Follow @Terrierblogs on Twitter

Friday, 24 February 2017

Barnsley (A) Preview

So, tomorrow we travel to Oakwell for a Yorkshire derby, which is sure to be full of thrills and spills, and once again, will be hugely important. On Tuesday we overcame a rugged, determined Reading at the John Smiths with a late Billing goal sealing the three points for Town.

It was a game that was relatively low on real quality, but in so many other ways it was remarkable. The wind was howling around the stadium, rain was going horizontally and for large parts of the game the ball was at home 15 metres in the air. Town adapted to the conditions and the opposition fantastically, after an assured first 20 minutes the game became fractured and awkward, then Rajiv Van La Parra did what everyone thought he would do, and missed our only penalty of the season.

After that Town would have been forgiven for losing their heads and losing the game as a result, but they weathered a brief Reading storm and came out in the second half in fine spirits. Schindler was amazing, heading and kicking anything that came anywhere near him, Billing was dominant, barely missing an interception and Wells was constantly threatening.

The result was great testament to the belief and tenacity of this team, a further badge of honour for Wagner and his men. It keeps the pressure up on the top two and makes us almost nailed on to finish at least in the play-offs. The courage, character and belief of this team will be tested greatly on Saturday in what is sure to be a fiery affair.

Barnsley are a team that are eyeing the play-offs themselves, even in the face of worrying player sales, Winnall, Hourihane and Mawson have all left the Tykes this campaign, yet they still continue to linger around the play-off spots. They will be looking to keep up their good home record in Yorkshire derbies this season, after hammering Rotherham 4-0 and dispatching Leeds 3-2.

There is talk of the game been a sell-out crowd, a chance for Barnsley to show their fans they're still up for the battle this season after losses at home to Brighton, Wolves and Blackpool since the turn of the year. They will be geared up for this game, ready to make it a fight and get in our faces from the off. It will be important for the players to win their individual battles before they try and take control of the game. Tom Bradshaw will undoubtedly provide a big threat to our defence, the Tykes leading scorer has been in fine form this season.

Having said all of that, there really is nothing to fear, we are in the form of our lives, six straight wins in the league, including very impressive performances. Barnsley have been in stuttering form at home in the league since the New Year as well. With all things considered, if we play our game and to the levels that we have been recently, we should come home with three points. Tick off another tricky away game and continue in our pursuit of Brighton and Newcastle.

Whatever the result, I know we'll see maximum commitment, effort and passion from the players, and that is very satisfying in itself. UTT

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Reading (H) Preview

After holding Manchester City to a goalless draw at the John Smith's on Saturday, we now have a top of the table clash to look forward to. Even writing the previous sentence seems utterly surreal, considering where we were as a club this time twelve months ago.

Wagner rung the changes for the cup clash against City, and many of the squads understudies stepped up to the plate and performed admirably. The risk with Wagner's team selection was that we would take a hiding on Saturday and therefore be low on confidence for the visit of The Royals. This wasn't the case, in fact the entire squad, management and club should take enormous confidence from their achievements at the weekend. I expect the team to be back to full strength today, refreshed and ready to get at Reading from the very off.

As is the case with every game from now on, tonight is massive, win and we reaffirm our ambitions to catch the top two, lose and that becomes a tad more difficult. In Reading we are facing a strong team, perhaps buoyed by their very own last-gasp comeback last week at home to Brentford. Danny Williams and Roy Beerens sealed a stunning comeback for the The Royals on Valentine's day, and as we are high on the crest of a wave following Tommy Smith's last minute winner, they will be too.

Reading's last five games highlight their strength, after slipping up at home to QPR and narrowly missing out against Derby they have won 3 of their last 5, drawing the other 2 against Barnsley and Ipswich  respectively. Although they are in good form, they haven't been beating the best teams in the division. Also, their away record at some of the better teams makes for interesting reading (no pun intended!);

Derby 3-2 Reading
Leeds 2-0 Reading
Fulham 5-0 Reading
Newcastle 4-1 Reading

Add into these, their cup performances and their heavy defeat to Brentford, they seem shaky against better opposition, out of their comfort zones and under pressure from the off. Whilst we also took a tonking at Craven Cottage, Reading seemed to struggle enormously with the high press employed by Fulham that day. On their trip to Elland Road, their propensity to keep possession without any real purpose saw them countered ruthlessly twice by Leeds. At Newcastle, their defence completely surrendered and fell to the relentless pressure. All of this makes good reading for Town fans, if we get at them from the very beginning with our usual pressing style and the crowd creates a good atmosphere then Reading could buckle quite substantially, a view shared by many of their supporters.

My feeling on this game however is two-fold, looking at the form of the teams, their styles and past results this season I feel there is only one winner and that Town will prevail, however there is a part of me that knows our recent good run can't go on forever, and tonight could be the night that it ends. If Jaap Stam is looking for any inspiration he may study the approach of Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season. The Owls came to Huddersfield, were strong, organised and penetrating on the break. They bullied us that day and took their opportunity when it arose. If Stam sets up a team in his own image, with a solid defence and two holding midfielders they may well frustrate us and come away with the win.

Until next time UTT

Friday, 17 February 2017

Manchester City Preview

Today, we welcome one of the giants of English football to the John Smith Stadium, Manchester City, coached by the fabled Pep Guardiola and boasting a squad of internationals. Over the past 10 years The Citizens have risen from mid-table mediocrity to a European giant, make no mistakes this will be a tough, tough game.

In recent years, many fans, including myself have bemoaned our poor FA Cup form and our less than inspiring draws, with Birmingham and Arsenal been the two stand-out ties of the past 15 years. As Dean Hoyle mentioned on TalkShite radio earlier this week, our FA Cup run has come at the time we least wanted it. Flying high in the league and chasing down the top two, added fixtures and the possibility of a heavy defeat in the cup aren't exactly what this squad needs.

However, this is a huge opportunity to boost confidence, raise our profile and test our wits against some of the best players in Europe, and probably the best manager on the continent as well. It is for this reason that I don't want to see drastic squad rotation from Wagner, a much-weakened eleven will do a disservice to a sell-out crowd and put us at peril of an embarrassing reverse. There will be no Mooy, we know that already, and certainly no Hogg, the two players who have been at the heart of much of our recent positive work, how their replacements fare will have a huge impact on the final result.

Firstly, let's analyse City and their potential approach to this game. With hopes of the premier league all but gone in Pep's maiden season, the champions league surely takes on much greater significance to them than the pursuit of glory in an increasingly devalued cup competition. On Tuesday evening they will take on Monaco in the last 16 of Europe's premier competition, eager to avoid the same fate as Arsenal did a few years ago. Exit at the last 16, to a second tier European club would be seen as a massive underachievement for Pep, so all of their focus must turn to Tuesday's game.

In the City chief's press-conference yesterday, he alluded to the possibility that rotation may be at the forefront of his mind when speaking about the injury to Gabriel Jesus;

"It's not easy for the players who do not play for a long, long time in many cases like Kelechi Iheanacho and Nolito, their behaviour has been more than professional, it was perfect"

Highlighting the idea that Pep will view this as a game to give more minutes to some of his fringe players, with the hope of keeping them happy and fresh for the rest of the season. The fact that Guardiola is highlighting Iheanacho and Nolito indicates that Sergio Aguero will not feature, surely a massive boost for messrs Wagner, Schindler and Hefele.

When asked about the Terriers in the press conference, after watching their victory over Leeds on television Pep said;

"Huddersfield right now is in a big moment, playing really well, big results in the last minutes and a lot of confidence. Yesterday was a rugby game on their stadium, so you can imagine the condition of the pitch."

Explicitly this snippet of analysis does not provide too much, but implicitly I feel it reveals quite a lot. The question asked by the reporter referenced the fact that Guardiola had watched us on television against Leeds. He hadn't been to the stadium, he hadn't watched us against Rotherham, QPR or anyone else. He had seen us in a West Yorkshire derby, a game with blood and thunder and thumping challenges. He then qualifies this with questioning the state of our pitch after a recent rugby match. All of this signals to me that he is expecting a very different game to the one he is going to get.

Perhaps to the Catalonian, this is a trip to a lower league tub-thumping, heavy-handed traditional English club, instead of a match against a team well-versed on the tactical nuances of Gegenpressing, high on quality, skill and footballing intelligence. Maybe he's expecting to see Alan Lee elbowing Otamendi, Tony Carrs two-footing Delph and David Mirfin snapping Nolito in two, if he is, he will certainly be in for a shock.

All of this provides me, and us with a real cause for optimism ahead of the game, as do recent trends. We all know that Guardiola teams like to monopolise possession, wear their opponents down and employ a fast, sharp press high up the pitch, but so do we. None of our current players will be shocked, or flustered to find three Manchester City players pressing them at once, none of our players will be shy of keeping control of the ball and countering City's dominance.

Guardiola has done exceptionally well as a coach, dominating Europe with his Barcelona team and sweeping all before him as head coach of Bayern Munich, therefore, trying to highlight weaknesses in his style seems absurd, but there is one constant theme. The high press, this has proven to be the most successful tactic employed against any Guardiola team in the past seven years. In Germany, Bayern under Pep and Dortmund under Klopp faced off against each other eight times in total, sharing the spoils with four wins each. No team in the Bundesliga, barely even in Europe came close to this level of parity with the Bavarians, with Klopps high energy and high intensity pressing game seeming to disrupt the flow of the Tiki-Taka. Take this forward into the premier league, teams who have tried to outplay City or sit deep against them have come undone, notably Arsenal and a host of others. Whereas the teams that have pressed them and got at their back four have had great success, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton.

This has to be our blueprint going into the game, living up to our identity and leaving everything out on the grass as Wagner says will be our biggest key to success. With the right tactics, team-selection, desire and backing from the stands little old Huddersfield have every chance of taming one of the big beasts of English football. I'll leave the final words of this post to David Wagner;

"To say that we will beat Manchester City is unrealistic, this is totally unrealistic, is it possible? Yes it is possible, because in football nobody knows the result before the game"

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Rotherham (A) Review

Well, I said this game could be defining, and be the Blackburn to our Chelsea in their maiden title-winning season and it definitely feels like that. Tommy Smith calmly slotting a half-volley into the far corner in the dying embers of the match, clutching victory from the jaws of defeat and making ground on the top two, all in all a fantastic evening in Rotherham.

David Wagner made five changes to the team that bested QPR at the weekend, and from the early signs, it hadn't impeded on the teams performance ; Izzy Brown looking dangerous and Town taking the game to the opposition early on. However after an early flurry of Town pressure, Rotherham grew into the game and began to look a threat from set-pieces ; a long hoof causing chaos in the Town box. This early indecisiveness was a sign of things to come and should have served as a warning to the Terriers. However, the lessons were not learned as Ajayi turned in from close range after Joe Lolley made a hash of clearing an effort from a corner. Town were 1-0 down, this wasn't going to plan, the replacements began to look ropey and there were groans of discontent.

Then, with the hallmarks of every good team, Town drew level with a lovely measured finish from Joe Lolley, atoning for his earlier indecisiveness. Huddersfield certainly hadn't been in top gear, but they'd managed to draw level after flattering to deceive for much of the early exchanges. The first half petered out without much more incident, several efforts from Town were either beaten away by O'Donnell or blocked by a despairing defender, but there were no clear-cut chances.

As soon as the sides emerged for the second-half, it was clear that Town had plenty more urgency, as they began to stamp their authority on the game and peg Rotherham back. Whilst there was plenty of gusto from Town, there was relatively little to shout about until the introduction of Wells and Van La Parra, the latter completely changing the complexion of the game. Van La Parra's aggresive running and direct approach nearly led to Town's second, when he found Kachunga who somehow managed to send his header wide from barely five yards out.

The signs were all good and it was surely only a matter of time before we got the second, and then Adeyemi found himself in space 25 yards out after Billing had been dispossessed cheaply, the Rotherham midfielder sent a rasping effort past the Town keeper, and all of a sudden everything was going very very wrong.

Results elsewhere were begging for Town to take advantage, and yet they were trailing 2-1 to the rock-bottom club. After dominating the match, a weak bit of play had led to an average player scoring the goal of his life and knocking the stuffing out of Town. "We all know how this ends, we've seen it before" I thought. Classic Huddersfield, bottling it, been fantastic against the big-boys and then slipping away to the weakest teams. I'd barely began to explore the full extent of my self-wallowing before Kachunga had sent the ball into the back of the Millers net.

A pinpoint delivery from an Arron Mooy corner was not dealt with by the home defence and Kachunga was on hand to stoop and head the ball into the goal, the comeback was on, this wasn't typical Town after all. As the clock ticked on I became more and more confident of the inevitable winning goal, wave after wave of attack was sent at the Rotherham backline. The defence stood strong, the shots arrowed wide- or high, very high in VLP's case- the goalkeeper procrastinated, but still, you sensed it was coming.

The only surprise was who it came from, a brace of lucky ricochets in the corner eventually led to Jack Payne looping a hopeful boll into the box, it evaded everyone but Tommy Smith. The right-back lingering on the edge of the box caught the ball sweet on the half-volley and arrowed it into the far corner, sending the travelling fans into raptures. As soon as that goal went it, it hit me, "This is something special".

Yes, a last-minute winner against 'dead man walking' Rotherham isn't exactly a massive statement to the rest of the league, yes the defending from set-pieces was worrying, but, this could be the defining moment of the season. As I said in my previous post, this was certainly no glamour tie, but it was a real test of our character, desire and belief. Town passed this test with flying colours.

In years gone by, we would have lost this match 3-1, licked our wounds, bemoaned our bad luck and carried on without too much thought to the result, but this team does not lie down, this team does not give up. Whether it's Kachunga chasing O'Donnell to take his goal kicks, Mooy clawing back the ball or Van La Parra straining to beat one last man, every single player in this team gives their all.

Huddersfield Town are something special this season, there's a purpose to this team, and they will take some stopping. The journey's not over yet, it's only just begun and hopefully in May, we can look back on this night and say, "That was our Blackburn."

I'll be back to preview our next match against Manchester City in the next couple of days, until then UTT.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Comeback Tour

Good Morning, good afternoon, good evening and welcome to everyone. This blog post marks the comeback for 'TerrierBlog' after almost five years in the wilderness, and good Lord, how things have changed.

On Sunday, 8th April 2012 I wrote a post entitled, 'Play-offs' from a grubby computer in the University library, lamenting the defending of Tom Clarke, and the lack of impact from Diego Arismendi against our big Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. I remember sitting in the stands that day and thinking, 'Christ, another play-off defeat to look forward to'.

Things at that time did indeed look bleak, the sacking of Clark looked to have backfired and the style of football had also suffered, BUT, fast-forward almost five years, and what a difference ey? Huddersfield Town currently sit third in the table, managed by a highly regarded German coach, playing continental, fast-flowing football. If only I'd have known that back in 2012.

It hasn't been easy mind, a heart-stopping play-off final shootout against Sheffield United eventually sealed our fate that season, as Steve Simonsen sent his penalty into orbit, Huddersfield Town shot up into the Championship, for the first time in around a decade. All of a sudden exciting names such as Keith Andrews, Kevin Phillips (well, not exactly a new rumour) and Manuel Almunia were been linked with Town. The early signs were promising, we clambered into the top reaches of the league after beating Blackpool away, it was so good, I almost began to believe!

But then, in true Terrier's fashion, we came crashing back down to earth, Simon Grayson was sacked, after 424,312 games without a win, and after insisting on blaring out 'Marching on Together' over the tannoy system at canalside. In stepped Lillis as caretaker, followed by a string of different managers, all slightly improving on each others achievements.

Then, we were left with Chris Powell, a man seemingly at odds with the board to keep hold of his best players and struggling against the tide to keep 'little old huddersfield' in the Championship. The ticket prices rose, and the standard of football plummeted. I am not ashamed to admit, I skipped out on many a match in the Powell regime, as I simply thought, 'if he can't be arsed, neither can I!'

And so, this story of mediocrity and rubbish continued, with me regularly remarking to friends, family and anyone that would listen, "There's no fun in football anymore, my club can never, ever compete with some of the bigger clubs out there", as I was brainwashed into thinking.

Then, it happened, Powell was gone, an unknown German was in charge, results didn't necessarily change overnight, but the style of play did, the outlook of the fans did and the future all of a sudden looked a whole lot brighter.

Now, we sit on the precipice of something great, something noble, magical and unheard of in these parts- we can see promotion to the promised land, forget Rochdale, Shrewsbury and Port Vale, give me, give us, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal!!! Never in my time as a Huddersfield fan have I been so excited, but, as with every fairy tale, our story today starts from the most humblest of places...

Rotherham Away

That's right, the Terrierblog fairy tale starts here, at the New York stadium (wtf?), after putting Brighton, Leeds and QPR to the sword, the terriers must go to Rotherham to continue their march to promotion. The game on Tuesday will be an interesting one, especially with the Manchester City match on the horizon. What does David Wagner do? Prioritise one match over the other, or treat both as equals?

Personally, I believe Wagner will see the match against Rotherham as a chance to rotate the squad and rest some of our more important players before the FA Cup match. With the Millers sitting rock bottom of the league and almost certain of relegation, this is surely the best time to rest some of our players. However, let's have a little look at Rovrum's recent home form;

11th Feb 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
28th Jan 0-1 Barnsley
14th Jan 2-1 Norwich City
29th Dec 1-2 Burton Albion
26th Dec 3-2 Wigan Athletic

This all makes for fairly standard reading for a rock-bottom club, however the one result that stands out there is the 2-1 victory over Norwich in mid January, which highlights that they are not just cannon-fodder. Yes, we should beat Rotherham convincingly and cement our position in the league, but we will need to be at 100%.

Whilst wins over Brighton and Leeds are enormously satisfying and show off our promotion credentials, game like these symbolise a massive test for the squad. Unlike the previous two home games, there is no glamour about a valentines trip to South Yorkshire and no added motivation. This will be a difficult test for Wagner managerially, and for all the players involved. It is imperative that we take full advantage of these type of games and gain as many points as possible.

In Mourinho's first season in charge of Chelsea when they won the league, an away match at Ewood Park was seen as the moment that they really took hold of the league and gained the belief that they could be champions. On paper, Chelsea should have walked that match, but they didn't, they had to battle, fight and scrap for every inch before finally scraping the result that provided the springboard for the rest of their season.

This is the importance of the Rotherham game to us, lose or drop points and this will undo much of the hard work put in by the squad over the past week and a half. Win, however and this will boost the confidence amongst the players and the staff and show that the Huddersfield steam-train is still gathering momentum. Here's what Millers assistant coach Matt Hamshaw has had to say about the game;

"We have to embrace it. This is a difficult game for them and we'll hopefully have a game plan, but hopefully one that can work. It's a game that we can look forward to and one that should excite us really if i'm honest.

They're on a good run and we've not been on a great run but I think we saw an improvement in that second half. We just can't afford to wait as long tomorrow night as did in Saturday's game to get started."

So, I think we can all agree that Rotherham will be up for this right from the very off and we'll have to match their fight and grit, certainly in the first 15 minutes, before hopefully stamping our authority on the match and taking control. I shall be at the match tomorrow evening, much to the displeasure of my fiance! Hopefully I shall be streaming some of the match on periscope, which you can see from my twitter profile (@terrierblog).

I shall be blogging much more regularly now, and will have a post-match blog up within the next couple of days, I certainly won't be leaving it another five years until the next blog, but wow, imagine where we could be by then....

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Play-Offs

I think today is the day that we can accept those home truths;

  • We're an average team
  • Sacking Clark seems like the WRONG decision
  • We'll be in the play-offs, with probably little or no expectations
  • If we don't go up via the play-offs we'll lose Rhodes
  • Alan Lee is terrible
All of these facts hit me with a horrible suddenness when Nile Ranger bumbled past Tom Clarke and swept the ball past the onrushing Alex Smithies. I put the question out there yesterday on Twitter, when was the last time you saw Town play that badly? I know there'll be those of you thinking Oldham away, Rochdale away, Peterborough away etc, but in a big derby match I haven't seen Town flounder like that in a long time. This blog entry will go over a few things, the match itself, Simon Grayson, and the play-offs, so i'll start at the beginning with the match that was.

Sheffield Wednesday

The Town team read like this;
                                  Smithies
 Clarke              Clarke          Morrison       Woods
            Ward               Kay            Arismendi
          Novak               Lee             Rhodes

The line-up looked a particularly attacking line-up, if not leaving us a little lightweight in the centre of midfield. To compensate for this Novak dropped into the position of a defensive winger at times, he chased the ball down, harried defenders and worked hard. His affect however was minimal, he can't cross a ball and doesn't possess the trickery or pace to beat a full-back; therefore putting Novak in this position completely nullified his attacking threat. Danny Ward had potentially one of the worst games I have seen him have in a Town shirt, his crosses and free-kicks rarely beat the first man, and only met a Town player by sheer luck. His first touch was horrendous, on too many occasions he merely touched the ball ahead of himself and forgot to run. Recalling the match between these two at the Galpharm from last season completely highlights the difference between Pilkington and the man brought in to replace him. Ward can have good games, and good spells in matches and he can even hit the occasional screamer; but he cannot influence a match in anywhere near the same way as Pilkington could. Alan Lee continues to baffle me, his first season yielded zero goals in 28 league games.....for a striker, FOR A STRIKER!!!! Then this season he has amazed everyone and scored 7 goals, bringing his total to 7 in 51 league games. Yesterday he looked like someone who had won a competition to play with his heroes, as he bumbled into their centre-backs and on one occasion, fell over the ball. This left Jordan Rhodes relying on the supply from Lee, who could barely stand up, Novak who couldn't cross a ball, and Ward who couldn't control the ball, the outcome was barely surprising. On reflection of the game itself, I think the tone was set fairly early on, Wednesday looked very dangerous when they ventured into our half and our defence looked like headless chickens when they were trying to deal with them. Madine forced a good save from Smithies in the first 10 minutes, but from then on the half descended into a bit of a battle. We looked like gaining the upper-hand midway through the first-half when a string of Novaks attempted crosses hit the first man and went for corners. From these corners our centre-backs came perilously close to connecting but didn't, leading to plenty of 'oooohs' and 'ahhhhs' around the ground. Then came the moment of the first-half, excellent play by Rhodes led to Ward bearing down on the Wednesday area, he made space for himself and blasted narrowly wide. This was our best moment of the half, and brightened up a pretty dull 45 minutes of football. In the second-half it seems that Dave Jones had noticed our lack of numbers in the middle of the park, and informed his players to exploit it after the restart, and they duly did. Wednesday came out looking like a completely different team, as Arismendi tired and Kay missed tackle after tackle the Wednesday midfield ran through us with ease. The free-kick leading to the goal was debatable, and highlighted another decision from the referee that came under scrutiny in a pretty poor display of officiating. The goal felt pretty inevitable, Llera had his sighter in the first-half, and if a centre-back is going to take a free-kick you know he must be pretty bloody good. So he lifted it over the wall and placed it in the bottom corner, Smithies' positioning may have been questionable but I don't think we can have any complaints about the finish. After Wednesday scored we completely imploded, blunt, boring repetitive attack after attack followed, interjected by cutting and incisive Wednesday break-aways. However hilarious it was when Ranger hit the cross-bar and Antonio blazed over, it should be noted that this was an example of amateur defending. Minutes or so later Tom Clarke tried what can be only explained as a stupid ball, (it also beggars belief that the RB was trying to spray balls around the park from the centre of the pitch) Nile Ranger broke away, Tom Clarke feebly tried to take him down to no avail and the Wednesday man scored, ending the game. The rest of the match passed by and as I heard one Wednesday fan remark, our desperation was shown when we threw on Cadamarteri. Wednesday could and should have won by more in the end, and now they enter into an exciting showdown for second with their city neighbours. After yesterdays performance and their recent form I would definitely back them to pip United to second. As for us, it's play-offs and after that performance I wouldn't expect us to progress past the semi-finals. The lack of fight, organisation and skill from Town yesterday was almost as embarassing as the string of deserting fans been greeted to a chorus of 'IS THERE A FIRE DRILL?" by the away fans.

Simon Grayson

A lot of abuse has been aimed at him over recent weeks, notably after the two recent defeats and after the two horrendous disasters that were Stevenage and Bury; but I certainly don't think this abuse has been fair. He was instated as Huddersfield manager in late February, and has had the chance to make only one addition to the squad. On top of this he has had the pressure inadvertently placed on him by Dean Hoyle to gain automatic promotion, the stigma of being a Leeds man and the crazy boasts by Lee Clark about the certainty of promotion for the Terriers. He has performed certainly no better than you would have expected Lee Clark to do, and perhaps worse. The problem with Simon Grayson for me is that he was given the job at the wrong time, had Clark being dismissed in early January then it would have been perfect for a new man to come in and immediately stamp his authority on the squad. This however was not the case, Clark was allowed to bring in more players and because of this he should have been given to the end of the season, with perhaps the exception of getting Warnock in. I know that Dean Hoyle certainly tried to get in Warnock, but perhaps he could have tried harder. It's common place now for chairmen to consult other managers and test the water before they have dispatched the current manager; Dean Hoyle should have done this with Warnock, and if he wasn't interested he should have kept his faith in Clark. As it is we find ourselves in a position that would have been the least we expected from Lee Clark, and our future lies on the fate of the play-offs. If we go up via Wembley then sacking Clark will have proved to be the right decision by Hoyle, but it is a very big if.

The Play-Offs

It looks as if we'll be playing MK Dons in the semi-finals of the play-offs, a fixture which we have been very successful in over the last few seasons. A return to Clark's 4-5-1 formation would likely see us prosper in this semi-final as it has certainly done us well against the Dons in recent seasons. If we overcome the challenge of Milton Keynes, it would most likely be a trip to Wembley to face one of the Sheffield clubs, or perhaps one of the play-off gatecrashers (Carlisle, Brentford or Notts County). If it is the latter we will be facing a team high on confidence, and most definitely in form. If it is the former we will be facing a wounded team, hopefully still reeling from the race for second place. However if recent form suggests against the Sheffield clubs, then we will be hard pushed to emerge with a victory. I have slightly more faith in Grayson in the play-offs than Lee Clark, however on yesterdays showing I think this Huddersfield Town team will be very lucky indeed to be playing Championship football next season. Of course I hope we will go up, and I shall be at the play-off games, and I desperately pray that we can fulfill our potential and make it third time lucky, but all logic and common sense tells me we won't.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Smithies Dilemma and Leyton Orient

Good afternoon my fellow Town fans, on an afternoon where we stand 8 points behind second spot and look hopelessly destined for the play-offs, ahhh the play-offs.... In this blog I'll be rambling about Carlisle at the weekend, Smithies and his Teflon gloves, and our likely fate this season.

Carlisle

No-one could have envisaged an easy trip to Brunton park with the cumbrians returning home fresh from 4 well-earned  points on the road at Colchester and MK Dons respectively. However, the way the season has gone and the position we were in, I thought it was pretty much sh*t or bust, especially considering both Sheffield clubs won. When I heard we'd pulled back to 1-1 on the radio I was delighted, but still aware that a draw wasn't ideal; we needed a win, at this stage of the season wins are what count, not draws. However we couldn't hold on for our favoured result and we ended up losing; in bizarre fashion. A short free-kick was attempted, Novak cleared the ball up field and it returned into the Town half from high in the sky accompanied by a fresh slice of snow. The ball sailed over the back four, evaded our hapless and hopelessly incompetent 'keeper, bounced of the top of their strikers bonce and ended up in our net. Now, I could be describing a goal scored at Lindley rec, Netherton rec, Hackney marshes, in fact any amateur Sunday league venue across the country. Instead I'm describing a goal conceded by our team, a group of players paid a considerable amount of money to kick a football; yet they conceded an amateur goal.
I have grown very tired of watching this team defend like amateurs over the course of this season, anyone who cares to disagree need only look at all four of the goals conceded at Hillsborough for a more perfect example. How are these players paid? How has Dean Hoyle not walked into the dressing room and kicked them in the head? On the wee bit of a form that says 'Occupation' do they write 'footballer' or are they more honest and write 'impressionist'? ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH
So that was that, and we lost to Carlisle, and in the wave of depression that was engulfing me I had to take several looks at the league table to remind myself that we are in fact fourth, and second spot is still (very remotely) in touch.

Leyton Orient


Tonight's game against Leyton Orient seems relatively straight-forward, as the O's are far from the force that they were last season; narrowly missing out on the play-offs and holding Arsenal to a draw. However the O's are capable of pulling off dazzling performances, and have done so this season; their main problem has been inconsistency and a poor start. The hosts are 5 points above the drop zone and could go some way to retaining their league one status tonight with a victory. To beat them we'll need to perform proffesionally, efficiently and put in a good defensive performance. There is no doubt of the quality in the Orient team as we have seen numerous times over the past few seasons, especially at home, but this is a game we should be winning if we are to meet our goals this season. It will be a tough game, but one I expect three points in; if we don't return with all three points then we may as well start printing play-off tickets.

Alex Smithies


There's been a lot of talk on twitter and DATM recently about whether or not to keep Alex Smithies in the starting line-up, or replace him with Ian Bennett. Now I'm of the opinion that both of them are excellent goalkeepers at this level, with different skill sets. Alex Smithies can pull off miraculous saves, shots that seem destined for the goal can be clawed back by the young 'stopper. Ian Bennet imbues upon the team a placid calmness and never seems flustered, making everything look effortless. Due to Bennetts age there are of course times when a shot will evade him, which Smithies may have saved, however I think all in all Bennett is of more benefit to the team than Smithies. For the last 7 games we are going to have to play very well, and there will be no room for passengers. Smithies mistake at Colchester arguably cost us two points, and his cock-up at the weekend cost us another two; so for the rest of the season I think we need to have Bennett in between the sticks.

The run-in


Never have I found myself at this stage of the season, supporting a team in the play-off positions filled with so little confidence and expectation. Perhaps it's the result of previous play-off campaigns tarnishing my belief, a lack of faith in the management or the schizophrenic nature of our performances. Either way, I sit here writing this part of the blog, focusing on the run-in without the slightest scrap of hope, or even the temptation to deface this blog with 'BELIEVE'. We're eight points behind second spot Sheffield United, who have shown themselves to be nowhere near as formidable as last-seasons rivals Southampton. We have a very winnable game in-hand this evening against Leyton Orient, and a ix pointer against the Owls on Saturday. This time next week we could be two points of the automatic places, but for us to clinch that place I firmly believe we'll have to win all of our remaining games. That means winning seven games in a row, resisting the temptation to to hand out points to the opposition, and getting of our backsides and playing with heart and spirit for the next seven games running. After everything we've seen this season I think that looks highly improbable, and that the play-offs once again will decide our destiny. If we continue in a similar vein of form, it's likely we'll have to face MK Dons, and then possibly Sheffield Wednesday in the final (led by serial play-offs victim Dave Jones). Strangely enough if this were the case, I would find myself missing Mr Clark somewhat, who over past seasons has held a taboo card over MK Dons, and certainly knew how to beat them. The 3-1 victory down at their place last season highlighting for me a real triumph of tactics. I don't have a clue how Grayson will fair for us in the play-offs, but seen as though there has been no great upturn in fortunes since Clarks departure, I suspect it would be no different than under Clark...
In summary, for the rest of the season we COULD win our remaining games, we COULD grab second, we COULD fulfill our potential, but I think it's much more likely we'll be in the play-offs...

I remain unconvinced and downbeat, until next time!






BELIEVE :D