Burnley v Huddersfield. Defiantly Northern. Traditional kits, stirring the emotions of history – no place for day-glo here. Lowry’s inspiration writ large and present on Harry Potts Way (no poncey apostrophe). Tribal rivalry, separated and emphasised by foreboding hills. No tourists. Wooden seats and view restricting poles. Jumpers for goalposts, isn’t it?
The fixture is a glorious affront to the Premier League and a reminder that selling English football’s soul is not as easy as they thought – well run, community clubs from small, often decimated, towns can still gatecrash their over manicured lawns however hard they try to quell and ignore them.
People should walk miles to get to this game, through pouring rain and over hill and down dale. Which, of course, they did – you can still donate, just search for Wilson Walk.
The Lancastrians had revived poor early season form, likely induced by a European adventure which failed to deliver much glamour, with consecutive wins over Bournemouth and Cardiff while the visitors continue to strive for a first win despite perceptible improvements in performance.
A cagey opening saw Town with better possession but their hosts sent an early warning when Vokes headed a Westwood cross straight at Lössl, easily beating Town’s central defenders in the air. It was a lesson they weren’t to heed.
Slowly but surely, the visitors took hold of the game and early scruffiness with passing – Zanka being a big culprit which he later improved – was corrected as they took the game to the Clarets.
With Billing and Mooy pulling the strings, Town created chances and, for once, players were keen to shoot. Just the accuracy bit to be sorted out now then.
The Terriers’ neat and tidy play was rudely interrupted on 20 minutes, however, when Gudmundsson was given far too much time on the right to swing over an excellent, deep cross on to the unforgiving nut of Vokes, who wasn’t going to pass up a second chance to head the hosts in to a barely deserved lead.
To their credit, Town didn’t, as they have before, implode or let the setback deflate their intensity. Dominating the rest of the half against an uncharacteristically supine Burnley, they should have gone in level as Depoitre wasted a glorious opportunity before the opener following good pressure high up the pitch and a set up from Mooy – credit to Tarkowski for an excellent block, but the Belgian needs to be putting such chances away and his afternoon wasn’t going to get any better.
Prior to another late chance for Depoitre, Billing, Durm and Van La Parra had two attempts a piece on goal only for them to be blocked or wayward. Frustrating as it is that off target shots were piling up in the statistics, at least the opportunities are now being forged to be spurned.
An encouraging first half display was followed by a dominant and deservedly productive second; it warranted maximum points.
Easily surviving an early flourish from the home side, Town regained control of possession, forced a series of corners and worked their way up the pitch regularly and with some style at times, though clear cut chances didn’t materialise against a typically solid Burnley central defence.
Mooy then drove an excellent shot which was very well saved by Hart but both were immediately forgotten as Depoitre, anticipating a Tarkowski challenge which didn’t come, fell to the ground as if to set up Sean Dyche for his post match interview like a music hall straight man feeding his partner. Comical, unconvincing diving really isn’t a Huddersfield Town trademark, though the denizens of Turf Moor, and their gravel voiced leader, may find that hard to believe following the second consecutive incident at their home.
The miscreant was replaced quickly afterwards by Mounié and Mbenza came on for Van La Parra, and within minutes Town were deservedly level.
A Billing long throw was cleared but the loading of the box created acres of space for Löwe on the left and his excellent cross was steered in to the far corner by Schindler and parity was achieved, at long last.
The equaliser prompted a brief rally from the home team, notable mainly for a bad injury to Schindler from an errant elbow – it looked accidental from Vokes – compounded by the brave German being hit flush in the face from short range as he blocked Cork’s drive. He lay on the turf for some time as Town attacked, not without menace with a Mbenza shot being blocked, and needed over 5 minutes treatment to stem the blood and bring him round. It was something of a surprise that he was able to continue, further enhancing his warrior credentials.
The rest of the game saw Town largely on the front foot, though they were grateful to Hadergjonaj expertly shepherding a dangerous counter attack while team mates recovered, but the pressure exerted down both flanks with quick passing and incisive interchanges didn’t translate in to gilt edged chances, just half opportunities which didn’t really break kindly in the box.
It remains a mystery why Pritchard has been overlooked so often. His energy and creativity dovetailed with Mooy and Billing’s constant probing and eventually, given a decent run in the side, this will pay off.
Yet another encouraging display, yielding fewer points than deserved, suggests that the battle against relegation can be won but the solution to the goal scoring problem still feels distant – Mounié and Depoitre have been supplied with chances this season after feeding on scraps last. They have to step up.
If we do go down, however, these types of performance will ease the blow (assuming you accept it would be a blow; yesterday felt like a far more genuine, authentic experience than many in this over hyped division). The away support never gave up on the team, and never will when they see the effort going in.
One thought on “The brave and the foolish”
Very eloquent writing. Your introduction captured the character of the two clubs and towns perfectly.