Huddersfield Town 1 Wolves 0

It’s difficult to know if the reverse of this fixture will also be a top of the table clash but today’s contest certainly lived up to its billing.

With the home side irrepressible in the first 45 and anything but in the second, it was the cliched game of two halves.

The main takeaway for Walter Zenga though was another slow start, with the opening and ultimately decisive goal nothing short of shambolic. Despite our clean sheets against Reading and Ipswich, our defensive deficiencies are all too apparent.

Much has been made of Danny Batth’s improvement under Zenga’s tutelage but the skipper was caught out badly in the build up to the goal, with pantomime villain Rajiv Van La Parra also afforded far too much space to tuck home on the rebound.

Huddersfield fans clearly haven’t gotten to know their new number 17 all that well, given the adulation they bestowed upon him throughout proceedings, but nobody can deny the quality of his performance today. What a shame that he only bothers to muster up this level of effort so infrequently.

Coady was arguably our best player again, though his knack for breaking up opposition attacks was largely wasted at right back. On the opposite side, Doherty turned in another typically swashbuckling performance. I can’t recall a more drastically improved player from time supporting the club.

Less impressive were Edwards and Saville, both of whom were deservedly hooked. Their limitations were pretty glaring and the fact all of the substitutes improved us drastically is unlikely to do them many favours.

Both centre backs were also poor and I’d suggest recruitment in that area needs to be considered a priority in the remaining days of the window.

As I type up this report on the coach back to Molineux, a fellow traveler has already hit the nail on the head with a succinct summary that we can’t afford to be a ’45 minute team’ if we want to achieve success this year.

Sluggish starts have been an alarming trend of Zenga’s tenure to date and although almost every other aspect of the Italian’s management has been peachy it’s a habit that needs addressing.

Still, it’s important that we remain level headed given the turbulent nature of the club’s summer activities.

I doubt there’s a Wolves fan among us that expect today’s lineup to be anything like the one that finishes the season and one suspects that patience will be required for a good while yet.

With a host of new signings to bed in and some sorely missed first team players due back from injury, it’ll take time for Zenga to identify his key players and the correct system for them to play in.

Our second half display at least suggests in time we’ll have a very good side on our hands.

Today was a frustrating blemish on an otherwise solid start and it’ll be interesting to see how we pick up again in a fortnight.

Huddersfield Town Vs Wolves Preview

As positive as these early matches have been, we’re yet to face a decent side.

 

Blues and Ipswich are average by Championship standards and I’d say Reading and Rotherham are a few notches lower. The League Cup draws have also been kind.

That’s not to put a dampener on progress under Walter Zenga – we may not have got the results last season – but I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on against the heavyweights.

Huddersfield may fall into that category, but like us it’s too early to know whether they have the staying power and quality to keep it going.

This is a lovely little test for both sides though ahead of the international break.

Huddersfield

HuddersfieldTownCrestDavid Wagner was an inspired choice for Huddersfield after they sacked Chris Powell. An energetic and inventive coach, anything now seems possible for the Terriers, where as before you felt they’d hit a ceiling.

Some promising results towards the back end of last season and a busy summer of recruitment have raised expectations and results haven’t disappointed.

They’re top of the league having already seen off Brentford, Newcastle and Barnsley. A useful point at Villa Park means they’re unbeaten coming into this one.

We know Rajiv van La Parra well of course, but considerably less about the likes of Christopher Schindler, Jon Gorenc-Stankovic or Elias Kachunga.

With our own merry band of exotic new recruits, this game has a continental, anything could happen element of mystique.

Wolves

This section is not about a predicted lineup, as I’m no longer prepared to try and second guess a manager who picks eight midfielders. Instead, this is the team I would field.

Wolves for Huddersfield

That’s the form players from the last few games filling the midfield sandwiched by a well established back four and two strikers bang in form.

But there are more viable options on the bench for Walter Zenga than we’ve had for a long time and who knows how he’ll choose to use all these players?

Rotation has thus far been viewed as a favourable thing, but if results take a turn for the worse the pressure to define a strongest eleven will quickly intensify.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Nothing exciting to read here I’m afraid – 1-1.

I can’t quite summon the confidence to go all out for the win, but based on everything I’ve seen so far, won’t back us to lose either, even against a good Huddersfield side.

Anything other than defeat would represent a very solid start and leave us ideally placed going into international fortnight and of course, the final days of the transfer window.

Up The Wolves!

Huddersfield Town 1 Wolves 0

I like Kenny Jackett.

Jackett Huddersfield

As a coach and a person.

But it’s becoming harder to defend a series of bewildering team selections, the latest being the biggest head scratcher yet.

I suppose it is possible that because the squad have been hamstrung by the loss of key attacking personnel, he’s just decided to shut up shop for the winter.

Stink out the place and scrape enough points to finish with a modicum of respectability.

Or maybe he’s just experimenting given that we’re effectively contesting dead rubbers until May?

Most harrowing though is the idea that he actually believes Rowe, Coady or Saville are all better choices than McDonald.

Shudder.

If that’s the case (which I don’t think it is), he should reconsider his choice of career let alone his Molineux tenure.

Instinctively, I think McDonald and Price sat it out because Jackett believes they leave our midfield over exposed, particularly when we don’t possess the talent further forward to dominate the ball.

There’s some logic to that, but after losing another turgid contest and the team winless in six, leaving out your best players is always going to leave you wide open to criticism.

It’s not time to push the eject button though.

You’ve got examine all the evidence. The bigger picture.

We know this coach can get a team playing attractive, expansive football when afforded the resources to do so.

We also know you can’t lose Sako, Afobe, Stearman, Dicko, Graham, Edwards and Henry (not mentioning Jacobs and Golbourne) in the space of six months and expect the good times to keep rolling.

Equally, the players that have come in simply haven’t been on the same planet as those going out.

Ojo, Le Fondre, Wallace haven’t been anywhere close to good enough. I also doubt Mason or Byrne are promotion material either, albeit on limited evidence.

But is Jackett to blame for this? I don’t think he is.

Firstly, the club don’t pay decent salaries. Several reliable sources have told me there’s a stringent cap that makes us among the lowest payers in the Championship.

This immediately limits the pool of players we can realistically attract in an ever more competitive market.

Secondly, does Jackett even sanction who comes and goes? We’ve never had definitive clarification over who has final say.

Yes, you can probe and pick at team selection but the reality is, whoever the head coach puts out at present would only make a slightly under average Championship team slightly better.

Dropping the axe now in the misguided belief someone can salvage this write-off season would be a mistake.

And with no seriously compelling alternative suggested, nobody will convince me otherwise.

Huddersfield Town Vs Wolves Preview

Is everyone in agreement we just want to see this campaign out?

Huddersfield

Keep quiet, finish respectably and start from scratch again over the summer?

Good.

We ain’t touching the top six and given the healthy head start, safety should, hopefully, be a foregone conclusion.

I know scrappy draws against QPR and Reading are hardly anything to write home about, but it at least showed the resilience of our beleaguered squad.

A similar type of performance would do me fine tomorrow – considering.

Huddersfield

HuddersfieldTownCrestA friend of a friend told me David Wagner has got Town playing sexy football and I’m intrigued to see how the former Borussia Dortmund Reserves manager fares in England.

Many a foreign coach have crashed and burned spectacularly in the Championship, but in more recent times a few have enjoyed success.

Jokanovic got Watford promoted, Carlos Carvalhal is doing good things at Sheffield Wednesday and Aitor Karanka continues to push Middlesbrough forward.

I don’t think Huddersfield have the same type of resources available, so Wagner will likely find success harder to come by. But it’s a fascinating appointment nonetheless.

As for the playing staff, a few former Wolves targets (Wells and Paterson) will line up against us tomorrow while Conor Coady can expect a hot reception against his old club.

Wolves

We hammered the opposition in this fixture last season, but most of that successful team won’t be playing tomorrow. Another reminder of how quickly the wheels have fallen off.

team for Huddersfield

Kenny will be lynched if Joe Mason doesn’t get the nod tomorrow and I’m fairly confident he’ll acquiesce after his marquee January signing made it two in two against Preston.

According to the BBC Sport preview, Mason also has four in his last five against Huddersfield, so there’s another grain of comfort.

I’d hope to see McDonald back in the mixer, with Coady possibly tucked in to accommodate Mason and Sigurdarson in a 442.

Nathan Byrne will also be hoping he gets a shirt and might well do if the head coach prefers a more conventional shape with two out and out wingers.

The gaffer

Predictions

I think we might get tonked tomorrow. They’re coming in on the back of a good away victory at Forest whereas our form, confidence and squad continues to disintegrate.

All of the matches have been close lately, win, lose or draw and it’s a competitive group, but the lack of quality is there for all to see.

I’m going 3-1 Huddersfield.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 3 Huddersfield Town 0

A penny for a certain Cheshire millionaire’s thoughts, as our second successive 3-0 success was being screened across Sky to millions.

Huddersfield Afobe celebrates

The romantic vision is of a smiling Steve Morgan, clinking a cup of tea towards Don Goodman, with a discreet little fist pump as the South Bank net rippled.

A cynical alternative shows Machiavellian Morgan caressing a cat on the arm of his oversized chair, stroking an imaginary beard and contemplating McDonald and Afobe’s current market value.

Of all the off-field conjecture and supposition (because that’s what the circumstances around Morgan’s departure amount to), the worry is that a seriously miffed businessman will cash in on the very assets he refused to part with in August, in a two fingered salute to all those naysaying fans who didn’t appreciate his benevolence.

Hell hath no fury like a Scouser scorned?

From the evidence we’ve seen in eight years of tempestuous ownership, I wouldn’t put anything past him.

So while results like this are like sugar for the soul, they wouldn’t half have a bitter aftertaste if they turned enough heads to look at Kenny Jackett’s navigation of a rudderless ship in unenviably choppy waters.

Maybe such worries can take a backseat when we’ve won so convincingly against a bogey side.

Maybe I should feel the three points and embrace our league position.

For the sake of this blog – if not my own sanity – I’ll attempt to do just that.

We look a very solid, dependable team with no shortage of ability.

Jack Price’s selfless, understated air of class offered the greatest evidence yet that he’s a midfielder not for messing.

Everything good about this performance owed itself to the youngster’s endeavours somewhere along the way, creating the stage for Kevin McDonald to glisten like only he knows how.

At the back, Dominic Iorfa was quite colossal, first in shackling the Terriers’ dangerman Carayol, and second in mounting countless attacks.

Danny Batth’s physical presence was worth its weight in a gold shirt, which aided Kortney House who steadily grew into the game against a rugged Ishmail Miller.

Martinez also looks to be a keeper with serious potential, to which I apologise unreservedly to Kenny Jackett for questioning his selection with such vehemence.

James Henry looked to be playing on a crest of a wave, with Ojo a genuine outlet on the other side.

Ahead of them, Benik Afobe looked completely out of sorts until he found more time on the ball in the second half, while Le Fondre worked hard to find space and set up the second goal for his teammate.

In short, it was an 8/10 performance across the board, with a smattering on nines from Price, Iorfa and McDonald.

With the team now starting to settle down and partnerships taking shape, we should look ahead to Derby County with optimism after the international break.

Unfortunately for me, I can’t shift images of an enraged ex-chairman from my mind, so I really can’t think that far ahead.

Wolves Vs Huddersfield Town Preview

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

Huddersfield Town

I thought we’d get our pants well and truly pulled down at Craven Cottage, but instead we were the schoolyard bullies.

Savouring the postmortem, I wandered over to a Fulham forum and several supporters commented on how they’d be outmuscled by an intimidating Wolves side.

I like that.

And no doubt that’s one of the things Kenny Jackett is trying to achieve in accelerating the development of Iorfa and Hause.

Thinking about it, Martinez, Batth, McDonald and Afobe are all fairly big units too, so hopefully we can boss a few other teams around.

Huddersfield

HuddersfieldTownCrestContinuing my whistle stop tour of opposition websites, I happened across these interesting comments from Terriers manager Chris Powell looking ahead to the game.

“We’ve looked at a lot of things we needed to work on from last year. Although the start was tough, our defensive record has improved – which we knew it needed to.”

“We also wanted a more attacking style of passing play and we’re in a good place, now we’ve settled down. We’re encouraging them to pass the ball more and more and to be as clinical as we can be in the final third, which I still think we can be better at.”

“Steve Eyre and Chris Markham, our analyst, went to watch them (Wolves) against Preston, then Alex Dyer and I went to watch them on Tuesday.”

“They changed the team a little bit and it looked like they were going for it, as they needed to pull a result out. Fulham’s red card changed the game and it was only a matter of time until Wolves scored.”

“Kenny (Jackett) has fashioned a good squad. They have spent some money on some decent players and it’ll be a tough test. I’m sure Wolves will be buoyant from their win in front of their own fans and will look to put the pressure on us early on, so we have to be ready for that.”

You can read the full comments over on their website here.

Wolves

There surely won’t be wholesale changes to the team that romped home in midweek? Kenny has options, but I would imagine the team will be very close to:

Team for Huddersfield

Nathan Byrne might consider himself unlucky if he doesn’t get a start, but Sheyi Ojo made the difference from the bench and will be even harder to leave out.

Connor Coady and Dave Edwards could both return, but it would take a brave man to break the McDonald/Price axis, which has again helped steady the ship.

Danny Batth’s return, combined with the step-up in form from Emi Martinez gives everyone cause for optimism that the defence could make it back-to-back cleansheets.

Predictions

Confidence is such a big thing in football and hopefully that means we’ll see the best of our young team on Saturday.

Huddersfield have a good record at Molineux though and are coming into form themselves, so will also fancy their chances ahead of the international break.

But I think we’ve generally done alright at home and I also reckon there’s a goal coming for Benik Afobe.

So I’ll go for a narrow home victory. 2-1.

Up The Wolves!