In a game that we really needed a win to get our season back on track I went along with just one aspiration. All I wanted was a win. I would have taken a boring game with few chances and a 1-0 win. My confidence has been affected in recent weeks and as a consequence I suspect that the players must have had a few doubts about our invincibility too. A win, any win, would have gone a long way to help that and, of course, three points would be greatly received as our cushion over third place has been all but eroded.
What I didn't dare for was an exciting, entertaining game, but that is what we got. Needless to say I am a little biased as we won, but I would go as far as to say that this was the best game of football that I have seen this season. There were not a lot of goals and Huddersfield's style of play was very direct, but the fact that the result was never a foregone conclusion and that both sides tried to win made for a very enjoyable afternoon.
As for the game, as usual, I am not going to provide a report, but some observations. After scoring early (from a set piece) Huddersfield seemed to do all the attacking. Their long throws looked very threatening, all be it that they never actually came close to scoring from one, and this contributed to them putting us under a lot of pressure in the first half. It was interesting to note that we quickly changed from the 'safety first' approach of putting the ball out for a throw when the full backs were chased down. It looked like we struggled at first, but by the end both Youga and Richardson provided fewer and fewer opportunities for the mammoth throw-ins.
I was, frankly, surprised that we started with two upfront. I can accept that against Oldham we needed more bite, but I thought, before, and after, the game, that Huddersfield's aspirations this season were such that they would come to The Valley and play for a win. I thought that against such a side we would have been better to have kept more strength in midfield. Up to half time it did look like the change in formation was causing us to lose the midfield battle.
The introduction of Semedo made all the difference. Semedo is a strange player. I mean he doesn't do anything special per se, granted he always seems to be available to accept a pass in the middle of the park, he always seems to pass the ball on to a team mate, and he does tackle well. His passing is not especially attacking - he doesn't play those defence splitting passes like Racon does, but his presence makes the whole side function better. Clearly he has a better playing relationship with Racon, who seems much more likely to push forward with Semedo behind him, but there is something that I am clearly missing. I rate Semedo very, very highly. I personally believe that he will (even if not just yet) be good enough for the Premier League. I just can't put my finger on anything specific that he does that lifts the whole team in the way that he clearly does.
Apart from Semedo returning (played 9 won 7 drawn 2 lost 0) there were some other pluses yesterday. McLeod looked much better, and despite lacking a real killer instinct, he didn't do anything wrong. I have to say that from my seat in the East Stand it looked like we was claiming for free kicks when he wasn't fouled, and in those circumstances he probably needs to get up off the floor quicker to put pressure on the player on the ball, but that's such a small thing I feel a bit picky even mentioning it.
As for the 'taking off of the shirt after scoring' this is unforgivable. I was angry when he did it a couple of weeks ago, but it was his first league goal for over two years. If I'd been his manager I would have fined him two weeks notice for doing it again, and I'd be inclined to transfer list him if he did it a third time - and I'd tell him I was going to as well. I'm going to assume that there is no disrespect by literally throwing the shirt on the floor, but as he is now on four bookings he needs just one more for a suspension. Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is the type of behaviour that reaffirms the notion that footballers are as thick as shit, and I have no idea what possessed him to do it. He did take his goal well though.
With Shelvey (who I think has been very significant in some games this season) rested we have also demonstrated that if we can keep Semedo fit we do have a Plan 'B' worth it's name.
So, overall a good day out, a win against a side that I believe will be in the mix at the end of the season, and a good game too.
We now have back to back away games against teams that I don't expect to be anywhere near the playoffs before we face MK Dons at The Valley, with an FA Cup 1st Round and a JPT Quarter-Final in between. We have now played three of the other four teams that I predicted would occupy the top two places, and we are top of the league, but will be at least second when all the sides have played their games in hand.
Things are looking good.
Up the Addicks!