Cambridge United 1 v 2 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town story posted by Garfield (Admin) on 12/01/2004
Traditionally, lowly opposition does not bring the best out of Town teams and even the fact that we collected a rare travelling 3 points at Darlington over Christmas could not hide the side's poor form away from home.Cambridge United 1 v 2 Huddersfield Town

The performance at the George Walker Arena - can philanthropy ever have been as misplaced and inappropriate? - showed a level of resilience sadly lacking in previous capitulations away from the Mac, however, and a side shorn of its better and more experienced players has produced an excellent run of victories at exactly the right time. I rarely take much notice of Frank Worthington's less than unique style of punditry, but those gathering results over the festive season can usually look forward to a fruitful New Year.

The new stand at troubled Cambridge United was a welcome sight for those veterans of the desperately poor pitchside view suffered in previous years (though the terrace attracted a healthy proportion of another good Town following).

Regrettably, and despite another welcome away win, we were treated to a game of less than modest entertainment value though neither side could be derided for effort and commitment.

This season's opener between these two clubs had been good value - a new Town team (some barely on nodding acquaintance) had struggled to match a Kitson inspired Cambridge who were unlucky not to win. Since that hot August day, Town have generally progressed - slowly, and not without some worrying setbacks - while the sale of Kitson (which a hilariously unpopular Chairman tried to justify, Norman Collier style, at half time to a crescendo of jeers from both sets of supporters) seems to have put United in to a steep regression.

Before the game, much was made of Cambridge's home record, which almost exactly matched the grim reading that constitutes Town's travelling record, and taking out a player of Kitson's quality could only tip the balance of favour toward the visitors.

The gaping hole in the home side became quickly evident - despite occasionally pleasing, largely competent build up play (if rather over reliant on an aerial approach), Senior didn't have a single save to make in the opening half and Town's defence - so often in despair away from home - dealt with threat with some ease if not with a great deal of composure.

Possession was conceded far too readily, and it was a rare event if the ball was played on the floor or out wide, mainly because Lloyd and Holdsworth were too deep to provide the necessary outlets (both were, however, hard working defensively and it seems a little churlish to complain about grounded out results when the horrors of Scunthorpe and Macclesfield are recalled).

On the rare occasions that Town managed to get the ball down, we looked something of a threat to a decidedly nervous home defence. They were clearly worried about Stead, and they had good reason - even if this wasn't his finest hour, his quality shone against a deeply mundane background. One moment stood out in the first half when, facing his own goal on the half way line and two defenders steaming towards him, he managed to absorb the impact of two tackles and flick a sideways pass to Brown before setting off to find acres of space up front. It was particularly disappointing that Brown, who laboured for much of the afternoon, was unable to respond with a first time ball behind the defenders (he tried to beat his man and gave away a free kick).

Stead was not to be denied, however, and Town's best move of the half (it was marginally better than the other one!) indirectly lead to the opener. Terra`Firma finally came in to play and the ball reached Holland (on for the injured` Edwards) played an excellent ball in to Stead's path. The coveted front man bore down on goal and, from an angle, forced a good save from the home keeper. From the resultant corner, and rather more in keeping with the general level of tedium, a careless Cambridge hand gave the referee - of whom more later - no choice but to give Town a rare spot kick. Stead crashed it home.

So came to a close a scrappy, uninspiring first half ruined in equal measure by the players and a ludicrously over zealous referee who could not countenance the slightest physical contact. He was summed up fairly early in the half when United's Tudor (probably the pick of the home team) fell over his own feet in the proximity of Yates. To his credit, Tudor almost certainly prevented a booking for the Town defender and was rather unfairly treated by Town's terrace side support who barracked him before turning - more justifiably - on Venus in the second half.

Half time brought relief - Town were 1 up, the home Chairman was about to seriously embarrass himself with a gloriously inappropriate piece of badly conceived theatre and the second half would, surely, be more of a spectacle.

Some hope! Town continued to repel Cambridge with some ease but hurried, inaccurate and often under hit clearances rarely found team mates and, as an attacking force, we seemed content to throw the occasional punt forward when time - a precious commodity - allowed.

For their part, Cambridge deteriorated as the game went on, and seemed to suffer more than Town from Mr Whistle who was, at least, consistently annoying.

Both teams had a Wilkinsonesque penchant for touch (Mike Catt is probably the more appropriate man, but if there's a bandwagon, I'll get on it!), and the game never achieved anything approaching quality or shape, just endeavour.

With the clock ticking down nicely and Cambridge looking less and less likely to equalise,Senior was called in to bits and pieces of action and one or two unseemly scrambles threatened to raise us from our slumbers, but a maximum points haul seemed safe.

With little time left, the game was made safe when another Stead inspired corner (he brought an over elaborate save from the less than impressive home keeper) was half cleared vertically. Stead jumped higher than the defender and his nod forward was nicely met by the impressive Worthington for on overhead kick and the eventual winner.

With injury time looming, the points were in the bag..........unless you had intimate knowledge of following Town up and down the country for years!

Senior had been hurt in one of the aforementioned scruffy scrambles and Cambridge, who, with 10 minutes left had finally realised that deep, far post crosses may be a weak point for the visitors, added desperation to their forays and were finally rewarded.

A deep cross had the hobbling Senior grasping at thin air and the Cambridge man on the back post punched the ball towards goal (most Town fans didn't know this at the time, but the irony of a referee who penalised virtually every infringement or suspected infringement missing the offence would not have been lost on us) and the home side had earned a potential lifeline.

It was one they were not to grasp, however, and the 4 minutes of overtime were played out innocuously.

Prior to Darlington, we would have given anything for two relatively poor, but resilient, away performances gaining 6 points and the effort of the team - particularly yesterday - cannot be faulted. We can wait for the sparkling display away from home as we look forward to a year far more optimistically than for a good while.

Ratings

Senior - competent until injured

Holdsworth - very steady

Lloyd - energetic and made some good tackles

Yates - not a foot wrong and very dependable

Clarke - accomplished enough but fell in to the trap of losing composure at times

Sodje - better than his usual away performances

Edwards - injured fairly early on

Worthington - provided excellent cover in front of the defence and scored a good, important, goal

Schofield - worked hard, if a bit anonymous

Stead - provided rare quality

Brown - worked hard enough but hesitancy a persistent problem

Holland (for Edwards) - solid, if unspectacular

MOM - Yates

Match report by Martin Sykes

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