TOWN’S FAST START SUR­PRISES WAG­NER

HUD­DER­S­FIELD MARK FIRST HOME TOP-FLIGHT GAME FOR 45 YEARS WITH VIC­TORY

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER Richard Sut­cliffe

DAVID WAG­NER last night ad­mit­ted Hud­der­s­field Town’s stun­ning start to life in the Pre­mier League has taken even him by sur­prise.

The Ter­ri­ers made it two vic­to­ries from as many out­ings on their re­turn to the top flight with a 1-0 tri­umph over New­cas­tle United, Aaron Mooy’s stun­ning sec­ond-half strike prov­ing to be the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two newly-pro­moted clubs.

It was enough to nudge Town up to sec­ond in the fledgling ta­ble be­hind Manch­ester United on goal dif­fer­ence and write an­other chap­ter in the club’s fairy­tale rise un­der Wag­ner.

“I don’t have to pinch my­self but I did not ex­pect this, no,” said the 45-year-old Ger­man. “But this can hap­pen in foot­ball. If any­body knows that any­thing is pos­si­ble then it is this club.

“We saw that last sea­son. All we wanted was to be brave in ev­ery sin­gle game and I think we have done that so far. We are pleased with six points and two clean sheets, es­pe­cially as those points are de­served.

“But we have to in­vest ev­ery­thing from the first sec­ond to the last.

“What we also have is the right men­tal­ity and the be­lief that if we stick to­gether then we have a chance.

“Two good games with great re­sults but only two games of the sea­son.”

Mooy’s won­der goal meant Hud­der­s­field be­came only the third newly-pro­moted club in the Pre­mier League era to start the sea­son with back-to-back wins.

Bolton Wan­der­ers were the first to man­age the feat in 2001-02 en route to fin­ish­ing 16th, while Hull City beat Le­ices­ter City and Swansea City in­side the open­ing eight days of last term.

The Tigers be­ing rel­e­gated come May is a salu­tary les­son to all at the John Smith’s Sta­dium not to get car­ried away by such an im­pres­sive re­turn to the elite af­ter 45 years away.

Nev­er­the­less, Wag­ner was jus­ti­fi­ably proud of his play­ers’ ef­forts against a New­cas­tle side that had fin­ished last sea­son 13 points ahead of the York­shire club.

He added: “This was a very strong per­for­mance from my team, and es­pe­cially from the de­fence. I am de­lighted with the work­load that the play­ers in­vested and how ev­ery player felt re­spon­si­ble for the de­fen­sive work.

“I can’t re­mem­ber a clear cut chance we gave away. Ev­ery­one knows how dif­fi­cult it is to keep a clean sheet in the Pre­mier League. We then won with a magic mo­ment from Aaron Mooy and it was a de­served re­sult.

“Ev­ery­thing in the Pre­mier League is a lit­tle bit quicker so our fit­ness has had to go up. I nev- er had any doubt that our fit­ness would be good enough. We were not one of the best teams in the Cham­pi­onship but, for sure, we were one of the fittest.

“I am in no doubt we are go­ing to be one of the fittest teams in the Pre­mier League as well. We need this for our high in­ten­sive style of foot­ball.”

Town’s dream start means next op­po­nents Southamp­ton, who have col­lected four points from two games at St Mary’s this term, are likely to be more wary of York­shire’s sole top-flight rep­re­sen­ta­tive than would have been the case nine days ago.

Wag­ner, how­ever, scoffed at the sug­ges­tion his Ter­ri­ers could now be con­sid­ered to be favourites to pre­vail in the fi­nal game be­fore the sea­son’s first in­ter­na­tional break.

“I still have no un­der­stand­ing why we should be the favourites,” he said. “Ev­ery­one knows where we came from and what our start­ing point is and the cir­cum­stances we work with.

“For me, we will never ever be a favourite in a Pre­mier League match this sea­son. I also know we at Hud­der­s­field Town will never, ever speak about a weak team in the Pre­mier League.

“This is dis­re­spect­ful be­cause we know ex­actly where we came from. We were pro­moted at Wem­b­ley and are very happy to have six points on the board, plus two clean sheets.

“They are de­served points but we know how much we need to in­vest to be suc­cess­ful. Our games were tight. All we asked for is a chance and we have used our chance in the open­ing two games.”

Mooy’s win­ner was de­served re­ward for not only a fine team dis­play but also a typ­i­cally im- pres­sive shift from the Aus­tralian, Town’s stand­out player in the pro­mo­tion suc­cess.

“For me, Aaron de­serves the credit for his goal but also all his work,” added Wag­ner. “He is a great tech­ni­cal foot­baller with such un­be­liev­able work­ing at­ti­tude and re­spon­si­ble for de­fence. This is why I love this player.

“Sign­ing Aaron (per­ma­nently from Manch­ester City in the sum­mer) was one of our pri­or­i­ties. We signed him very early be­cause, of course, we were in a lot of talks dur­ing the play-offs and what hap­pened if we were pro­moted.

“He al­ways gave us the sign he wanted to stay if that was the case. He liked this club and dress­ing room. And his role in the team.

“I felt we did ev­ery­thing right in the de­fence and thanks to Aaron Mooy for this great fin­ish. He does not really say a lot, he does not smile a lot. He is very calm but I know he will be very proud.”

Town’s first top-flight win on home soil since Brian Clough’s Derby County, crowned cham­pi­ons that sea­son, were beaten 2-1 at the old Leeds Road in Novem­ber, 1971, com­ing on the back of that open­ing day win at Sel­hurst Park de­lighted the club’s head coach.

Wag­ner added: “I can be a lit­tle bit more re­laxed over next Satur­day. We now have a lit­tle bit of ex­pe­ri­ence and we know how to do things. We now know if we fol­low our rou­tine we can do things.”

THE pic­ture framers of Hud­der­s­field should stand by their ‘phones this morn­ing and ex­pect a call.

Aaron Mooy net­ting Town’s first Pre­mier League goal at their 23-year-old home is surely des­tined to be cap­tured for pos­ter­ity at a sta­dium not shy about show­cas­ing its big mo­ments.

Im­ages of Jon Bon Jovi and REM’s Michael Stipe play­ing what is now called the John Smith’s Sta­dium adorn the walls along with an Eng­land rugby league shirt from the 2013 World Cup signed by then man­ager Steve McNa­mara.

Other heroes from the town’s foot­ball and rugby league past – most notably, Christo­pher Schindler con­vert­ing ‘that’ penalty at Wem­b­ley – also vye for wallspace but surely pride of place will soon be go­ing to Mooy.

His curled ef­fort five min­utes into the sec­ond half was a thing of beauty. It was also a truly his­toric strike, be­ing not only enough to beat a lack­lus­tre New­cas­tle United but also clinch a first topflight win on home soil since Brian Clough’s Derby County were beaten on the fi­nal Satur­day of Novem­ber, 1971.

That proved to be Hud­der­s­field’s fi­nal win of a sorry cam­paign that ended in rel­e­ga­tion, a fate that – on early ev­i­dence – David Wag­ner’s men have ev­ery chance of avoid­ing come May.

Of course, win­ning the first two games of a Pre­mier League sea­son is no guar­an­tee of a happy end­ing – as Hull City proved by crash­ing out of the top flight de­spite start­ing the 2016-17 cam­paign with back-to-back vic­to­ries over Le­ices­ter City and Swansea City.

But the con­fi­dence and be­lief such an un­ex­pected start has en­gen­dered in a squad writ­ten off by all man­ner of ex­perts and pun­dits be­fore a ball had been kicked could yet prove price­less.

Hud­der­s­field a year ago are liv­ing proof of that, the win over highly-fan­cied New­cas­tle on the sec­ond week­end of the sea­son – this time at St James’ Park – be­ing the pre­lude to ar­guably the most un­ex­pected pro­mo­tion in the Pre­mier League era.

Mooy was in­te­gral to that tri­umph in the North East over Rafael Ben­itez’s men, just as he was yes­ter­day as the Aus­tralian – the stand­out player in last sea­son’s Cham­pi­onship – net­ted the only goal.

His big mo­ment came five min­utes into the sec­ond half. Col­lect­ing the ball wide on the left, Mooy took a cou­ple of touches to buy some time as all op­tions were quickly as­sessed.

Then, af­ter spot­ting Elias Kachunga un­marked a yard or so in­side the penalty area, a quick ex­change of passes set up an op­por­tu­nity that the £8m sum­mer sign­ing from Manch­ester City took in sub­lime fash­ion with a curled fin­ish be­yond Rob El­liot.

Cue bed­lam all around the sta­dium as a town that had waited 45 long, long years to test them­selves among the elite cel­e­brated.

Up to that point, the meet­ing of two teams pro­moted just a few months ear­lier had been some­thing of a nip and tuck af­fair.

This had much to do with the con­trast­ing ap­proaches of the two man­agers, the press­ing game so in­te­gral to Hud­der­s­field’s rise un­der Wag­ner go­ing up against a New­cas­tle side happy to sit deep and try to hit their hosts on the break.

Chances were at a pre­mium for much of the af­ter­noon as a re­sult, mak­ing it seem more and more likely as pro­ceed­ings un­folded that some­thing spe­cial would be needed to break the dead­lock.

Mooy, of course, de­liv­ered just that with his stun­ning strike. But that was far from the only threat that the Ter­ri­ers posed with Tom Ince twice un­able to cap­i­talise on de­cent first-half op­por­tu­ni­ties af­ter New­cas­tle had been har­ried into a mis­take.

El­liot flap­ping at a Mooy cor­ner in the 20th minute also pro­vided a chance but, like the Mag­pies goal­keeper, Steve Mounie was un­able to get a touch de­spite strain­ing ev­ery sinew.

If El­liot was guilty of ques­tion­able goal­keep­ing in that in­stance then the same could not have been said about coun­ter­part Jonas Lossl four min­utes ear­lier.

His one-handed save to flick a curl­ing Matt Ritchie shot just past the post was of the high­est or­der. As, it must be said, was the last ditch tackle that Schindler ex­e­cuted on Dwight Gayle as the Toon striker shaped to shoot 10 min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val.

Schindler, in fact, epit­o­mised all that was good about Hud- der­s­field on their home bow. His aware­ness and po­si­tion­ing meant many promis­ing New­cas­tle at­tacks were snuffed out as soon as the Ter­ri­ers’ goal came within sight.

Fel­low coun­try­man Chris Lowe also pulled off a cou­ple of vi­tal tack­les, not least when whip­ping the ball off the toe of Ja­cob Mur­phy just as the sub­sti­tute was pre­par­ing to pull the trig­ger.

That came with 10 min­utes re­main­ing and was the last time the home crowd had cause for con­cern, Mo­hamed Di­ame look­ing up and mis­tak­ing ref­eree Craig Paw­son for a team-mate and pass­ing the ball straight to the of­fi­cial per­haps best epit­o­mis­ing the mis­fir­ing and laboured ef­forts of New­cas­tle when try­ing to res­cue a point.

Paw­son blow­ing the fi­nal whis­tle was the cue for huge cel­e­bra­tions in the stand as sup­port­ers hailed back-to-back wins in a topflight sea­son for the first time since 1970-71 when Black­pool and Southamp­ton were beaten by Ian Greaves’s men en route to fin­ish­ing 15th.

A sim­i­lar stand­ing this time around would do nicely.

Whether that hap­pens or not re­mains to be seen but Mooy’s his­toric win­ner surely means his im­age is a shoo-in to soon be adorn­ing the walls of the Ter­ri­ers’ home.

PIC­TURE: TONY JOHN­SON

Aaron Mooy marked the re­turn of top-flight foot­ball to Hud­der­s­field af­ter 45 years away with a stun­ning strike to se­cure vic­tory over New­cas­tle United at the John Smith’s Sta­dium.

PIC­TURE: TONY JOHN­SON

FOR YOU: Town’s play­ers salute their fans.

PIC­TURES: TONY JOHN­SON

PIC­TURE PER­FECT: Aaron Mooy curls home a shot be­yond Rob El­liot to give Hud­der­s­field Town the lead and ul­ti­mately the vic­tory over New­cas­tle United. Left, Ra­jiv van la Parra in ac­tion, and right, flags waved high on a proud day for Ter­ri­ers fans.

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