Let’s go back less than a month. Town were negative, and well below par in a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool. Dropping like a stone from our early season comfortable mid-table position, it seemed as though all the excellent work done in the last 18 months was unravelling and we were slumping towards the relegation that pundits assured us of. What better way to follow a heavy defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s men than a trip to Old Trafford to face Mourinho and Manchester United? It was a question of how many will they win by. Despite defeat though, Town put in a more than respectable performance, and troubled the Red Devil’s for large parts of the game. If it wasn’t for the sheer quality of Sanchez and co, it could’ve been a different result. Finally though, a more pleasing performance heading into a run of fixtures that would no doubt define our first season in the Premier League.
There was no time for Town to stew on their fifth straight league defeat, as they faced a trip to Birmingham for a less than attractive FA Cup replay. The hosts took the lead to compound misery on Town. But a shift in mentality and a return to a far more attacking display saw the Terriers run out eventual 4-1 winners. This set up another tie with Manchester United in the last 16.
Bournemouth and Town aren’t short of recent history – who could forget the famous play-off semi-final, or the opening day Robins debacle? Or even Town’s pathetic 4-0 defeat on the south coast this term? The home tie with the cherries that followed the trip to St Andrews was as big as it gets though. And Town delivered. Without a Premier League point in 2018, Town produced the sort of free-flowing, aggressive and attacking performance we’ve been so used to seeing under Wagner, and the result followed. Goals from Mounié, Pritchard and Van La Parra ensured a comfortable 4-1 victory and renewed hope of survival. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admitted post-match that his players physically couldn’t cope with the John Smith’s atmosphere. How far we’ve come, from a soulless, half-empty ground under the likes of Chris Powell?
After a vital three points in the league to lift Town back out of the relegation zone, attention shifted back to the FA Cup, a competition Wagner openly respects and adores. This was our first back-to-back last 16 appearances since pre-WW2. The head coach promised a freedom to our performance and that was duly delivered. Town got into the faces of Manchester United from minute one, and despite an early breakaway goal from the visitors, Town dominated the giants and had numerous chances to level. A second counter goal saw United out of sight, but this performance was significant. We went toe to toe and gave one of the best European sides a real game. We looked back to our best. But nonetheless, the cup was now in the past and attentions could be solely focussed on efforts to maintain Premier League status.
If the Bournemouth game was big, the trip that followed was certainly as big. The Hawthornes and West Brom. A club in absolute turmoil, sitting bottom of the pile, adrift of the rest, without a chairman or a CEO, and an in-denial manager. Yep – a game only Town would lose. But this is modern day Huddersfield Town, David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town – and it’s no longer ‘typical town’. Despite Alan Pardew admitting he knew exactly how Town were to set up tactically, his side couldn’t cope with Town’s renewed aggression, belief, and genuine quality. Goals from Van La Parra and the revived Steve Mounié ensured a second victory in as many league games, to lift Town further from the drop-zone.
Wagner deserves immense credit for picking this team back up yet again, and returning to the style of play that has been so successful for us in recent times. Furthermore, his additions in the transfer window may prove to be unrivalled by any other manager. Both Kongolo and Pritchard have made a major difference, and will be crucial in the run-in. We’re far from safe, but Town continue to defy the odds…