But not yet as David de­feated again

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

AI­TOR Karanka couldn’t hide his ad­mi­ra­tion for David Wag­ner’s new-look Hud­der­s­field af­ter see­ing his ti­tle-con­tenders played off the park – de­spite com­ing out on top.

Wag­ner, who took charge three weeks ago, was Jurgen Klopp’s as­sis­tant at Borus­sia Dort­mund and has promised to in­still the “full throt­tle” press­ing game made fa­mous by the Ger­man gi­ants.

And while maiden goals from for­mer Ter­rier Adam Clay­ton and full­back Emilio Nsue en­sured Boro re­turned to Teesside with a jammy three points, no­body was in any doubt that the home side have taken his teach­ings to heart.

Slick, ag­gres­sive, rapid on the break – the only thing miss­ing so far is re­sults, with Hud­der­s­field yet to pick up a point in Wag­ner’s two games.

“Very im­pres­sive,” said Karanka, whose side moved into sec­ond place be­hind Brighton. “Our per­for­mance wasn’t good, but for the whole game they looked like a side who are top of the league. They played really well.

“The coach has been here just three weeks but I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing more of him be­cause I liked his team a lot. He can do some­thing very good here.

“Dean White­head is still in touch with some of our lads and he has told them how good the man­ager is, how good the train­ing is.You could see that

on the pitch, the way they al­ways try to play, their or­gan­i­sa­tion with­out the ball. All I would say to him is ‘keep go­ing’. He has lost two games, but when I ar­rived I lost three out of five. But the club trusted me and now we are in a good po­si­tion. If this club trusts him, I think he will do a great job for them.”

Judged on this per­for­mance, he al­ready has. When Clay­ton wrig­gled through four men to blast into the roof of the net – his first goal in 58 ap­pear­ances since join­ing from the Ter­ri­ers in Au­gust 2014 – the home side could eas­ily have wilted.

But they stuck to the game plan, hunt­ing ev­ery Boro player in packs, slam­ming into chal­lenges and send­ing full-backs ca­reen­ing be­yond even the strik­ers.

Nahki Wells hit the cross­bar with a del­i­cate free-kick, then should have scored when played in by Sean Scan­nell, only to punt a hasty ef­fort straight at Dimi Kon­stan­topou­los. Scan­nell him­self tested the Greek keeper with a close-range stab.

Boro sim­ply couldn’t get the ball, with Clay­ton some­how es­cap­ing cen­sure for a suc­ces­sion of un­com­pro­mis­ing chal­lenges.

Most al­lur­ing of all was the Ter­ri­ers’ fresh-faced left-flank, with Joe Lol­ley and Ben Chilwell – making his first pro­fes­sional start on loan from Le­ices­ter – com­bin­ing to run Nsue ragged.

“Ben was very good,” said Wag­ner. “He is 18 years old, but he played so cool, like an ex­pe­ri­enced player. He made a lot of cor­rect de­ci­sions.”

Not, how­ever, as many as Clay­ton, Daniel Ayala and Ben Gib­son. Boro’s back line is the bedrock of their pro­mo­tion push and, hav­ing sur­vived those early scares, in­tel­li­gently al­lowed Hud­der­s­field to dom­i­nate pos­ses­sion with­out work­ing a real open­ing.

Though still on top, the Ter­ri­ers tired and, like a boxer sens­ing a sag­ging op­po­nent, the visi­tors landed a bru­tal knock­out blow.

Sub Chris­tian Stu­ani lofted a clever ball to David Nu­gent, who knocked down for the gal­lop­ing Nsue. For a right back on his left foot who hadn’t scored in two years, the fin­ish was lethally ac­cu­rate.

“Some­times in foot­ball, you don’t get what you de­serve,” added Wag­ner, who was making his home bow. “Nor­mally when you work very hard and play very good foot­ball you get a re­sult.We did not.

“The re­sult was ridicu­lous, a dis­as­ter. But it is im­por­tant that ev­ery­body splits the re­sult from the per­for­mance.

“The squad has been very open­minded, how we train, when we train. We changed a lot of things but ev­ery­body can see they have ac­cepted it.

“I said last week that I was con­fi­dent about the fu­ture of this team. Af­ter this re­sult, see­ing how far we have come in just three weeks, I am now even more sure.”

HOLD ON: Hud­der­s­field’s Mark Hud­son ap­ply­ing pres­sure on Diego Fab­brini

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

SMASH AND GRAB: Adam Clay­ton cel­e­brates scor­ing the first goal for Mid­dles­brough with team-mates. Inset: The for­mer Ter­rier fires home

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