Huddersfield Town 2 v 2 Cambridge United

Huddersfield Town story posted by Garfield (Admin) on 11/08/2003
On a damp island floating off the mainland of Europe, the appearance of the sun is generally treated with a mixture of awe and surprise - for sunny days to merge in to a week long heatwave of Mediterranean proportions, a genuinely surreal atmosphere pervades the country.Huddersfield Town 2 v 2 Cambridge United

As a simile for the travails of Huddersfield Town, the brilliant light of the hottest day enjoyed by the Town in, probably (I ain't Michael bloody Fish!), centuries, could not have been more appropriate. Talk about tunnels!

A staggering 10,300 turned out for the rebirth of the football team, and while the initial enthusiasm is almost certain to fade with the weather, the uncertainties, worries and fears of a quite dreadful 6 months were swept away by the superb atmosphere of a crowd willing for Town to survive and be a success, on the right terms.

In Peter Jackson and Terry Yorath, Town fans know that their emotional investment will have a decent run for their money - which is not to say that the duo will be impervious to criticism - and the goodwill was palpable.

In truth, they witnessed a very patchy, undoubtedly nervous, performance from the team, but with enough encouraging signs to believe that the future with the new Huddersfield Town will be built on genuine effort and desire, rather than the so called skills of transient talent.

Despite an encouraging pre-season, results have been ground out with determined performances, it is beyond the best of managers to create an instantly successful team in a matter of weeks - to create one with a massive appetite for the task, even when second best to more settled teams, takes an exceptional motivator.

If anything, Jackson's natural ebullience and redoubtable charisma may have mitigated against the players yesterday - most of us know what the first day at work feels like - and it was almost impossible for them to live up to the excitement tumbling down from the stands.

If the burden of expectation could be dismissed as an excuse, Town were largely lacking in the first half - only Booty could take much credit in an often troubled back four, the energy of Carrs and Fowler belied a fundamental lack of fluidity, not helped by Thompson and Schofield eschewing width in favour of full back support (particularly for the constantly beleaguered Edwards).

Cambridge exploited the disjointed, unfamiliar home team and in Kitson they possessed the one quality player on show. Not only was he dangerous in the air, which was not altogether surprising with his height, he was also excellent with the ball at his feet and his hold up play encouraged his team mates to feed off him , running in to good spaces to cause Town's back four to look stretched on many occasions.

Dominating possession, the visitors reduced Town in to a harrying mode - a task they stuck too most of the time, but at the expense of being able to control any part of the game for the first 25 minutes.

The pressure applied on the home side - particularly for an increasingly uncomfortable Edwards - finally paid off when Town's new captain gave away a free kick (it seemed a little harsh, but was the type of decision that is given against a team straining to contain opponents) which was whipped in to the box for Chillingworth to glance past Gray and silence the home support.

It was no less than the visitors deserved, and the foreboding that the game would be a dreadful anti climax increased not long after when a free header at the back post was spurned by Cambridge - by this point, Town had been reduced to a horribly ineffective long ball game and a second goal against would have given them far too much to do.

From nowhere, however, Town produced the move of the match for an unlikely equaliser. Carrs played the ball to the feet of the largely anonymous Newby, who deftly played the ball in to Stead's path. The fast maturing youngster - somewhat surprisingly chosen ahead of Booth (who may have been sidelined because of the blistering heat) - swept the ball in to the far corner with a confident strike.

The equaliser may have been undeserved, but Town settled a little after levelling and the contest started to even up, though no further clear cut chances were created.

By half time, Town could dispel any thoughts that they would be able to roll over 3rd Division opponents - granted, Cambridge proved to be a much better side than expected, and certainly coped better in the difficult heat, but it is to be hoped that under estimating the ability of teams at this level is a lesson now learned.

The first half had, at least, illustrated the resilience the Jackson/Yorath partnership can instil in their teams - despite being second best, Town managed to maintain their workrate to keep themselves in the game and any disappointment among the home fans at the quality of the display was tempered by an acknowledgement that the team had not wilted under pressure.

The second half proved a little more promising. While the visitors remained the more composed outfit, Town's tendency toward the hoof upfield was reduced and the energetic Carrs was able to exert more influence, Schofield played a larger role and some shape started to emerge.

By the hour, Town had taken the lead, when Stead capitalised on a fortunate break in a tackle to exploit some space and fire in from just outside the box - his goal scoring record including friendlies is starting to look very promising for a lad noted for his profligacy last season.

When Thorrington replaced the rather bemused Thompson (he isn't being done any favours being stuck out on the right), Town enjoyed their best spell of the game, with Stead being denied his hat trick by a (correct) offside flag. The same player also connected with a deep Thorrington cross, only to see his header sail inches wide.

Even during their best period, however, defensive frailties were never far away and Cambridge continued to cause problems for Hughes and, to a lesser extent, Yates in the heart of the home defence. Although lack of height was the most obvious deficiency, lack of understanding was the most worrying - only Booty of the back four seemed capable of covering his colleagues, but it is a failing that, it is to be hoped, will disappear with familiarity or, more likely, a change of personnel.

The new goalkeeper didn't help, either. Despite some good saves and handling, he never commanded his area as crosses came in when he could have been a big help to his centre halves.

As the clocked ticked down, Town's grip on the three points became increasingly tenuous. Tired legs didn't seem able to retain possession and a free kick was given away cheaply to provide the visitors with another chance to apply pressure.

The delivery was excellent and virtually undefendable - Kitson climbed above the Town defence to give his side a deserved point and it was fitting that the best player on show was rewarded with a goal. It was with some relief that the Cambridge manager substituted him soon afterwards as the 4 additional minutes for injury time were only going to see one winner and Town were dead on their feet by then.

In as much as there is a clear team spirit along with pockets of latent talent, pre season optimism for Town is not misplaced, but the rigours of genuine competition exposed inevitable fault lines in a team assembled in a few short weeks against a background of considerable uncertainty. It should be said, however, that last year's squad would have lost this game, and the feeling remains that, with time, Jackson will produce a team to challenge at the right end of the Division come Spring.

Gray - some good saves and effective sweeping, but needs to command his area more. Kicking was poor at times

Booty - most assured of a creaky back four

Hughes - the weaker of the two centre backs

Yates - not particularly distinguished but would be OK with a stronger partner

Edwards - worrying. An error strewn first half cannot be totally ignored by a better second half performance

Thompson - lost between a wide role and defensive duties. Still unsure exactly what his role will be

Carrs - bypassed in the first half, he played well in the second

Fowler - a little off the pace and will need some games to make up for an inactive close season

Schofield - only glimpses of his ability

Stead - two good goals and growing in maturity

Newby - largely anonymous but never released in to scoring opportunities

Thorrington (for Thompson) - vaguely promising

Worthington (for Fowler) - only on a short time

MOM - Stead

Originally posted by Martin Sykes on the HTFC Mailing List.
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