Quality gap exposed again

That a youngster from League One has become Huddersfield Town’s top scorer in just a few short months as he adapts to life at the top level tells you all you need to know about a squad which continues to fail to deliver even scraps of hope to a remarkably supportive fan base.

As has been the case for nearly a season and a half, Town faced opponents with much greater quality, application and coherence playing within themselves for much of the game and finding thwarting the sporadic threat the home team could muster all too easy.

An early goal for the FA Cup finalists – it would be due reward for a great season if the Hornets overcome the City juggernaut – augured badly for the Terriers who, in time honoured style, rather gifted the opportunity to the talented Deulofeu when a ball from Lössl to Hogg put the ex-Watford man in some trouble. 

His attempt to extricate himself saw him robbed and left defenders in big trouble behind him. Kongolo made a great block from Doucouré only for the ball to rebound to Deulofeu. The Spaniard bamboozled the recovering Kongolo and planted the ball in off the post with a marvellous piece of skill.

A pretty dreary first half followed with a Mooy free kick and a decent effort by Mbenza which was too close to Foster to cause much concern briefly enlivening proceedings. The shape and composition of the team was much better than last week’s horrendous mistake and there were one or two encouraging releases of Smith down the right and Durm down the left by the lively Bacuna but gloom largely pervaded.

Hogg, on a booking and near the edge of a red was withdrawn for debutant Daly and the youngster acquitted himself pretty well – had Mounié played him in during a bright period in the second half, he could well have capped his debut with an equaliser.

After the interval, Town were a little brighter and a little more competitive but rarely troubled Foster in the Watford goal as the final third failings which has engulfed all the other efforts throughout the season were exposed once more.

Grant, on whose shoulders next season appear to be weighing, replaced the disappointing and fundamentally immobile Mounié just after the hour. Other than his failure to release Daly in a momentarily dangerous looking counter attack, the Beninese had overhead kicked a loose ball over the bar and failed to connect with a decent Mbenza cross. His overall contribution was marginal, however.

Another feature of many games this season has been the obligatory 10-15 minutes of decent play. It rarely leads to a goal, never changes the course of events and cruelly tantalises supporters who wonder why these brief sparks of competence cannot be sustained and never deliver anyway. 

As hope is crushed on impact with the final third of the pitch, it is only a matter of time for the invariably superior opposition to counter and when Watford broke up Town possession halfway in the home half, alarm bells started ringing. Sema made a strong run past Durm before his dangerous low cross was deflected to Doucouré who brought out a good save from Lössl only for the ball to fall to Deulofeu to place a killer second past despairing home defenders.

A late consolation by Grant, who seems to have significantly more instinct in the box than the rest of Town’s failing strikers put together, put a little gloss on the predictably dispiriting affair – the goal means we have equalled the record low scoring season in the Premier League, held by Derby County. One more and the tiniest scrap of comfort can be drawn.

With ownership uncertainty, doubts over the new manager and one or two players going through the motions before inevitable departure, it remains incredible that the club receives the vocal support heard in the second half – some time soon, they need to see a plan to halt a debilitating decline which seems inevitable as things stand.

On the positive side, Bacuna and Kongolo performed excellently for the whole game, Grant looks like the type of poacher who could thrive in the Championship and Lössl reminded us what a good goalkeeper looks like.

It is anybody’s guess what sort of team Siewert will put out at Anfield but the challenge looks monumentally beyond any combination. 

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