Town left chas­tened but lifted by demise of ri­vals

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Richard Sut­cliffe Email: richard.sut­ Twit­ter: @RSootyYPS­port

NOT since the fa­mous May af­ter­noon when Barns­ley goal­keeper Luke Steele drib­bled round his own penalty area un­chal­lenged for the fi­nal two min­utes of the sea­son to chants of ‘York­shire’ has there been such a sense of en­tente cor­diale at the home of Hud­der­s­field Town.

‘Leeds, Leeds are fall­ing apart again….’ sang the Ter­ri­ers fans first, as news fil­tered through that Garry Monk’s side had fallen be­hind at Bur­ton Al­bion.

Ful­ham’s 1,500 or so strong trav­el­ling con­tin­gent im­me­di­ately joined in to the tune of Joy Di­vi­sion’s sem­i­nal clas­sic, un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of events at the Pirelli Sta­dium in the race for the play-offs.

Mo­ments later, an even big­ger cheer – and one that ri­valled the one that greeted the fi­nal whis­tle in 2013 as Barns­ley and Town se­cured their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus at the ex­pense of Peter­bor­ough United via a 2-2 draw – sig­nalled Bur­ton had dou­bled their ad­van­tage.

For Hud­der­s­field, news of their neigh­bours’ stum­ble was a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the hid­ing their side had re­ceived from Slavisa Jokanovic’s side in the first half.

Ful­ham, mean­while, were just elated to have opened a three -point lead over United ahead of the fi­nal two games.

That, though, is likely to be the end of the com­mon con­sen­sus be­tween those who made up Town’s 12th high­est at­ten­dance at their home of 23 years.

Ask ei­ther set of fans, for in­stance, if a re-match in the playoffs be­tween these two clubs would be a good idea and chances are the re­sponses will be very, very dif­fer­ent.

The Ful­ham faith­ful, af­ter see­ing their side net nine times in two games against the Ter­ri­ers this sea­son, would surely lap up such a prospect. Those whose loy­al­ties lay with Hud­der­s­field, how­ever, are un­likely to be very keen at all.

Town were sim­ply swept aside in a first half that be­gan amid prom­ise as the hosts took an early lead through Chris Lowe’s penalty but ended in dis­ar­ray.

Lowe sug­gested af­ter­wards that three of Ful­ham’s four strikes had been akin to own goals, such was the self-in­flicted dam­age Town wrought on them­selves by mak­ing ba­sic er­rors.

That, though, did a dis­ser­vice to a vis­it­ing team who beat Hud­der­s­field at their own game.

With both full-backs pushed for­ward in a man­ner sim­i­lar to how David Wag­ner em­ploys Lowe and Tommy Smith, Ful­ham’s high-press­ing game forced the hosts into er­ror af­ter er­ror.

Tellingly, heads went down as a re­sult – sug­gest­ing it would be bet­ter for the Ter­ri­ers to face any­one but Jokanovic’s in-form Lon­don­ers once the play-offs get un­der way next month.

Wag­ner’s dif­fi­cult task is to en­sure there is no hang­over from ei­ther this ham­mer­ing or the 5-0 de­feat Town suf­fered at Craven Cot­tage in Oc­to­ber.

Judging by Sean Scan­nell’s comments fol­low­ing his re­turn to ac­tion af­ter al­most five months out through in­jury, the Ger­man may be able to elicit a re­sponse from his play­ers if the two clubs do meet again this sea­son.

“We want to play Ful­ham again be­cause they have beaten us twice,” the sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute told The York­shire Post. “We know we are bet­ter than that.

“If we get them again, we will play bet­ter and be stronger. We have shown all sea­son that we are bet­ter than these per­for­mances.

“Some­times, it just hap­pens in foot­ball. You will get re­sults that go against you but the key is bounc­ing back. We will put this game be­hind us.”

Words of de­fi­ance and ones that Hud­der­s­field must heed ahead of their fi­nal three league games, never mind any pos­si­ble re­match with Ful­ham.

Cer­tainly, Wag­ner’s men can af­ford to re­peat nei­ther the in­di­vid­ual er­rors nor the gen­eros­ity that al­lowed Ful­ham to take such an iron-grip on pro­ceed­ings.

Town ac­tu­ally started on top, Lowe’s fourth-minute penalty af­ter the left-back had been flat­tened by the oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent Floyd Ayite a de­served re­ward for their early en­deav­our. At that stage, the vic­tory re­quired to guar­an­tee a play-off place seemed very much on.

Ful­ham, how­ever, had other ideas. Once over the shock of fall­ing be­hind, the Cham­pi­onship’s top scor­ers got to work.

Scott Malone, af­forded the freedom of Town’s right flank through­out the first half, equalised by latch­ing on to Ayite’s through ball and fin­ish­ing past Danny Ward.

Then Ayite, hav­ing rid­den one un­wise nib­ble from Ra­jiv van La Parra, was tripped by Jonathan Hogg and Tom Cair­ney did the rest from the penalty spot.

Had Hud­der­s­field, who lacked the usual con­trol of Aaron Mooy due to the Australian play­ing in a more ad­vanced role, been able to sta­bilise then there could have been a way back into pro­ceed­ings.

In­stead, Ste­fan Jo­hansen net­ted twice in nine min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val to seal a vic­tory that con­tin­ued Ful­ham’s up­wards tra- jec­tory af­ter be­ing 10th as re­cently as Fe­bru­ary.

The Nor­we­gian’s first came af­ter Ryan Sesseg­non, the pre­co­cious 16-year-old who has so lit up the Cham­pi­onship this term, had seen his ini­tial shot blocked.

Hogg was then cul­pa­ble for Jo­hansen’s sec­ond, the mid­fielder al­low­ing him­self to be dis- pos­sessed and then only able to watch as Ward was beaten with aplomb.

A chas­ten­ing af­ter­noon for Hud­der­s­field, though one whose dam­age was mit­i­gated by de­feats for not just Leeds but also Read­ing to en­sure to­mor­row brings a sec­ond chance to seal play-off qual­i­fi­ca­tion.


SPOT ON: Chris Lowe’s early suc­cess­ful penalty kick, top, was the one bright spot for Hud­der­s­field Town as they failed to clinch a Cham­pi­onship play­off place by los­ing 4-1 at home to Ful­ham. Collin Quaner, left, and Ra­jiv Van La Parra, right, could...

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