Stoke City 1 v 1 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town story posted by Phill Rodgerson on 08/09/2001
A team full of enthusiasm.. looking to extend their lead at the top of the table and prove their sheer dominance over the league, striking fear in the eyes of all opponents. Or so you might think. But this wasn't to be the case today as Lou decided it would be best if Town addopted a more defensive style to the game and hope that one opportunity would clinch the game for us.Stoke City 1 v 1 Huddersfield Town

Having scored our first ever first-half goal this season it seemed likely that we'd go from strength to strength at the windy Britannia Stadium and make an example of the team in red and white. But as usual with Town, that wasn't to be the case.

Lou, as usual opted to change his team around completely. The team that is topping the table and full of spirit was broken up and there was even an opportunity for a new face amongst the first-teamers. This was Huddersfield Town Junior Nathan Clarke who was making his first ever debut for the club and was literally thrown straight in at the deep end. He was partnered with captain Kevin Gray at the back to replace the much rumoured sold-man Steve Jenkins.

He certainly didn't take long to get his feet wet, as within his first 5 minutes he showed exactly what kind of a defender he is.. and contrary to the way he looks, that is a no non-sense defender! After just two minutes he lept in the air to challenge the Stoke number 7 Gudjonsson, earning himself a hefty blow to the head as he did. It didn't look promising as he lay still on the floor, but the magic sponge soon got him up and ready and within another 2 minutes he made a great block from a shot that was goal-bound from the right foot of in-form Stoke striker Peter Thorne.. who is rumoured to be joining his ex-Stoke team mate Peter Kavanagh at Cardiff City if the deal should take place.

Stoke were also gifted with many other chances in the first half before the Town goal. This was mainly due to sloppy Town defending especially from out of position Adi Moses. He was often caught the wrong side of Gudjonsson who was supplying some good balls to Cooke and Thorne in the box. Luckily, Gray was, as usual, having a solid game and dealt with everything that came his way.

Our first real attacking effort, coming after 20 minutes of play, turned out to be a flop as John Thorrington was sent chasing down the wing after a ball only to see him loop it way behind the goal, much to the Town contingents displeasure.

A few minutes later Town were all over the place at the back allowing two great Stoke chances that would have most probably hit the back of the net if it weren't for the efforts of Gareth Evans and Martyn Margetson. Both shots came from Peter Thorne, the first to be blocked by Evans who slid in from five yards to make a great stop. The ball then set up nicely for Thorne to hit again, which he did very sweetly, only to see Margetson diving to his top corner to spectacularly palm it over.

From then on Town started to attack a little more. Beechy was told to push further on to partner lone striker Schofield who was getting no service at all and had been pretty iscolated for the first 20 minutes. This brought about a few half chances for Beechy, which didn't really trouble the defence or the keeper but did, at least, let us know that Town were wanting to win the game.

Hay and Thorrington also had some good chances. Hay had some good link-up play with Thorrington and managed to get a shot out from under his feet to get the keeper a little dirty. Thorrington, as usual, was troubling defenders with his pace as he ran past three of them only to take it on his weak left foot and see it trickle into the goalkeepers arms.

The breakthrough came on the 32nd minute when Chris Beech spotted Schofield making a good run on goal and slotted the ball between the two centre backs. This put Schofield clear but still with a lot of work to do. He cooly slotted it home right into the bottom corner of the keepers near post.

The next 10 minutes or so was much better as Town passed the ball about a lot more and managed to get Stoke players working for their money. No real opportunities came about from this spell but it was good to secure the one-goal lead going into half time.

Although, this almost wasn't the case, when on 45 minutes Gareth Evans dealt with an aerial ball very badly by heading it back accross his own goal almost setting up Thorne. Luckily, young lad Nathan Clarke was alert enough to notice this situation and put the ball into orbit.

Town started the second half very brightly. They set off attacking very well, with Hay and Schofield linking up down the left. Schofield also worked his socks off during the second half as he tried to feed off of every scrap he could get.

On 56 minutes, the good spell for Town climaxed as Beechy hit an absolute rasper on the half-volley off his chest. It looked an almost certainty to hit the back of the net but the very athletic Gavin Ward just managed to get his fingertips to it to tip it over for the corner.

If anyone was looking for the bad points of John Thorrington then two deffinite ones were shown today. His new-found confidence seems to have gotten to his head a bit when on a couple of occasions he decided to run against two or three defenders when he could have easily threaded through Schofield for the one-on-one. His other weakness is his left foot. Whenever he cut inside to take it on his left foot his best option was always to win the free kick as any shot taken on it would end up as a small trickle to the keeper. That isn't to say that he's not a good player, just things that he should work on in the future.

From about the 70th minute onwards it was all Stoke. Town invited pressure by defending deep within their own half. This invited a great chance for Andy Cooke on the 72nd minute when he was just five yards out and managed to miscue his header by hitting it wide.

Stoke also had a good handball appeal turned down when, on the 80th minute, Nathan Clarke appeared to have taken the ball out of the air with the use of his arm. Luckily for us, the referee Colin Webster missed this and we were let off the hook.

In a time when it seemed every Town player was happy to defend and make life as difficult as possible Dwayne Mattis stood out as he actually tried forcing them back, which worked on a number of occassions. Maybe if the whole team had tried that then we'd have had better results.

In the four minutes of added time the 3 points were almost in the bag for Town. The defence were looking very nervy and were often resorting to desperate tactics but it had worked until the 93rd minute when Gudjonsson, not for the first time, beat his marker and delivered a good ball to Iwelumo who knocked the ball down to Thorne who took the ball on the bounce before pulling the trigger on an unstoppable strike hitting Martyn Margetson's top right-hand corner, robbing Town of 2 points.

It wasn't a bad match, and Stoke probably did deserve the point due to the appaling tactics we used and the amount of chances they didn't take. This was no consolation for Town fans, though, who expected to go clear top of the table only to see us in third instead leaving a sour taste in our mouths.

Town MOM - Kevin Gray: When everyone about him were losing their heads he managed to stay rock-solid. A very good example of a captain.

Half Time: (0 - 1)
Attendance: 13,319 (549 away fans)

Teams:

Stoke City (4-3-3) - 1. Gavin Ward, 3. Clive Clarke, 6. Brynjar Gunnarsson, 7. Bjarni Gudjonsson, 8. Andy Cooke, 9. Peter Thorne, 11. Peter Hoekstra [off 46], 12. Wayne Thomas, 17. James O?Connor, 23. Karl Henry [off 73], 27. Jurgen Vandeurzen.

Subs - 16. Stefan Thordarson [on 46], 15. Chris Iwelumo [on 73], 2. Mikael Hansson, 14. Neil Cutler, 25. Gareth Owen.

Huddersfield Town (5-4-1) - 13. Martyn Margetson, 3. Gareth Evans, 12. Kevin Gray (captain), 36. Nathan Clarke (debut), 20. Thomas Heary, 26. Adi Moses, 29. John Thorrington, 24. Danny Schofield, 22. Chris Beech [off 61], 18. Chris Hay [off 78], 23. Chris Holland.

Subs - 19. Frazer Digby, 8. Kenny Irons [on 61], 33. Dwayne Mattis [on 78], 34. Paul Macari, 17. Simon Baldry.

Scorers:

Huddersfield Town - Kenny Irons (50 mins)
Stoke City - Peter Thorne (93 mins)

Bookings:
Huddersfield Town - Kevin Gray (6 mins), Gareth Evans (48 mins).

Stoke City - None.

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