Wigan Athletic 1 v 0 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town story posted by Andy Dixon on 21/12/2002
Normal service has resumed as Huddersfield Town put last week's one-nil victory behind them at the JJB Stadium where league leaders Wigan Athletic showed how tight this league actually is. Although Wigan are top and Town are 23rd (with 29 points separating them) this was a performance in front of 6,014 supporters where at times it was difficult to tell which team were in which position.Wigan Athletic 1 v 0 Huddersfield Town

Mick Wadsworth's men held Paul Jewell's Lancashire side for the whole of the first half, only to lose a goal in injury time and consequently lose the match. Nevertheless, the Yorkshire side appeared to be equal in nearly every aspect of the game, but just did not have the cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. The final third of the field is a vital area to every team, yet Town have been lacking in firepower there all season.

Nonetheless, with only two minutes on the clock Town were attacking in the form of a good passing move between Jon Stead and Steve Jenkins. Our "Welsh David Beckham" (A.K.A. Steve Jenkins) was highlighted by the matchday programme as the player to "Watch out for..." and his link up play with Stead created Town's first corner of the afternoon. However, Kenny Irons' delivery was poor and dealt with easily by the Wigan defence who headed it clear.

With Wigan top of the league it is surprising that they cannot get a higher attendance than around six or seven thousand and this lack of support lead to a poor atmosphere in which many Town fans were bitterly cold. The possible Yorkshire versus Lancashire fire, which ignited in the opening minutes against Oldham back in September, was merely a spark on this Christmas Saturday afternoon. Only the rattling of seats and the odd whistling of home supporters was their response to a barrage of Terrier verbal abuse about the shoddy crowd situation.

Yet five minutes into the game and Town were on the back foot, defending as a team with Martin Smith tackling back after Kevin Sharp had been rounded for the first of many times in the match. However a goal mouth scramble occurred where Adie Moses became the hero who kicked the ball out for a corner after Nathan Ellington's initial effort had been blocked. The resultant corner was wasted as Eddie Youds confidently headed the ball away from the danger area.

After 10 minutes there was what at first appeared to be a horrible clash of heads as both number 19s collided when Smith and former Barnsley player Nicky Eaden failed to avoid each other. With both players needing treatment, the lapse in play allowed me to notice the awful state of the pitch and how badly it had cut up after merely ten minutes. Towards the end of the match the pitch looked like a freshly ploughed field where a scarecrow wouldn't have looked out of place.

Nevertheless, both players continued the game and Smith took Town's second corner of the match after quarter of an hour. Although it was wasted, there was encouraging play between local hero Andy Booth and his prot?g? Stead prior to the concession of the corner kick.

Four minutes later and Wigan attacked with some impressive build up play which ended in an Eaden cross to Neil Roberts, which was headed on but easily caught by one of Town's gems of the season, eight foot tall 'keeper Scott Bevan. The big man's clearance led to a break which arguably saw one of Town's best chances of the game. His kick was expertly controlled by Danny Schofield who sprinted Giggs-like down the right wing, evading a midfielder and a full-back before crossing to Booth who headed the ball just inches over the bar after withstanding the pressures of the attention of one defender.

Just seconds later however, and Wigan striker Ellington spurned a chance similar to Booth's, yet his free header from an Eaden cross was not as good because he had no defenders around him, perhaps implying that Town lack in both the attacking third and the defending third at times.

Regardless, after 23 minutes Town had another corner created when Irons played a fabulous through ball to Stead which was hit wide by a sliding defender. Smith's subsequent corner was flicked on by Booth to the back post where Nat Brown was preparing to pounce and unleash an electrifying volley. Alas a wall of blue and white Wigan shirts cascaded upon the youngster who showed shades of Ronaldo as he moved the ball from his left foot to his right before shooting directly at the spine of Wigan captain Jason De Vos.

After this disappointment the loyal Town faithful watched on as Danny Schofield performed Baldry-esque fancy footwork past two baffled defenders. Unfortunately his shot was also straight at a defender, therefore keeping Wigan 'keeper John Filan's hands nice and cold like the rest of ours.

If only the same could have been said for Town's 'keeper Bevan, as his hands (or at least one of them) were warmed by a terrific Peter Kennedy effort after 26 minutes. Prior to his shot Kennedy twisted Town's Ronaldo-like centre-half Brown before producing a great one handed diving save from Bevan after the shot looked destined for the top corner of the goal. The cat-like reflexes of Town's number one failed to convincingly clear the danger as the ball fell to Eaden who crossed towards Ellington, yet Youds came to the aid of his 'keeper and headed the ball for a corner, which was wasted.

Three minutes later and Smith had his best chance of the game cleared by an excellent piece of Wigan defending when his diving header was cleared off of the line. The product of an Irons free-kick which was deflected to Schofield off the face of one of the defenders in the three-man wall, saw Schofield take a shot which struck another defender and landed at the feet of Smith. His first shot was blocked by Filan, but he could only parry it into the air, therefore leading to the perfect chance for a courageous Smith to launch himself at the ball only to see his diving header get hacked off the line.

However, this attacking move almost ended in tears when Wigan broke, but the wonderful tackling back of Stead ensured that Town come maintain their clean sheet on that occasion. After seeing Smith's effort get cleared, Stead ran nearly the full length of the pitch to illustrate to any young Terriers the art of slide tackling. Stead's perfectly timed tackle showed true guts and determination after Sharp had been left in no man's land following Town's attack.

Four minutes later and Sharp was again showing exactly how a defender should not play. His loose long-field pass was lost to Wigan midfielder Tony Dinning, who took a couple of touches before shooting aimlessly wide of Bevan's goal. Moreover, on 35 minutes Bevan was called upon once more to produce another athletic save when Kennedy tried his luck again, however the big man was equal to the challenge and pulled off another great save.

Seconds later and Town fans witnessed another chapter in the Andy Booth injury saga which has plagued his career since returning to the McAlpine club. An innocuous challenge in the centre circle saw the large eared one clasp at his left leg and his left ankle in particular.

With the prospect of having to sit through three or four minutes of on-field treatment, Boothy's injury signalled the perfect opportunity for many Terrier fans to taste the delicacies of Wigan's finest meat and potato pies and cheap ale, while the rest of us sat in the cold preying that miracles might happen and Booth might run and he might even run off the injury.

Nevertheless, miracles regarding Andy Booth do not happen and he completed the first half only to be subbed after one minute of the second. Regardless, on 43 minutes Wigan had a great opportunity to take the lead after Schofield had given away a free kick. Eaden swung the set-piece into the box without much accuracy as it was headed partly clear, yet fell to Steve McMillan, who shot low, but on target and produce a comfortable save from Bevan.

With this chance saved, Town's players must have been looking forward to the warmth of the dressing room as the fourth official indicated two added minutes. However, Wigan had other ideas when they were gifted a corner in the dying seconds of the half. Kennedy took the corner seemingly to perfection as the routine saw De Vos head his side's winning goal. The near post routine was admired by both Youds and Sharp, Youds because he watched as De Vos lost his marking and Sharp when he failed to react to the ball flying past his ear. With Bevan helpless, the goal was the last action of an end to end first half.

The upper hand was well and truly Wigan's and only three minutes into the second half Ellington managed to latch onto a great through ball, but his shot was saved by Bevan's legs and diverted for a corner. This time the near post routine was dealt with confidently by astute Town defenders.

Two minutes later and Town had their first chance at an equaliser when Schofield was fouled by Matt Jackson. Smith's resultant free kick to the near post was aimed at picking out a lively Schofield, but McMillan had other plans when he headed the ball clear.

Nine minutes into the second half and Ellington had another golden opportunity which could have doubled Wigan lead, but as he approached goal he seemed to lose his composure and balance as he fluffed his shot and dirtied the back of his shorts at the same time. This apparent lack of Wigan firepower saw Wadsworth wisely switch his formation to 4-4-2 with Ronaldo-like Brown playing as centre-forward alongside Stead.

This decision almost paid immediate dividends as Irons crossed a free-kick into the box after 55 minutes. The trajectory of the ball's flight saw gravity pull it towards the centre of the goal, where Brown had rose like a salmon to force a save from Filan. However, Filan and one of his defensive colleagues rose like salmon to challenge Brown and the sardine like pressure saw the Wigan 'keeper get crowded out and fall to the ground with a knock on the fin.

Regardless, Town were on the back foot once more when substitute McCulloch tried to make a significant impact with a shot which flashed past a despairing Bevan after 68 minutes of the game and 6 minutes of his involvement. Four minutes later and there was a carbon-copy of this chance at the other end when Stead flashed an effort across goal and past a despairing Filan.

Two minutes later and Wigan looked supremely confident as they toyed with the Town defence. A short corner saw the corner taker and receiver play a series of one-twos before crossing into a crowded box. The cross was gradually cleared by the men in red shirts as they tried in vein to find an equalising goal.

Even the introduction of Paul Macari and the eagerly anticipated Macari ~ Brown striking combination could not concoct a net bulger for Mick Wadsworth or the loyal Terrier fans. Moreover, Wigan seemed content in just passing away the closing moments of the game and tried as many time wasting tactics as possible to make it impossible for the Terriers to score.

Nevertheless, Wigan were ending the game as an attacking force which could have seen two additional goals in sixty seconds. With 78 minutes on the clock substitute Andy Liddell accurately crossed to an unmarked Eaden who volleyed on target from point blank range, just to see Bevan disappoint him with a great stop. Seconds later and Liddell was in the thick of the action again when he had a goal disallowed by referee, Mr D. Laws for what looked like a free-kick prior to the cross, which picked out the unmarked substitute at the back post.

Seven minutes later and Town's defenders appeared to be suffering from fatigue as they allowed Gary Teale to run more or less 40 yards unchallenged before he struck his shot inaccurately over the bar from just outside the box.

Nonetheless, Town finished the game with two good opportunities. Firstly, they had a corner after 89 minutes which saw 'keeper Bevan venture into the box. Although the corner was headed by the big man the chance dissolved and may have led to a second Wigan goal if Moses had failed to be alert to the vacant Town goal.

Four minutes later and the last real chance of the match fell to Brown, after a Schofield cross had picked him out in the box, like a child picks Wally out of a crowded 'Where's Wally' picture. Yet the man who had earlier shown shades of Ronaldo failed to finish like the Brazilian as his header was aimed at the middle of the goal and was gratefully received by Wigan 'keeper Filan.

Although the result meant that Town didn't pick up any points and slipped down to joint bottom of Division Two, there were many occasions in the match where Town looked as if they at least deserved a point from the league leaders. Nevertheless, to be league leaders you need a good degree of fortune and although they played rather poorly at times, they did snatch the goal and will be top on Christmas Day. Let's just hope that Santa Claus brings Mick Wadsworth the tactics to get three points against Tranmere Rovers on Boxing Day and maybe even a new set of ankles and knees for injury prone Booth!

The game in a word: Respectable.


Bevan (7): A man of the match performance from the big man who could do nothing about the goal. He showed that there was nothing to lose when he came up for the corner at the death, but couldn't score the equaliser.

Jenkins (5): Linked up well with Stead at times, but played too defensively for my liking.

Sharp (3): Surprised he completed the game against one of his former sides. He was never really at the races all day long and suffered constant abuse from the Town fans because of it.

Brown (6): Not even Ronaldo can play two positions, but Nat Brown certainly can. Closed Wigan men down whether he was a defender or an attacker.

Moses (5): Satisfactory performance from Town's Chris Evans look-a-like.

Youds (4): Should have done better when tracking De Vos before the goal, but otherwise did well.

Schofield (6): Lively performance where he was full of running and determination.

Irons (5): Showed continued signs of improvement, much like the Stockport County game, but didn't last the full match.

Booth (4): Unfortunate to have leg bones that God stamped as fragile.

Smith (5): Could have been better, unlucky to have his diving header cleared.

Stead (4): Poor by his standards as he only had one real shot of note.


Scott (5): Looked good at times, but I couldn't help thinking that Mattis or Holland would be better.

Worthington (4): Didn't really make an impact.

Macari (2): Failed to do anything of note.

Referee rating:

Mr D. Laws (5): Liked to play advantage and managed to find something wrong with Wigan's second 'goal'.

Santa's Ratings:

Bevan: Good boy - lots of presents including cat food.

Jenkins: Good boy - perhaps a cap or two in 2003.

Sharp: Bad boy - not all Wadsworth cracked him up to be (relegated with Wrexham remember).

Brown: Good boy - deserves a Brazil shirt.

Moses: Good boy - managed to keep defenders slot for himself.

Youds: Bad boy - a Premiership defender should be better at Division Two level.

Schofield: Good boy - a year's supply 7 Up.

Irons: Good boy - a strong whiskey.

Booth: Bad boy - hopefully he'll find some new legs in his stockings!

Smith: Good boy - deserves a comb.

Stead: Good boy - should get a year's free membership to the McAlpine gym.

Wadsworth: Bad boy - over-rated, especially by Sir Bobby Robson who should know better.


Wigan Athletic:

1. John Filan
19. Nicky Eaden
4. Matt Jackson
5. Jason De Vos (CAP)
3. Steve McMillan
18. Jason Jarrett (OFF 56)
16. Tony Dinning
20. Gary Teale
11. Peter Kennedy (OFF 62)
8. Neil Roberts
9. Nathan Ellington (OFF 78)


2. Paul Mitchell (ON 56)
10. Lee McCulloch (ON 62)
7. Andy Liddell (ON 78)

Huddersfield Town:

1. Scott Bevan
2. Steve Jenkins (CAP)
22. Kevin Sharp
5. Adie Moses
27. Nat Brown
17. Eddie Youds
8. Kenny Irons (OFF 72)
7. Danny Schofield
9. Andy Booth (OFF 46)
14. Jon Stead (OFF 78)
19. Martin Smith


28. Paul Scott (ON 46)
31. Paul Macari (ON 78)
29. Jonathan Worthington (ON 72)
10. John Thorrington
35. Philip Senior


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