Another single goal victory in front of a packed Boxing Day crowd saw Town register a fourth win on the trot and banish their November stumble once and for all.
The narrow victory barely reflected Town’s utter dominance over a lethargic Forest side who lacked any semblance of confidence or cohesion despite being handed the advantage of a thoroughly ill deserved lead when Pereira capitalised on a lucky break with a good finish.
The anaemic visitors, embroiled in yet another interminable attempted takeover, were starved of space, time and possession by their vibrant hosts and could only be grateful that Town’s familiar failings in the final third allowed their manager to scramble for flimsy face saving positives after the game.
The cold, blustery conditions didn’t prevent the Terriers from building their victory on relentless custody of the ball with their gloved Antipodean the principal architect.
On the rare occasion he loses possession, Aaron Mooy has a ridiculously simple remedy. He goes and gets it back. The confidence he instils in his team mates is invaluable – knowing that a pass to him in virtually any circumstances guarantees a safe pair of feet is an extraordinary asset.
The glabrous Aussie continues to defy hyperbole and, yet again, dazzled in a Town performance which brimmed with intensity and controlled aggression without translating in to enough goal scoring opportunities.
Alongside Mooy, the industrious Hogg destroyed Forest’s midfield and with Van La Parra and Kachunga raiding with menace from the flanks, the visitors were stretched taut throughout the afternoon, but largely negated Town’s signature use of advancing full backs and the hosts had to find alternative, more central, routes to goal.
Scintillating as much of the passing and movement was in the first half, the final ball or shot was often disappointing and the search for a more physical striker – almost certainly complete if not finalised – to provide another dimension up front may be the key to convert thrilling possession in to goals.
Nahki Wells, who contributed a lot to general play but far too often outside the area, should have rounded off a great move between Palmer and Kachunga but failed to connect with the latter’s low hard ball across the six yard area.
Palmer threaded another good ball in to the area from the edge of the box to Wells who shot wide, while Kachunga played in Mooy late in the half for a blocked attempt.
With a pacy burst, Van La Parra disappointed with a weak, wide finish and, overall, Town simply didn’t do enough once bearing down on goal to level, even if their overall performance completely dominated Forest.
At the other end, debutant keeper Coleman had to deal with a tricky situation after just 30 seconds when the hugely disappointing and apparently disinterested Bendtner bore down on goal only for the youngster to beat him to the ball.
Forest’s goal owed a great deal to luck with a ricochet off Mooy falling perfectly for the swift Pereira who outpaced Hefele to chip in an unlikely opener. Hefele showed considerable constraint, and wisdom, not to bring the floppy haired Portuguese down.
Trailing at the halfway stage, undeservedly but ominously given that Town had gone over 50 games without overturning a mid game deficit, the fear was that the momentum of a very good December would be halted and, similar to the Wigan game, the irritation of being beaten by an inferior side was looming.
An irresistible second half display of power and control swept such doubts away. While remaining unconvincing at the sharp end of the pitch, relying on two freakish goals for the win, Town barely let the visitors breath in a second half illuminated by Mooy’s command of a football.
At times seeming to defy the laws of physics, both with his passing and retention, the Aussie stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch, including some very, very good displays from team mates Hogg and Kachunga.
For all his sublime touch, however, it was his worst which provided Town with a deserved, overdue equaliser. Completely out of context – it was like watching Jack Nicklaus shank one off a perfect lie – and dripping with irony, Mooy’s comical slice from a practised corner routine found the head of Kasey Palmer who instinctively headed it goalwards. Glancing down from the bar and off the keeper’s back, Town were level.
There were to be no more guilty feet from Mooy, who purred around the midfield with astonishing poise and no little bravery at times as he evaded clattering challenges as if someone was giving him advance warning.
His appreciation of space is simply glorious and will, regrettably, be seen on a higher plane sometime soon as the football world takes notice of a sublime talent adorning an unlikely stage.
A scruffy winner, put through his own goal following a nothing cross by Van La Parra by the hapless Mancienne, whose day was shortly to get even worse, was a poor way for Town’s overwhelming superiority to be asserted, but few were complaining.
Forest, inexplicably, withdrew Pereira – whose pace was their biggest, nay only, threat – rather than the entirely ineffective Bendtner in favour of Assombalonga, and produced little in a second half where they were harried out of the scraps of possession that fell their way.
A parody of their huge and much admired teams of the past, the Tricky Trees were fortunate not to be the first team to concede 3 to Town as substitute Payne latched on to a poor back pass but was unable to squeeze the ball past the keeper inside the back post. A slight deflection made the trajectory of the ball much wider than the effort deserved.
Payne had replaced the fading Palmer, who had a very good first half including some penetrative passes in to the area for chances, just after the winner along with Lowe who replaced his understudy Holmes-Dennis at the same time.
Town saw out the game with good control, featuring two crunching Hogg tackles, a clearly superior fitness and trademark possession. They were helped with the sending off of the hapless Mancienne who (not without justification) reacted to a throw in decision with a petulance no longer tolerated by referees to earn a second yellow.
The scarcity of goals to embellish dominant performances aside, a deficiency surely to be resolved soon, this squad is performing way above expectation and deserves all the accolades and success so far. The no limits philosophy espoused by Wagner and a fearless approach to a very tough league will surely herald an exciting 2017.
As for Mooy, he is surely the most accomplished player ever to wear the blue and white of Huddersfield Town. Savour him while you can.
(Merry Christmas and a Happy, prosperous New Year to all who read these ramblings).