Price­less strike by Ince helps to re­pay Wagner

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Leon Wob­schall AT JOHN SMITH’S STA­DIUM Email: leon.wob­ Twit­ter: @LeonWobYP




THE Ger­man trans­la­tion of nearly there is ‘fast da’.

Hud­der­s­field Town’s med­ley of wun­der­bar mo­ments in David Wagner’s epic ten­ure is glo­ri­ously pro­lific and this lat­est in­tox­i­cat­ing en­try is surely close to the top of a list of riches.

A ‘no lim­its’ team whose bloody-minded will to get over the line, what­ever the cir­cum­stances, is proudly worn as a badge of hon­our, Town truly sur­passed them­selves on a ‘Su­per Satur­day’ whose be­witch­ing events pushed them to the cher­ished brink of Premier League safety.

Ex­actly a year to the day since the pro­mo­tion-chas­ing Ter­ri­ers se­cured a pul­sat­ing stop­page­time Roses vic­tory over Cham­pi­onship vis­i­tors Pre­ston North End, the hosts were at it again – courtesy of Tom Ince’s dra­matic, won­der­ful late in­ter­ven­tion.

They have done this sort of thing sev­eral times be­fore. Think Leeds United at home last sea­son and Rother­ham United away, for starters.

But in terms of sig­nif­i­cance, Satur­day’s episode will take some beat­ing. It will per­haps only be su­per­seded in im­por­tance by that Wem­b­ley penalty from Christo­pher Schindler as Town moved seven points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone af­ter what is likely to prove the de­fin­i­tive mo­ment of their Premier League sea­son.

The scenes af­ter Ince’s strike were sim­i­larly me­morable, with head coach Wagner’s joy­ous sprint up the touch­line to cel­e­brate with his play­ers be­ing a reprise of his ex­u­ber­ant re­ac­tion to Michael He­fele’s late win­ner against Leeds in Fe­bru­ary, 2016.

A high-pres­sure game in which per­for­mance counted for noth­ing, but win­ning rep­re­sented the be-all and end-all for the hosts, Town tri­umphed with their only shot on tar­get.

Sub­sti­tute Ince’s strike from close in af­ter an in­tu­itive as­sist from Mathias Zanka may not have been a Goal of the Month con­tender, but it car­ried ra­di­ant beauty for Town’s deliri­ous home sup­port.

For match-win­ner Ince there was also redemp­tion on an af­ter­noon that started with him be­ing dropped to the bench.

The flood of goals that he plun­dered for Derby County in 2016-17 – 15 in all – may have turned into a trickle this sea­son, much to his cha­grin in a cam­paign which has not, by his own ad­mis­sion sparkled.

But scor­ing the goal that could well se­cure Town’s top-flight ten­ure rep­re­sents fair com­pen­sa­tion.

On his mo­men­tous third goal of the sea­son, Ince ac­knowl­edged: “It was the big­gest pos­i­tive I have had in my ca­reer so far.

“I have been dis­ap­pointed with my­self this sea­son and I am my own worst critic. I wanted to pro­duce and do a lot more. But it has been a learn­ing curve for me with a new man­ager, team-mates and dif­fer­ent way of play­ing.

“The Premier League re­quires you to work ten times as hard and things are not go­ing to come as easy to you than they do in the Cham­pi­onship. All I can do is take ex­pe­ri­ences through­out the whole sea­son and the pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives.

“He (Wagner) said that he knows I am bet­ter than what I have shown this sea­son and I know that my­self. He said, ‘ Lis­ten, you can start the sea­son now af­ter get­ting that goal’.

“You have got to gam­ble and the goal was sim­i­lar to the one I scored against Stoke here. If you don’t gam­ble when balls are in the box and do not re­main pos­i­tive you do not be­lieve that the ball is go­ing to fall to you.”

Strange and won­der­ful things of­ten hap­pen to­wards the tailend of sea­sons and that much was made ob­vi­ous by events ahead of kick-off on Satur­day.

Each goal in Chelsea’s come­back in turn­ing around a 2-0 deficit to tri­umph at Southamp­ton was greeted with hearty cries by the Town faith­ful – and an air­ing of Blue is the Colour as op­posed to Hud­der­s­field’s tra­di­tional walkon song of Ride of the Valkyries would have been some­what ap­pro­pri­ate ahead of kick-off.

It set the tone for a day that will re­main in the mem­ory vaults of Town fans for some time.

Yes, the game was for­get­table, but what a story and what a fin­ish.

Much of what pre­ceded Ince’s strike was weighty. Town’s in­ces­sant sup­port from the stands may pro­vide four-star fuel to fill the tanks of their he­roes from the off, but home play­ers ran on fumes for much of the sec­ond half.

One last top-up ar­rived. Sens­ing the need for this, chair­man Dean Hoyle stood up, clapping and ca­jol­ing in the main stand, as did the mul­ti­tudes around the ground – and then it hap­pened.

Prior to Ince’s strike most of the fleet­ing pol­ish ar­rived from Wat­ford, but for­tu­nately they also looked ev­ery inch a side with- out an away goal since Jan­uary 2, with Javi Gra­cia yet to see his side score on the road.

Key blocks from Florent Hadergjonaj and Jonathan Hogg de­nied Troy Deeney and Ab­doulaye Doucoure in a stuffy first half and while Hud­der­s­field’s in­tent at the other end was clear their lack of qual­ity in the fi­nal third and ina- bil­ity to con­jure a telling fi­nal ball was equally ob­vi­ous.

It also looked for long stages of the sec­ond half that Town would draw a damn­ing blank for the third straight home match against mod­est op­po­nents, with a drive from Hogg be­ing the best they could muster in a pon­der­ous, unimag­i­na­tive show­ing.

But one flash of in­spi­ra­tion in perfect iso­la­tion proved enough.

Ter­ence Kon­golo’s punt broke for Zanka, whose in­stinc­tive flick went be­tween the legs of Daryl Jan­maat to break for Ince, who beat Craig Cath­cart to tuck the ball into the empty net with Orestis Karnezis out of po­si­tion.

Job done – al­most.


MAGIC MO­MENT: Tom Ince, top, races away af­ter net­ting the stoppage-time win­ner against Wat­ford and send­ing his Hud­der­s­field Town team­mates, coach David Wagner and the Town faith­ful into rap­tures as they eye Premier League sur­vival.

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