Possibly the ball came at him too quickly but I’m suspicious.
Stacey: 7 A mixed performance. Will be disappointed to have lost Hogg for their goal, but showed his attacking skills by setting up Solanke and countered well
Stanislas: 6 Possibly harsh, as there were some nice touches, but didn’t influence the game much. Although we were pegged back soon after he came on so the game plan would have changed. Good to see him back though
Surridge: N/A Not on long enough to score fairly, did well to get in a goal-scoring position but will be frustrated he didn’t score.
Thanks. I can see how they conceded 7. And there’s the difference, we don’t have the ability to capitalise. HTFC were all over the place in the first half. Some of our passing was just plain awful.
Happy, delighted, with 5 wins, but there is still something odd about all the moves we waste through poor passing.
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