If ever we had to justify sacking Simon Grayson, yesterday’s result did so. From the poor performances and hoofball of the past months under Grayson to a simple passing game that involved patience, ball retention and movement, in 48 hours caretaker boss Mark Lillis seemed to have reinvigorated the squad.
It wasn’t as if it was just an improved performance by Town, they seemed to match Leicester in every area and this may be quite a bold statement, but they also deserved to beat Leicester. I did see Leicester fans on twitter after the game arrogantly saying they “played the reserves” and “will smash Huddersfield in the replay” but looking back at the foxes side that thrashed us three weeks ago there were only a few changes. In fact it was Town that were missing several key players.
I will admit to being a tad worried going into the game, largely due to Leicester comprehensively beating us twice this season in the league, mind you if reports are correct that Leicester’s wage budget is five time (yes that is FIVE TIMES) what our wage budget is. No wonder they currently reside in the automatic promotion places alongside Cardiff, a side who have spent over £11million in transfers this season.
Lillis lined Town up in a diamond 4-4-2 formation, something which nobody has seen or mentioned since Sven Goran Eriksson tried it to solve the Lampard/Gerrard conundrum back in the mid noughties. It was probably our strongest team available to us given the injuries and ineligible players, but it was brilliant to see one of our young academy lads Jordan Sinnott in the starting line-up, along with Matt Crooks and the hugely talented Duane Holmes on the bench.
The first half as largely a non-event, with chances rare for both sides. However, Peter Clarke somehow managed to miss a free header from five yards and send it over Kasper Schmiechel’s goal, the only noted chance. What was encouraging to see was Town getting the ball on the floor and playing football, all the way from the back through the midfield up to Vaughan and Novak. Not only that but we weren’t trying to force the game, being patient in the build-up and retaining possession.
The second half continued from where we had started in the first, looking composed on the ball and remaining patient in possession, but this time chances were being created. Lee Novak saw his shot blocked by the beast that is Wes Morgan after brilliant work by Jack Hunt down the right hand side.
Town’s early dominance saw Nigel Pearson ring the changes bringing on his first choice strikers David Nugent and Chris Wood. From the off they looked a lot more dangerous up top. However, it was Town that were still dominating the game. Lee Novak wasted a glorious chance with his effort being saved brilliantly by Schmeichel before Hunt’s mazing run down the right forced Lloyd Dyer into a challenge which brought a penalty. Amazingly enough that is the fifth penalty that Hunt has earned from right-back this season and some fans want us to sell him for a pittance, the mind boggles. Novak calmly slotted home to give Town a deserved lead.
Even though Leicester went on the attack, Town still had chances. Former loanee Danny Drinkwater cleared Clarke’s header off the line and that was to be very crucial, as minutes later Chris Wood would score his fifth goal against Town this season latching onto Richie De Laet’s cross.
The goal came after Lillis made a substitution, bringing Alan Lee on for Novak who was on a yellow card after one of the most blatant and hilarious fouls I’ve ever seen. This led town to change to a flat four in midfield and Leicester capitalised on Town’s indecision, yet I heard people saying it was Alan Lee’s fault for not tracking the right back. Now correct me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t the left winger be tracking the right-back when defending. Yep I think so and who was the left winger, Sean Scannell. Once again the former Crystal Palace man was brilliant going forward but as soon as he is required to do any defending, he is either lazily trotting back or constantly out of position.
Anyway the final whistle went and it probably was a result both teams didn’t want with the league games being the priority and now another game added to an already busy fixture list. The performance though was the most impressive thing and Lillis and Steve Eyre have done wonders in the 48 hours they have had with the side. We deserved to win and there is no-one who can question that, it was just the quality the Leicester had that managed to get them back into the game.
The two individual performances that caught the eye were from debutant Jordan Sinnott and the return to form of Ollie Norwood. Sinnott didn’t look out of his depth at all; in fact he looked at home at this level and was probably the best midfielder on the pitch. It was just a shame that he only lasted 65 minutes, it is obvious that he has the ability to make the step up to the first team but the fitness levels required are a bit of a leap from the development squad.
Norwood who for weeks has been poor looked a different player in the formation Lillis played. I’ve heard some Town fans describe him as a luxury player, but I will have to disagree. I think it has told that when Grayson started playing long ball and bypassing the midfield it took away from Norwood’s game. He is a play-maker who likes to control the tempo of the game and he did that yesterday and it was nice to see him involved.
My two concerns from yesterday are Scannell who I’ve already mentioned and Scott Arfield. The former Falkirk man has never really lived up to his billing or price tag and I was shocked to learn yesterday he had been named the sponsors man of the match. Yesterday he was the poorest player of the midfield four and whilst he did ok, there was a lack of confidence about his game. Whilst the other midfielders were making runs and wanting the ball, Arfield was static and gave possession away far too easily. Yes in the second half he did improve but man of the match?! Definitely not.
It was nice to hear a manger with passion speak after the game though, Lillis ended the interview early as he was choked up about managing his club. He is Huddersfield Town through and through and people like Lillis and Peter Jackson will always be supported by everyone involved with the club. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance yesterday and I doubt we would have got anywhere near 12,000 if Grayson was still in charge. Some fans may question why there weren’t more fans when tickets were only a tenner, but after two months without a league win and the bad weather 12,000 was reasonable. (Including 4000 very quiet Leicester fans)
The attention now has to turn to the league and Crystal Palace on Wednesday night. With the like of Bristol and Sheffield Wednesday winning this weekend we really have to pick up point to keep our heads above water. I’ve been saying it since Christmas but realistically we only need four more wins, let’s hope Lillis or possibly our new boss can get us a win over the next two games. Hopefully Lillis can persuade his friend Nigel Adkins to take the role.