WE BE­LONG HERE

Hud­der­s­field and Blades im­press on their step up the di­vi­sions

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - AT JOHN SMITH’S STA­DIUM Email: richard.sut­cliffe@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @RSootyYPS­port Richard Sut­cliffe

IN the end, head coach David Wag­ner’s men could not be­come the first Hud­der­s­field Town side to start a top-flight sea­son with three straight wins since the sec­ond of the club’s ground-break­ing hat-trick of con­sec­u­tive League ti­tle suc­cesses in the Twen­ties.

This meant there was no re­peat of the ju­bi­lant scenes that had greeted the fi­nal whis­tle on the open­ing two week­ends of this term, nor the by now fa­mil­iar post-match cel­e­bra­tions that sees fans and play­ers raise their arms to­wards each other sev­eral times and cheer in noisy tri­umph.

In­stead, Hud­der­s­field had to con­tent them­selves with a stroll around the pitch and an ap­pre­cia­tive re­turn of ap­plause from the crowd that was as warm as the Kirklees sunshine.

Such re­straint was un­der­stand­able, con­sid­er­ing the fi­nal 10 min­utes had twice seen Southamp­ton de­nied a win­ner by, first, a save by Jonas Lossl and then a goal-line clear­ance from cap­tain Tommy Smith.

In many ways, though, this stale­mate was po­ten­tially a big­ger con­fir­ma­tion that the Ter­ri­ers have al­ready adapted to life back among the elite than ei­ther of those vic­to­ries over Crys­tal Palace and New­cas­tle United.

Cer­tainly, the Saints are a step above ei­ther Palace or the Mag­pies in terms of Pre­mier League qual­ity. Play­ers such as Manolo Gab­bia­dini, Steven Davis, Nathan Red­mond and James WardProwse are ca­pa­ble of open­ing up even the most stingy of top-flight de­fences and yet Town will spend the in­ter­na­tional break with a goals against col­umn that is oc­cu­pied by a big, fat zero.

Those late blocks by Lossl and Smith to deny Red­mond and Ryan Ber­trand were cru­cial in pre­serv­ing that record, as was an early miss from the for­mer af­ter the speedy winger had been played clear by a de­light­ful pass from Davis.

But few neu­trals who wit­nessed another im­pres­sive shift from the newly-pro­moted club would be­grudge Hud­der­s­field the point that sent them, fleet­ingly thanks to Manch­ester United’s sub­se­quent tea-time vic­tory over Le­ices­ter City, back to the top of the fledgling ta­ble.

Wag­ner, in com­mon with man­agers up and down the land, is not one for tak­ing any no­tice of the stand­ings un­til more or less the half­way point of a sea­son due to it mean­ing ev­ery team will have played all their ri­vals at least once.

But, af­ter a start that has de­fied all those who ex­pected the Ter­ri­ers to strug­gle hor­ri­bly fol­low­ing last May’s play-off tri­umph, the 45-year-old ad­mits head­ing into the in­ter­na­tional break with seven points and three clean sheets has done won­ders for the be­lief run­ning through his squad.

“The most im­por­tant thing with th­ese re­sults and per­for­mances is the play­ers think, ‘We are com­pet­i­tive and we have a chance’,” said Wag­ner, who yes­ter­day com­pleted a deal to sign Leeds United goal­keeper Rob Green.

“We are to­tally the un­der­dogs with the low­est bud­get by miles in the Pre­mier League. The play­ers had to know that if they stuck to­gether, fol­lowed our ideas and con­tin­ued to do what makes this group strong then they would have a chance.

“Ev­ery re­sult helps us. We have seven points, three clean sheets in the Pre­mier League and are also in the next (Carabao) Cup round. This is a great mo­ment oment.

“All man­agers and d ev­ery club wants to col­lect early points. But for a pro­moted team, it is s even more im­por­tant. It helps with con­fi­dence be­cause we are to­tally y in­ex­pe­ri­enced.

“We had no play­ers s re­ally with any expe eri­ence in the Premie r League (be­fore the sea ason be­gan). But wha at

a that can mean is you pla with free­dom, there is n neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. Yo ou can go into a com­pe­ti­tio on and try your best withou ut fear. That is ex­actly wha at this group has done.

“They have de­sire an nd are ex­cited. Of cours se, now they have con­fi­denc ce as well, as it shows that wew are ca­pa­ble in this div vi­sion. This gives them co on­fi­dence for what is in fro ont of us in the fu­ture.”

Wag­ner had warned beb fore­hand that his side would be fac­ing their tough­est chal­lenge of the sea­son against Southamp­ton. The start and end to this game jus­ti­fied this billing as Southamp­ton cre­ated three chances that re­ally should have yielded at least one goal.

The first fell to Red­mond af­ter just 11 min­utes, the jet-heeled Saint fir­ing nar­rowly wide of Lossl’s left-hand post with just the goal­keeper to beat.

Lossl was then re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing out the sec­ond of f those gilt-edged op­por­tu­ni­ties six min­utes from time when he beat away Red­mond’s shot fol­low­ing good work from James Ward-Prowse.

Hud­der­s­field’sfi fi­nal es­cape came a minute into stop­page­time as Smith cleared off the line af­ter Shane Long had picked out Ber­trand six yards out.

If Saints started and ended the con­test on top, how­ever, the mid­dle be­longed to the hosts, who with stead­ier fin­ish­ing of their own could have matched their pre­de­ces­sors of 1924-25 in win­ning the first three games of a top-flight sea­son.

Elias Kachunga was de­nied by a fine last-gasp block from Maya Yoshida mo­ments be­fore Fraser Forster was forced into a de­cent save by Steve Mounie.

The Saints goal­keeper then made up for pre­sent­ing Kachunga with an ex­cel­lent chance just be­fore the break by keep­ing out the re­sult­ing shot from last sea­son’s top scorer with a smart stop.

Af­ter the in­ter­val, Town con­tin­ued to press and Mounie was just a whisker away from con­vert­ing Thomas Ince’s curled cross be­fore the im­pe­tus swung back the way of the vis­i­tors fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the lively Ward-Prowse and Long.

“A draw was a fair re­sult,” said Wag­ner, who again re­it­er­ated that Nahki Wells is avail­able for trans­fer due to hav­ing just 10 months re­main­ing on his new con­tract.

“We are far away from (be­ing) suc­cess­ful be­cause it is only a start, but we are find­ing our way in the Pre­mier League.”

PIC­TURES: RICHARD SELL­ERS/PA

PO OINT MADE: USA in­ter­na­tional and for­mer Read­ing player Danny Wil­liams, top, leads the ap pplause af­ter Hud­der­s­field Town’s goal­less draw against Southamp­ton. Left, Town’s Kasey Palmer an nd Southamp­ton’s Oriol Romeu bat­tle for the ball. Above, Christo­pher Schindler slides in on Saints’ St teven Davis at the John Smith’s Sta­dium.

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