28 November, 2005

Huddersfield Town 2 - 1 Nottingham Forest

I was looking forwards to this one. We seem to be improving, gelling as a team and we've got Tyson - who I have not seen yet.

So I leave in good time (Huddersfield's only about fifteen miles down the road for me) and hit some traffic coming off the M62. Forty minutes to go - no problem. I get into Huddersfield and recognise the crossroads - that's the one, near one of my client's offices. Turn left - bugger - wrong turn. It's a "retail park" - absolutely fucking heaving. Twenty minutes to go and I use all that up just getting out of the car park. Then it's a quick drive to the ground, scout round unable to find a parking space and rush up the hill to park miles away. Run full pelt back to the ground (luckily downhill) and make it in at fifteen minutes gone.

No time to buy a programme either - so a quick look at the team (I was sat behind the goal that we were defending):

Eaden Breckin (c) Cullip Morgan Curtis
Southall Thompson Perch
Taylor Tyson

Things were reasonably quiet for about five minutes (a couple of breaks by Tyson but not much else) until Town played a high ball into the "channels" - the way Eaden does for us utterly uselessly. And this time, Eaden was caught napping, their striker received the ball in space and left Gerrard with no option but to rush out. Their striker lobbed the ball over Gerrard, Morgan desperately tried to clear off the line but one nil it was. We (the fans) responded well but unfortunately the team didn't. They got a free-kick and did things that were strangely unfamiliar to us. Short passes, little triangles. Our (eight) defenders were totally bamboozled by this display of "foot" and "ball" and Town scored an easy goal. Actually, that's not fair on Huddersfield. It was an excellent goal and the fact that we forgot how to defend shouldn't detract from them. Town ended up hitting a post and coming close a couple more times as Huddersfield showed us how to play football.

For all Megson's reputation for defence at all costs (remember, we only started with eight defenders), he made a change. Lester came on for Wes, Tyson moved to the left wing and we switched to a 4-4-2. And it made an immediate difference. We started playing higher up the field and putting some pressure on Huddersfield's defence. We didn't really look like scoring, but Jack did his "I run like a chicken" act and ended up annoying a couple of the Town defenders. Or rather, incensed them. As it was at the far end of the field, I couldn't really see what was going on, but, Jack being Jack, I reckoned his funny running style (all arms and legs and weird chicken neck) probably got on their nerves. A couple of times it almost broke out into a scrap and the ref gave Jack, Perch and at least two of their players a good talking to.

Towards the end of the first half came what would turn out to be the main incident of the match. The ball came over the Town defence, Jack chased after it and their keeper came rushing out. Again, it was the far side of the pitch and Jack had his back to me, in line with the keeper, so the view wasn't the best. But I was expecting Jack to loft the ball over the keeper, like they did to us. Perspective must have got to me because instead the keeper got to the ball and Jack ran into him. Town's mascot started making a kicking motion from the touchline and the ref shows Jack a yellow card. "A bit harsh" I think "for a collision". Soon after came half time and I was not happy. We were awful (for the first ten minutes I saw us) and were then just poor. Curtis and Eaden in particular, had no answer to Town's wingers, and Perch ended up getting booked for a late challenge. Plus, playing Tyson on the wing was a total waste as he didn't see the ball after the switch to 4-4-2.

Cheerleaders (for fuck's sake) at half time and I engaged in a (somewhat angry) text conversation with Rish (who couldn't make it as he was out that night watching Faithless). We ran out (through the cheerleader's routine) and eventually kicked off. I was still texting, looked up to see Jack with the ball on the edge of the D, with Town standing still. Jack lobs the ball over the keeper off his line and within twenty seconds. Cue chants of "we're going to win 3-2" and suddenly Town looked rattled. We had switched to 4-3-3 (Taylor at the head, Tyson and Jack either side of him - that ought to terrify League 1 defences) and started putting a lot of pressure on Town, without really troubling their keeper.

Another attacking substitution (Bastians on for Perch) increased the offensive potential of the 4-3-3 and Town resorted to dives and shoves to keep us under wraps. We still weren't troubling their keeper much but you couldn't doubt our commitment and passion (something the players have been accused of this season and last). Bastian's first major contribution came when he broke into the Town box. He was forced to go wide but two Town defenders pulled him to the ground - a definite penalty in my eyes - but the ref waved play on. The defender clears the ball upfield and Breckin, the last man, ends up tugging their attacker to the ground. A straight red card and utterly deserved.

We carry on playing in the same vein - high tempo, mostly (but not always) on the floor - and Town exploited the gaps as we pushed forwards. No complaints from me - this is what I wanted to see - a committed Forest side giving everything to make up for their abject display in the first half. In fact I had little doubt that we could get three points - it felt like one of those "equaliser on 85 minutes, winner on 93" type of games. Megson seemed to agree, replacing Curtis with Holt, giving us a very attack minded 3-3-3 formation. However, the ref had other ideas as Town quickly realised he would give anything against us - all the 50-50s went against us and Town capitalised by falling whenever we went near them. But then Jack was involved in the other major incident of the game. He broke into the box, was blatantly tripped by the defender and was immediately shown a second yellow for diving. We couldn't believe it. "You don't know what you're doing" to the ref and "you've only got twelve men" to Huddersfield Town.

But still we piled forwards. A 3-2 win was still possible. At least an equaliser was bound to happen. Town took full advantage of the gaps we were leaving to keep Gerrard busy, but you could not fault us for belief and determination. And still they fell like flies and one of them (don't know who) put in a fantastic act to try and get Gaz sent off. Right at the death we won a corner, Gerrard came storming upfield to get involved and as the move broke down, they attacked the open goal with only one defender in our half. Whoever our defender was, he looked terrified as three Town players bore down upon him. However, the player with the ball opted to pass it, immediately prompting an offside flag from the linesman. It made me laugh.

And then the final whistle. I was incensed. Two definite penalties, both resulting in red cards for our players. A total idiot of a ref. And our crappy away record continues. On the radio (Home FM) on the way home, they were saying about Jack's challenge on the keeper - the more I heard about it the more I felt that he should have probably gone in the first half. Which calmed me down. They also stated that it was good to see Town play well in front of a big crowd - well we brought 3200 but there were still lots and lots of empty seats. I don't get where the Town fans got their "we are arrogant" from - we were just incensed at a crappy ref and pissed off at the usual "scab" taunts.

As for the team. The second half was a great performance - we held our own with the one of the best in the division (as we should) and could have ended our away day troubles. The problem was the first half. Defending too deep with "rabbit in the headlights" style tackles simply isn't good enough. Megson made all the right moves - I fully understand starting with last week's team and he changed things to increase our attacking options at every opportunity. But we need to sort out this away form and Jack needs proper yelling at.


Rish said...

They didn't show Jack's first booking on Midlands Today, but they did show his second. I cannot remember the last time I saw a more blatant penalty. Unusually for Jack, he didn't even attempt to make it look worse than it was. And yet he still got the red card. Outrageous.

Apparently it was Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who ran into Gaz Taylor's arm and went down like he had been shot. On the radio, they made the very decent point that Jack had just got a second yellow for "diving", so what the hell was that?

At least the battling performance in the second half should not affect their confidence too much, shame about the first half though. We will miss Brecks in the next match. Who took over the captaincy? My money would be on Cullip to be captain in the next match.

Baz said...

I actually thought it was Curtis that was shown the first red until later on - at which point I couldn't see who had the armband. I'd imagine it went to Gaz as he also dropped back into defence at some point. It was the kind of formationless "let's just run at them and something will break" style of play that comes from self-belief rather than tactics. And I was so worked up that details like names just passed me by.


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