Lost in transition

Huddersfield Town v Liverpool - Premier League



It would seem that David Wagner decided that experimentation was in order against a side where the chances of victory, or even parity, were slim enough to take a chance with the longer view in mind.

Deploying three central defenders and twin strikers, the manager’s thoughts seem to be on a block of 6 or 7 games after Old Trafford which will determine Town’s fate in an increasingly difficult season where a sprinkling of quality is proving insufficient to overcome the limitations of a fundamentally Championship squad.

This thesis may well be wide of the mark – we shall never know unless he opens up at the conclusion of the season – but you only need to look back at the final stages of last season to believe it is plausible.

The results were mixed, to say the least. While all 3 central defenders played well and restricted Liverpool’s hugely talented strike force reasonably well, it is unlikely that we shall see Mounié and Depoitre start a game together again. Unlike the defensive trio, the forwards displayed precious little understanding of each other and neither contributed enough to the team (unusually for Depoitre, less so for Mounié). Wagner was probably right to spare Pritchard the ordeal and possible neck injury given that any attacking resistance was largely aerial – it simply wasn’t a game suited to his skills.

The visitors were, perhaps unsurprisingly, far too good for their hosts. With crisp passing, excellent movement and sublime touches they were able to put recent travails firmly behind them. This was especially so in a hugely dominant first half which gave them a two goal cushion and the near certainty of victory allowed them to coast in low gears for much of the second.

Rarely in any sort of trouble, Liverpool quickly regained possession on the odd occasion they lost it as Town found it almost impossible to transition from the passivity of defending to the activity of attacking, or even a semblance of control, and the visitors’ effortless command of proceedings was barely interrupted.

At wing back, both Löwe and Hadergjonaj played pretty well, particularly the Swiss, and though both suffered from the team’s overall malaise in possession and going forward, it wasn’t difficult to imagine them being more successful in less challenging circumstances.

The central midfield, however, was a bit of a mess for much of the night. Mooy’s form remains in the doldrums and unless the Australian can recapture his game controlling form the fears over relegation will become a certainty, while Billing’s anonymity in a game which passed him by on the whole could be excused by his lengthy absence through injury. Hogg rattled in to a few decent challenges and though his man of the match accolade was more than generous of the sponsor, his effort couldn’t be faulted.

Despite their superiority, after establishing almost complete control from the very beginning, Liverpool rather flattered to deceive in the early stages and their monopoly of possession created little in the way of threat with Town’s deep defensive block coping comfortably with the Reds’ advances.

In fact, Town could have taken the lead if Depoitre hadn’t arrived slightly too late to meet an excellent Löwe cross in their first attack just after the quarter hour.

While taking the lead at that stage wouldn’t necessarily have changed the outcome of the game, it would have put pressure on the visitors given recent results, and barely 10 minutes later a deflected effort by Cam was nestling in the home net and the result was never beyond doubt from that moment.

Town had another chance which would have drawn them level – entirely against the run of play – but Löwe’s curling free kick was just wide of the target.

Most of the half, however, was relentless Liverpool possession and control with Town largely incapable of gaining and retaining the ball and momentary loss of concentration in first half injury time which allowed Firmino to beat Lössl at his near post extinguished any realistic hope for the Terriers.

Even the most optimistic home supporter knew that the game was lost by half time though, to their credit, they continued to support the team throughout despite having precious little encouragement from the pitch.

Playing within themselves, at exhibition pace for much of it, Liverpool continued to dominate in the second half with minimal exertion and some peerless quality at times.

Mané twice found himself on the end of pinpoint crosses but failed to convert either, while the outrageously talented Salah, who combines great skill with no little work rate, was frustrated by blocks and the side netting. Milner forced a save from Lössl and it seemed just a matter of time before Liverpool put the game to bed (after already tucking it in by the break).

The introduction of Quaner for the entirely ineffective Mounié did, at least, inject some much needed energy for the home side – Liverpool’s central defenders were discomforted for just about the first time and the momentum culminated in a penalty appeal which, while soft looking, was as worthy as the one Kevin Friend (who managed to turn what should have been an easy night for a referee in to drama) gave to Liverpool shortly afterwards.

Salah converted that to put a deserved gloss on the Reds’ victory and they saw out the game with little trouble. Ince, a late substitute, had one effort off target but a consolation was not to be.

Overall, the home display was disappointing though they defended pretty well despite the score line and Kongolo’s full Premier League debut carried some hope for games against teams of far lesser ability than Liverpool, Schindler was excellent in the middle of the three and Hadergjonaj continues to impress.

The team selection for the next, equally huge, challenge at Old Trafford will be interesting. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Wagner uses the occasion for further experimentation before the crucial mini season which will decide our fate.





Second city blues




A spluttering, unlovely and frustrating performance saw Town add an unwanted game to their schedule as they handed Birmingham a draw with yet another give away goal and an appalling miss by Joe Lolley at the death.

Substitute Malone almost handed the visitors victory just before Lolley’s gobber, and while a defeat wouldn’t have been particularly palatable, avoiding a disruptive replay would have been a decent price to pay.

Overall, it was Town’s lack of killer instinct which cost them. Other than the threat of Jota, the best player on the pitch throughout, Birmingham were pretty ordinary in a first half which finally saw Mounié being provided with a quality cross – from Hadergjonaj- to convert with some style. The finger on the lips celebration was not as welcome as the Frenchman’s first goal for a long time.

Disregarding the petulance, his movement in the box turned a very good cross in to a great one. It can’t be beyond the wit of our wide attacking players that delivering the ball regularly in to good spaces will result in strikers like Mounié and Depoitre scoring goals.

The lead was established after 20 relatively quiet minutes and the home side should have seized the opportunity to turn the screw on an opponent with a terrible away record and struggling to score.

They saw enough of the ball to apply irresistible pressure, but good work either fizzled out in the final third or was recycled backwards to try to start again (allowing even moderate teams plenty of time to reorganise). The inability to create and maintain momentum is hurting us and giving opponents confidence and breathing space.

Nevertheless, Town’s first half performance was far from poor – not effective enough, for sure, but they were comfortable at the back (Kolongo’s inclusion in the first team has to be imminent) and functioned as well as necessary to see off what appeared to be the fairly minimal threat they were facing.

Comfortable passage to the 5th round seemed a fairly easy goal to achieve as the second half begun. The threat of Jota had become increasingly isolated and if the Spaniard represented the best of the Blues, his midfield compatriot Ndoye’s inelegance more than compensated. How he racked up so many fouls without a booking or a talking to was as astonishing as his inability to control or pass a football with any regularity.

An uneventful start to the second half, again playing in to the home team’s hands, was jolted out of its complacency 10 minutes in when a nothing attack from the visitors broke down and allowed Hefele time to stroll forward assuming no pressure before Jutkiewicz robbed him and curled an equaliser past Coleman.

It was a poor error by the German, who was otherwise solid and composed, and Town’s alarming propensity to shoot themselves in the foot reared its ugly head again.

The equaliser did, at least, breathe some life in to a contest in grave danger of atrophy as the visitors’ belief was revived and while a draw was probably about right, had Coleman not made a good save from Jutkiewicz, the Blues would have gone on to win.

In fairness to Town, a mediocre second half performance was not short on chances. Sabiri, who struggled on his first home start, shot narrowly wide, Billing – who added a touch of quality when he replaced the injured Williams in the first half – had a decent effort saved and there was far more efforts at or on goal when we were playing worse than we had in the first 45 minutes.

Löwe, who had a pretty good return from injury, was replaced by Malone for an eventful 10 minutes for the ex-Fulham man. He got involved in the attack which lead to Lolley’s dreadful miss, feeding Quaner on the left but will be remembered most for a clownish moment in the area when he completely missed a clearance he probably shouldn’t have attempted in the first place with Coleman poised to collect the ball before rather unconvincingly clearing up his mess.

The disappointment of not finishing the tie late on when Quaner set up Lolley so beautifully was probably playing on the minds of the hard of thinking when they booed the team from the field, but an opportunity to progress in the cup relatively serenely had been passed up through an error and a wild finish.

Unlike last week, there were positives to take from the game. Kongolo, assuming the knock he took wasn’t too serious, has surely staked his claim for a start against Liverpool. His strength alone marked him out as on a different level to many of his teammates.

Billing added some class at times and looks ready for the bench while Mounié appeared more interested and effective if given good service.

The negative of fitting in a replay which will disrupt preparation for the crucial Bournemouth game outweighs them, however.

A crock in the Potteries



A bloodless, feeble performance against a muscular, aggressive Stoke City side who embroidered a committed display with two fine goals finally dropped Town deep in to a relegation fight they currently look entirely incapable of avoiding.

With the welcome respite of the FA Cup next weekend, Wagner has time to rethink or, rather, reboot, the identity he has created for the club because it was unrecognisable in the potteries; insipid is too generous a word for a display which had precisely zero moments of hope or excitement for a disillusioned visiting support.

A horrible first half – from both sides – was as bereft of quality as any 45 minutes seen this season and neither goalkeeper had been remotely troubled until Shaqiri failed to lob Lössl in it’s final minute.

Dismal as it was, the home side dominated the physical tussle and debutant Pritchard and the isolated and increasingly ineffective Mounié were denied both space and time, Van La Parra’s occasional forays were thwarted with ease and Ince had minimal impact on a game which passed him by.

Worst of all, the bafflingly poor form of Mooy, who cannot buy a pass at the moment, continues. His midfield partner is as hardworking and combative as ever but Hogg was completely over shadowed by Allen and Adams – both provided the aggression and energy which created the foundation for a home win which was fully deserved and nowhere near as emphatic as it could and should have been.

At the back, Schindler was roughed up in a brutal first half for the defender while his partner had a lackadaisical game and nearly handed a lead to the hosts with a misplaced pass only to be saved embarrassment by Diouf slipping at the vital moment. Zanka’s main contribution was to, twice, expose the home fans’ ignorance of the back pass law. His first use of his upper leg was controlled and well executed, his second rather less so.

After his performance against West Ham last week, it wasn’t a surprise that Smith relinquished his place to Hadergjonaj but it was odd that Malone was preferred over the athleticism and physicality of Kongolo when a tough battle was eminently predictable.

A similar argument can be proffered against Mounié’s inclusion. The first game aside, the young Frenchman hasn’t got to grips with the Premier League so far – he wasn’t helped by his injury – and he looked hopelessly exposed against Shawcross and Zouma as balls were launched towards him in unpromising positions. Neither did he help himself in a second half where some of his attempts at headers and challenges looked distinctly half hearted.

If the first half had been parched of incident and excitement, Town had, at least, survived and, on the whole, defended competently. Their lack of discernible threat demanded it if a point was to be earned but, as has happened far too many times on the road, an increasingly disjointed, error strewn second half exposed Town’s defenders to quick, fatal breaks.

First, Choupo-Moting was set free down the left by a superb Adams through ball and the German-Cameroonian strode purposefully in to the open space in front of him before he hit a low cross for the onrushing Allen to sweep home.

If the opener had been a goal of some quality, the second was even better.

It stemmed from a loose ball from Mooy. The Aussie has executed the same cross field pass on countless occasions in his Town career to date but his current form was summed up by Choupo-Moting easily intercepting it and launching a devastating attack which ended with a sublime flick by Shaqiri to Diouf, who finished nicely past the exposed Lössl.

History tells us that, in fact, the first goal was as likely to be the death knell to Town’s hopes as the second, but Diouf’s rounding off of an excellent move banished any thoughts of revival.

Stoke should have punished the visitors further with other fast breaks – Shaqiri tested Lössl but other opportunities were wasted – and after a difficult season, a change of manager may inspire them to a revival if they can combine their naturally aggressive style with the flashes of quality Shaqiri can bring.

For Town, the last 3 league games have been hugely disappointing; as much for the lack of character in defeat as the losses themselves, and with two behemoths up next, further descent is likely before more winnable contests arrive. Even those will be beyond the Terriers in this form, however.

Defeat and relegation worries are both expected and accepted in this division – most sides have game changing quality in their ranks, some overladen with them, but the lack of fight, absence of attacking threat and passing bravery on display in the city of 5 towns was unacceptable.







Town’s first home game of 2018 always felt like something of a barometer. Before his demise, Mark Hughes proffered the view that Town would find the second half of the season much tougher than the first and while it was easy to dismiss the thoughts of a drowning, rather charmless man (in public, anyway), there was an uncomfortable truth in his words.

A worrying home defeat against an admittedly rapidly improving opponent featured naïveté, below par performances from key players and a rare tactical failure from the manager.

In a devastating second half, a confident and assured West Ham put Town to the sword and inflicted a potentially damaging defeat in front of a home crowd who were, for the first time this season, driven to passive support.

The game had started reasonably well with Town on the front foot without creating much threat but the Hammers slowly took control of affairs and while their passing failed on several occasions in attack, their power in the middle of the park was ascending and the quality of Arnautovic and Lanzini began to blossom.

Nevertheless, there hadn’t been a great deal between the sides before Lössl and Lolley handed the visitors the lead. The Belgian’s decidedly risky pass out to the ex-Kidderminster man was ill advised and not particularly well executed. While Lolley is culpable for a poor piece of control, his keeper had put him in an invidious and unnecessary position – the excellent Noble robbed him with ease and then finished in style past the guilty custodian.

To their credit, Town didn’t crumble but things rarely turn out well when they go behind and the visitors looked more than capable of hurting them between the lines as their formidable front two, assisted by a physically imposing midfield, grew in confidence.

Intermittently, the home side sparked in to life and on 40 minutes, Joe Lolley atoned for his earlier error with a wonderful goal, receiving the ball from the alarmingly under par Mooy before cutting in and curling a great effort past Adrián.

Finishing the half strongly, the hope was that the equaliser would simultaneously deflate the Hammers and provide a solid foundation for the second half. Sadly, nothing could have been further from the reality.

Within 15 seconds, West Ham exploited a sleepy home defence with a simple long ball. First, Zanka reacted too slowly to the threat and was beaten in the air by Kouyaté who flicked on to Arnautovic. The Austrian bamboozled Smith and hit a perfect finish past the exposed Lössl.

15 minutes of disarray ensued, in which West Ham scored twice more and could easily have doubled that tally.

The lively Lanzini and Arnautovic threatened constantly, Town’s tormented defenders looked ever more fragile and a shambles ensued.

Smith inadvertently played Lanzini onside from an Arnautovic through ball and the Argentine’s powerful finish left Lössl with no chance and Town bereft. The fourth, another fast break finished again by Lanzini finally extinguished the already less than faint hopes of recovery.

It was a comprehensive demolition with the visitors exploiting the Terriers’ weaknesses with cruel efficiency.

Not unnaturally, the Londoners appeared reasonably content with the scale of the defeat they were inflicting on their traumatised hosts and, coupled with a long overdue tactical change by Wagner which saw Kongolo replace an out of his depth Smith and the adoption of a back 3, the game meandered to its inevitable conclusion.

It is hardly surprising that Town would suffer reversals such as this in an exceptionally challenging first top flight season, but this one felt a little different and the drying up of the normally raucous support (even in comprehensive defeat) was telling. As it proved, expecting to beat a resurgent West Ham as something of a formality was foolish – the visitors were very, very good for significant chunks of the game and recalibration of expectations may be helpful for the future.

Neither is it surprising that some of the current squad are being found out. It is no disgrace for example that Tommy Smith is struggling, or that Joe Lolley doesn’t have the touch, strength and awareness of Arnautovic. Building a truly competitive squad will take time and the addition of Kongolo and Pritchard – who looked lively, inventive and, crucially, very positive, is a good start.

With class being permanent and form temporary, Town will be hoping that Mooy recaptures the quality which has orchestrated their rise and promising first half of the season – the addition of Pritchard may well instigate that revival.

The defeat, and the nature of it, was ominous but the impact of Kongolo and Pritchard offers some hope. The defender adds much needed power either at left back or the left side of a back 3 while the ex-Canary should provide greater creativity, shots and effective dead ball delivery.

While it was not much of a surprise that Pritchard’s single day of preparation consigned him to the bench, Kongolo’s omission looked, in hindsight (the amateur scribbler’s friend) a significant error on Wagner’s part.

Up next, Stoke away presents an opportunity. Unlike yesterday’s impressive opponents, the Potters are not in a good place and with reports that their target for manager has developed cold feet, Town would do well to emulate West Ham’s ruthlessness and recover the ground lost.




Town trot on



Despite fears to the contrary, David Wagner selected a relatively strong squad for a competition which has, arguably, even less importance to Town than in recent years. He was helped by the return from injury of Billing (on the bench) and Hefele and the opportunity to give Kongolo a debut, but only 4 or 5 regulars were rested.

Bolton Wanderers’ fall from grace over the past few years culminating in huge financial problems and a brief spell in the third tier allows Phil Parkinson a much reduced ability to successfully rotate but good recent form after a horrendous start to their return to the Championship gives them a realistic chance of survival which has to be the priority.

An achingly dull first half saw early Bolton flurries fade very quickly as Town seized control of possession with the home side sitting back rather than pressing.

The possession was almost entirely pointless, other than starving Bolton of opportunity, with few balls played between the lines and far too many launched in to touch while trying to find width.

Retention and recycling of possession is a hallmark of Wagner’s tactics but it can induce a lack of imagination, bravery and penetration. An already sterile atmosphere – not unsurprisingly, the Bolton public were not seduced by Town’s new and unusual status – was further depressed by the visitor’s inability to progress much beyond sideways passing, safe balls backward and fear of risk.

Depoitre, who had a good first half but a quieter second, managed to bully his marker on one occasion but couldn’t find a team mate with a cutback while a couple of speculative shots were the meagre return on the possession investment.

Other than Depoitre’s presence, the only bright spot for Town was Sabiri. The forgotten number 10, who Wagner rates as a poor trainer, is surprisingly good in the air, has a good touch and that hint of maverick which may be the missing ingredient in a side which creates far too little.

Having dominated a game that barely reached the giddy heights of banal, Town should have been undone shortly before the break when Wilbraham, all alone, met a good cross only to see his attempt skew so wide of the target you would be forgiven for thinking his head was threepenny bit shaped.

The missing Madine would have buried it.

It would have served the visitors right had Wilbraham scored. The lack of adventure, which should flow from long spells with the ball, may be excused by the lack of familiarity in a team including a new signing – who played very well himself – and various fringe players, but the spectacle was pretty dreadful.

After the break, Town improved and added some much needed pace and movement to their play which, surprise, surprise, created momentum, pressure and a goal.

First, Sabiri had a good effort from range saved, resulting in a couple of corners, Depoitre and Lolley saw further attempts blocked and more corners were won with the final one finding its way to Van La Parra who flicked in the opener from short range.

Within a minute, Town were two up. A run by Sabiri was halted illegally and he stumbled in to a challenge with Wheater – an event ludicrously blown up by Parkinson post match – and the ball fell kindly to Williams. Advancing with menace, the German American’s shot was wildly deflected past Howard.

Upping the pace and applying sustained pressure won the tie. To their credit, Bolton didn’t crumble and began to cause problems, particularly down the right where Ameobi caused Malone significant problems. Parkinson’s decision to withdraw him later seemed a little odd.

Just after the hour, the home side were rewarded when Town didn’t get away a second time with an unmarked player arriving at the back post to meet a deep corner, and Derik ensured that the Premier League side wouldn’t have a comfortable ride in to the 4th round.

The Trotters created several mild alarms as they pushed for an equaliser but didn’t really test Coleman and Town’s opportunities to break began to open up. Immediately after the home goal, Williams had an excellent long range effort saved but most of the effort reverted to dominating possession again and for a while the horrors of the first half were revisited.

Town should have wrapped the game up in the final ten minutes. A midfield mix up allowed Sabiri to be freed in to the box and he looked to be fouled as he shot. The ball squirted out to Williams whose shot was saved at the near post.

Predictably, the Terriers had to deal with aerial assaults as time began to run out for the hosts which they achieved reasonably comfortably. As the minutes ticked by, more and more control was established and the rather skimpy 4 minutes of added time – Coleman was booked for persistent time wasting which, as ever, wasted even more time – were seen out professionally.

The second half had been more entertaining – which wasn’t much of an achievement – and, overall, Town deserved the win.

On the plus side, Sabiri showed he can add an extra dimension to the team and it is to be hoped he makes the match day squad more regularly, new signing Kongolo played well and looks a good addition, Hefele’s return was a success and the ignominy visited upon one or two other Premier League sides was avoided.

Quaner’s apparently minor injury aside, the players came through unscathed and a tricky assignment was negotiated.







Terriers hunted down by Foxes



It may be a case of projection to suggest that David Wagner didn’t hold out much hope of points for his stretched and fatigued squad against a Leicester team free of their early season trials and performing to a standard more in keeping with their talent.

His rotation was fairly light, however, certainly in comparison to his reaction to playing 2 games in 3 days last year when wholesale changes were made to scrape a win at Wigan, and rather surprisingly did not involve a rest for the over worked Mooy while Hogg sat on the bench.

A deserved start for Joe Lolley was well signalled and a reversion to the traditional, and clean sheet keeping, back four was sensible.

What the manager appears unable to change, and given his remarkable abilities in planning, man management and strategy it is truly baffling, is the propensity of his charges to collapse away from home (and sometimes at home) once the opposition take the lead. This has been a rare negative feature of Wagner’s otherwise fabulous tenure.

When Mahrez’s wonderful strike flew past the blameless Lössl, there were 37 minutes, at least, left to play in a game where Town had largely subdued the home side and, if anything, they had looked the better side in an encouraging first half.

Rather than accept a brilliantly taken conceded goal – all be it aided by a weak clearance following a corner – a sense of panic and doubt swept over the visitors which destroyed their shape, saw them commit too far forward and disintegrate as a competitive force.

A calmer response would have been to play as they had been doing in the first half, wait patiently for opportunities and ensure that the boost given to the Foxes was fleeting not fatal.

As it was, Town were easy game for the home side who simply had to wait for the spaces to open up and, if they have any regrets, it will be that they were unable to punish their quarry even more convincingly.

The disintegration of passing, movement and shape was in stark contrast to a creditable first half performance which, while not rich in goal scoring opportunities, established a control over the game for prolonged periods.

Leicester’s flair players were largely contained – and it was a pre match boost to learn that Vardy’s pace behind would be absent – and the home side were made to look rather pedestrian by an energetic Town performance.

A first minute effort by Löwe, straight at Schmeicel, augured well (but proved to be pretty much the extent of the Dane’s afternoon exertions) and the visitors were noticeably brighter in possession than their hosts, particularly down the right where Van La Parra and Smith were combining well without creating much in the way of threat.

By far the best chance of the half fell to Williams. Put through by Mounié, the German American seemingly slowed down as he reached the area in an attempt to draw a foul rather than carry on or shoot. His indecision earned neither a free kick nor any sympathy from his manager post match.

Town’s pressing and teamwork ensured that Leicester’s shining lights flickered only intermittently and to little effect, and genuine entertainment was at a premium. It should have provided a solid base for the second half, particularly as a hushed home support seemed to be waiting for something to become enthused about.

Industrious team play with a solid shape, decent movement and togetherness equalised a contest against a team with better individual talent and quality – only Lolley looked somewhat out of his depth but contributed defensively – and after 45 minutes, a valuable stalemate looked more than possible.

The shambles of a second half where those principles seemed to be abandoned with recklessness is difficult to explain or fathom.

As the team ethos broke down, individual performance levels plummeted. Mounié suffered the most of the visiting support’s ire and while some of it was deserved, particularly his commitment to pressurising Leicester’s central defenders, he is a player who will only thrive if the component parts around him are functioning well. He contributed fairly well to the first half effort, including creating Town’s best chance, but faded badly as the tide turned against Town.

Ideally, Mounié should have given way to Depoitre on the hour to give the Belgian chance to disrupt Maguire’s increasingly serene afternoon as he had done in the home encounter. This would have given Town a little more hope of recovery while saving the young Frenchman from over the top abuse in the aftermath. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it did seem a fairly obvious substitution at the time.

Once the ridiculously talented Mahrez produced the first piece of genuine quality to give the home side the lead, the belief of his team mates grew quickly and, sadly, devastatingly.

Town’s reaction to going behind, unlike their calmer response at St Mary’s against an admittedly inferior opposition, proved suicidal.

Pushing forward, a laborious attack ended when an attempted through ball by Mooy was blocked. Within half a minute, Leicester grabbed their second as Mahrez put a perfect through ball in to the wide open space created by Town’s over eagerness to Slimani and the game was over.

Dispirited even further, Town’s passing faltered, forward momentum was stilted and unthreatening and the defence looked increasingly vulnerable to be picked apart. Leicester should have capitalised more comprehensively than they eventually did, mainly because Schindler remained resilient and aware.

The descent from the thoroughly professional, though rarely thrilling, competence in the first half to the disarray of the final half hour was spectacularly depressing.

A third finally arrived at the death – Albrighton all alone to beat Lössl – but the only surprise was how long it had taken.

A heat of the moment error – Mounié clearing with his head rather than leaving things to the better positioned Mooy – had led to the opening goal, however superbly taken, but the scale of the subsequent collapse was all too familiar. This mindset has to change if Town are to collect the points on the road they will need to supplement their decent home tally.

Losing away to Leicester is hardly the end of the world, and most expected it following a reasonably productive festive effort. The FA cup break – what a depressing admission – has come at a good time for the squad to recover from a brutal December schedule in time for the West Ham game which is more important in the scheme of things, but a return to the old away game habits was unwelcome to say the least.