Pritchard’s strike brings a rare shaft of light for Huddersfield
Even in disappointment, there is reason for Huddersfield to hope again. They are still in the relegation zone, but they have picked up four points in a week and even scored two goals.
For a side who have become notorious for a lack of threat, that feels like something of a breakthrough. Alex Pritchard’s scuffed sixth-minute strike was surely one of the untidiest goals of the weekend, but was celebrated as if it were something special. Which, in terms of its rarity, it was.
Pritchard was the first Huddersfield player to score a Premier League goal at the John Smith’s Stadium since April 14. Had he and his team-mates been more ruthless and lucky, it would surely have been the prelude to their second league win in six days.
Instead, they were caught thanks to a player who has hit rich form. West Ham paid a club-record £42million to Lazio for Felipe Anderson in July and, after a rocky start, the Brazilian is beginning to show his value.
The striker finished clinically a move he had started, walloping a shot into the top corner after Robert Snodgrass’s cross had been miskicked by Marko Arnautovic, and both Javier Hernandez and Michail Antonio had shots blocked.
“Felipe scored a beautiful goal today,” said Manuel Pellegrini, the West Ham manager. “It’s always important for a player to score but I think Felipe and the whole team must improve.”
It was a fair assessment. West Ham were dreadful in the first 45 minutes and fortunate to concede only once. Lukasz Fabianski had reacted brilliantly to turn a Steve Mounie header on to the bar in the second minute, but the goalkeeper was culpable in reacting slowly to Pritchard’s opener.
He was not alone. Issa Diop’s poor pass out of defence, played hurriedly backwards by Anderson, forced Declan Rice into an error Mounie and Jonathan Hogg pounced on to set up the goalscorer, once a West Ham youth player.
Moments later, Philip Billing’s cross-shot bounced off a post with Fabianski flapping, then Mounie was denied by the goalkeeper when clean through.
West Ham had sights of goal too, notably when Arnautovic strode through with the game goalless, but finished weakly for Jonas Lossl to save. They improved significantly in the second half when Pellegrini sent on Hernandez at half-time to support Arnautovic up front. They might have won as Issa Diop’s header from Snodgrass’s corner was blocked on the line by Aaron Mooy. Huddersfield lost defender Chris Lowe with a dislocated shoulder, but manager David Wagner saw positives: “We have four points out of two games, though it could have been six, and we are in the middle of the race to leave three teams behind us.”
Rich form: Felipe Anderson salutes his goal