VAN’S THE MAN TO DRIVETERRIERSON
TEAMS that achieve promotion from the Championship aren’t necessarily the most attractive sides, but always know how to grind out wins, whatever of the situation.
Huddersfield probably are the most pleasing on the eye in the division but, after stumbling against Newcastle last week, they have since ground out victories home and away.
And their latest effort was, in boss David Wagner’s words, another “massive three points” after Rajiv van La Parra scored the game’s only goal, as Harlee Dean diverted his shot past Daniel Bentley.
Wagner said: “Give the goal to Rajiv; he doesn’t score so often. It was great movement and a good strike. We sometimes criticise Rajiv’s end product, but he delivered. It was a great moment for him.
“I’m so happy with what the boys delivered with fight and working attitude.
“In the second half, other than five minutes when Brentford had some good opportunities, I thought we played better than the first half. We kept them away from our goal.”
Newcastle’s loss to Fulham erased the impact of last week’s defeat, but Wagner insisted he was unaffected by either the Magpies or Brighton’s results.
He added: “Newcastle losing is nothing we can influence. We will be focused on what we can influence, which is we prepare for Bristol City next week. Everything else is so far away that it is not in our focus.”
Huddersfield quickly settled into their rhythm, positional fluidity and high-energy pressing that has lifted them to third in the table, and Bentley needed the full length of his fingertips to stop Jack Payne’s early effort.
Bentley could do nothing about the opening goal though, as Dean flung himself into the path of van La Parra’s shot and marooned the helpless goalkeeper.
Brentford boss Dean Smith said his side dropped too deep in the first half, allowing the Terriers to control the game, especially centrally where the narrow wingers, deep-lying striker and central-midfield trio all swarm like bees.
Nahki Wells came close three times to doubling the lead, first hitting the post, then shooting over after Elias Kachunga’s skill, and after the break Dean took the ball off his toe with the goal gaping. The game was typical Huddersfield this season. Only one of their 22 victories has been achieved by more than a one-goal margin and the two key reasons for this – resolute defence and an inability to kill teams off – were both apparent.
Their shakiest spell came early in the second half with Lasse Vibe blazing a glorious chance over from six yards out and seeing his shot clip the bar after Christopher Schindler’s deflection.
But, thereafter, Brentford were kept at arm’s length and Smith was right to point out his side had plenty of endeavour, but also lacked quality in the final third.
Smith said: “We’ve had enough chances to get something out of the game. We gave it a go, certainly at the start of the second half.
“We looked a little bit flatter than we have done in recent weeks, but the players keep giving me all they’ve got and it just didn’t drop for us.
“Huddersfield are having a great season and you can see why they’re up there, but I don’t think we’re too far away. Goal difference is sometimes a pointer for me and they’re plus eight and we’re plus two.”
MY GOAL: Rajiv van La Parra celebrates scoring with manager David Wagner. Inset: Brentford’s Daniel Bentley saves from Huddersfield’s Jack Payne