Huddersfield Town – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1
It’s natural enough to feel crestfallen when you concede a clumsy penalty with less than a minute to go giving your opponent their only shot on target all game, and an equaliser. Disappointment is definitely the word to describe the journey back to Nottingham, but tempered with some real genuine positives too – even echoed on the Twittersphere from home fans at the game tonight too. We played well, and were very unlucky not to get the win.
Ragged at times, and certainly whilst Huddersfield may not have hit the target before Rhodes stepped up to coolly put his penalty away off the post, they did create chances – chances they really should’ve done better with. As did we, from McGugan rattling the post from range, Guedioura bringing a top save from their ‘keeper and a myriad of other scrambles and chances we should really be capitalising on. This could have been a high scoring game with a bit more sharpness from both sides.
Certainly there was none of the ‘playing not to lose’ mentality we might have become accustomed to on our travels in recent years, Sean O’Driscoll made one change to his starting eleven – withdrawing Majewski for Cox in a more 4-4-2 type of formation (kinda – the midfield was still very fluid):
Moloney Halford Collins Harding
Guedioura McGugan Gillett Reid
It moved about a bit – Gillett undeniably was the main holding player, Cox played off Dex as much as alongside him and Guedioura was often pulled in from the right. McGugan bust a gut to play a more box to box role, and whilst he came in and out of the game he was very influential for spells. Reidy for the most part stayed leftish, but also found himself covering other areas of midfield as the game played itself out.
Worth mention is Huddersfield’s ground – I always want to call it the Galpharm but it’s now the John Smiths Stadium. I am usually hugely disparaging of new build grounds, but I really liked this one – from the setting on a hill nestled in a wooded hillside overlooking the town, but also having distinct stands – a nice open concourse (of course, the lack of rain made that good!) – it’s a pleasant place to visit. The home fans relied on an irritating drummer to try to fashion an atmosphere and I was surprised at the empty seats in the stand opposite and too our left.
We took just shy of 2,300 fans which is great for a Tuesday night away game. Hitting the seats just before kick off it was difficult to find a spot for a group of us as the stand was so packed. Always good to make sure the boys get good support on the road.
An open start to the game saw some genuine end-to-end moments – Scannell with a worrying about of space on the left didn’t profit from some slack marking early doors from Forest. At the other end, with just four minutes on the clock, Lewis McGugan almost punished the home midfield for standing off him at around 25 yards out, striking a vicious curling shot which struck the inside of the post and away to safety.
After this a defensive slip gave Dex a sight of goal from a tight angle, but whilst on target he wasn’t likely to beat Smithies from the angle. Our goal did come under some threat, Scannell again proving tricky and getting a shot away from the edge of the box but putting it just off target. In true end-to-end style Blackstock got his head on a Reidy cross but put it wide.
Probably the chance of the game so far fell to the home side though, the usually composed Halford misjudged a hopeful ball clipped over the defence which saw Lee Novak clean through at close range, but he somehow conspired to balloon his effort into the away end – who were mostly both laughing and ‘phew’ing that the ball hadn’t fallen to Jordan Rhodes who was also lurking ominously in the area.
Forest continued to try to work an opening against Huddersfield, a header from Blackstock allowed Cox to break through onside but Smithies was equal to his effort, making the save with his legs. After playing some really nice football down the right the impressive Moloney found Blackstock with an intelligent pass from the bye-line, he put a decent shot in but it was blocked on the line and his follow-up was deflected over.
So 0-0 at half time but plenty of positives – not dissimilar to previous games but certainly with much more attacking impetus than we’ve seen before and creation of chances. Cox gave us a lively dimension up front giving Blackstock more support and whilst we’d had wobbles, the defence was looking solid too with the midfield working hard – I was particularly impressed with Gillett again who always anticipates danger and tries to nip it in the bud before it develops.
The second half again saw Brendan Moloney combining well with Dex, the fullback burst into the area and found the striker who perhaps could’ve pulled the trigger sooner – eventually his effort was deflected behind for a corner with the home side looking a little desperate at the back. Forest didn’t make their pressure tell though, and Huddersfield had opportunities again – Southern ought to have done better from a corner Forest should’ve cleared, side-footing over from fairly close range.
Just as it seemed we’d lost our momentum we broke the deadlock – and it was a nice goal, too. Adlene Guedioura cut in from the right and played the ball through to Lewis McGugan who had burst forward. The midfielder could have probably taken on a shot himself but had the presence of mind to spot Simon Cox’s run into the area and slot the perfect pass for him to receive the ball and put it past Smithies to give us what I think was a well deserved lead.
It’s always nice when you score at the away end too, isn’t it? Cox was clearly delighted to open his Forest account, running behind the goal and taking a bow to the celebrating Forest supporters and accepting the congratulations of his teammates.
The home side deflated and Forest continued to press without creating too many direct chances – and as both sides started to introduce substitutes I can’t help but wonder if O’Driscoll might have disrupted our shape a little too much. Dex, McGugan and Cox made way for Tuds, Moussi and Hutchinson respectively in three separate substitutions with Moose in particular not looking particularly fit or settled in to what he was doing.
Whilst the game on Friday might well have been top of mind as well as resting players who’d put a hard shift in (and Dex, Lewis and Cox had certainly done that), it did seem to coincide with a home side resurgence as the Reds started to sit deeper and allow the home side to press more. With stoppage time really over Harding put in what looked – from the opposite end – to be a foolish challenge in the area.
Sure enough the linesman condemned us to a penalty with a flag across the chest, which the referee corroborated. Jordan Rhodes – whom we’d kept quiet most of the game – stepped up and coolly slotted the penalty in off Lee Camp’s right hand post – Huddersfield’s first attempt on target and it was enough to get them a share of the points which obviously brought delirious celebrations from the home fans (of those that remained – a fair few had left!).
On the bus home I noted nice comments from Simon Grayson post match about us, and a fair few from Huddersfield fans on Twitter too, which is great. Of course it’s gut-wrenching to have missed the chance to sit atop the Championship owing to a drop in concentration with less than a minute to go, but as somebody eruditely observed on the #nffc Twitter feed – I’d much rather see us be unlucky to drop two points in an away game than labour to defend one.
So on reflection I’m pleased – and looking forward to Friday’s trip up to Bolton to see if we can fare any better against Bolton Wanderers who this evening hosted Derby picked up their first points of the season with a win. Another day, another challenge – undeniably we are still a work in progress for Sean O’Driscoll and his coaching team – but the progress he’s making is very pleasing to behold. Keep up the good work!
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