When the Sky Bet Championship fixtures were announced, Town fans could’ve been forgiven for expecting no points from two difficult first away games at Newcastle and Aston Villa. However, after an excellent display and three points at St James’ Park, the Terriers went to Villa full of confidence, and supported by 3000 fans, who were in brilliant voice yet again. Town made just one change from the side that won at Newcastle, with one goalscorer in Jack Payne, replacing another in Nahki Wells. The latter was on the bench, and certainly made an impact when coming on in the second half. The Villa attacking line up on its own was enough to worry anyone, with Rudy Gestede playing alongside Jordan Ayew, Jack Grealish, and our old foe Ross McCormack.
The hosts started much the better side, with Ayew testing Ward’s reflexes early, whilst Town threatened slightly with Van la Parra’s run, and in the end, tame shot. The home side got quicker, and better as the first half went on, and following a minutes applause in the tenth minute for Dalian Atkinson, it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken. On 25 minutes, Grealish’s miscued volley found the lurking McCormack at the back post, who nodded home the opening goal. From then on, Town continued to misplace passes and gift Villa both possession and chances – however they weren’t able to capitalise. It was one-way traffic up to half time, with most notably Jordan Ayew seeing his shot cleared off the line by skipper Mark Hudson. In the latter stages of the first half, it was a case of trying to get in at 1-0, regroup, reorganise and try to be more like the Huddersfield Town side that played so well against Brentford and Newcastle. That was the case, and despite a torrid first half display, it was only 1-0. Joe Lolley was one of the less influential players and limped off at half time, so it was no surprise to see him replaced by Sean Scannell at the break. This proved to be a very positive move, as Scannell was a thorn in the Villa side as the game progressed. His pace, willingness to directly run, and his skill worried the Villains no end. Town were much better in the second half, and dominated the game, with Aaron Mooy able to get hold of the ball and create the sort of chances we had previously seen in his short Town career so far. Nahki Wells was introduced just prior to the hour mark, and arguably changed the game. He was unlucky with a couple of bobbles, almost latching onto a chipped ball but couldn’t escape the attentions of the ‘keeper. However his main chance fell on 81 minutes when he struck the post from a free-kick, and it felt like it wasn’t going to be the Terriers night. In a ‘Plan C’ substitution with four minutes to go, David Wagner decided to bring on fans favourite Michael Hefele to play as a striker, in a last hope of getting a point. Straight away, the ball was hoofed towards him, which he missed, but chased down the goalkeeper like a man possessed, and amazingly it cannoned off Hefele and bounced into the back of the Villa net! The away end erupted, as Hefele gained cult hero status after just 26 seconds on a Championship pitch. After seeing out the game for the final 10 minutes (including a hefty amount of stoppage time), the Town fans showed their appreciation with some fantastic scenes, after a much deserved point.
This took the points tally from the two away games to 4 points, and Town stayed joint top of the division, on 7 points. It’s now onto Barnsley at home on Saturday, who are on the back of two home wins, but with 20000 through the gate, Town will be hoping to make it 10 points from 12!