After an epic ten year journey home, it is said that Odysseus faced his toughest challenge when he actually returned to Ithaca, and if our first two games in the Championship it would seem that hard work is just about to start for Huddersfield Town.
I know the Odyssey reference is a little stretched, but it is apt as a whole decade of our lives have past in the time we’ve been out of this league, and now all the celebrations are over, the harsh reality that the league is an awful lot tougher than league one is really starting to hit home.
On Friday night, we pushed Cardiff City all the way, battling for every ball and putting one of the league favourites under constant pressure, before we were punished with minutes remaining. It was agreed by almost everyone that we had played well and that we hadn’t deserved to lose in such a cruel manner. However, last night against Nottingham Forest we didn’t deserve a thing, and managed to steal a point from them right at the death. Both games have certainly displayed the importance of taking your chances when they are presented.
The first thing to mention on this front is the significance of Jordan Rhodes, who is to the casual observer, our only good player, and although this isn’t the case, he is certainly going to be vital if we actually manage to keep hold of him, as despite all the excellent business conducted in the transfer market by Simon Grayson, the onus is still very much on Rhodes to score the goals. If he does leave we will not be able to replace him with a single player, as he is still the best striker outside the Premier League and so few players have the ability in front of goal that he does.
I know the Odyssey reference is a little stretched, but it is apt as a whole decade of our lives have past in the time we’ve been out of this league
Despite only scoring a penalty tonight, it was the circumstances surrounding it that shows that he has the cool head under pressure. Well into injury time with a big crowd, all desperate to celebrate our return to the league, Rhodes managed to confidently take his spot kick, and left us all feeling like we’d actually won, such was Forest’s domination. It is often said by opposition fans that: "he doesn’t do anything all game" but I don’t think you’ll find a single Huddersfield fan who complains about this.
Unfortunately he was left isolated tonight and we didn’t provide enough decent service to him. Perhaps a change of approach is needed, and a creative spark required to carve open more openings for ourselves. Sean Scannell looks an excellent signing and will cause defences troubles, but a player like Kallum Higginbotham with the ability to beat a man could certainly be utilised too. With only one goal in the last three games, and that wasn’t from open play, it will be important for us to start taking our chances.
What is also clear from this is that Simon Grayson still isn’t certain of his best formation, much as the concept of a "best formation" is a fairly facile one, as a successful team should be able to adapt to situations and play a number of formations, but that is beside the point. We started in a 4-4-2, and were completely dominated by a forest team full of quality players. The formation shifted as Town chased the game after Simon Cox had finished so well after about 70 minutes, but it didn’t quite work either.
Town might just be finding their feet in the division and with so many new signings looking to be first team starters, there will be problems in gelling together as cohesive unit. It was a near constant battle tonight, and although we had chances, Camp could’ve sat on a deckchair and smoked numerous cigars without any concern, such was our profligacy in front of goal.
Rhodes managed to confidently take his spot kick, and left us all feeling like we’d actually won
Forest had more creativity, greater threat, and the more they buy into Sean O’Driscoll’s philosophy the better they will get, and as such I was happy to play them tonight and more than satisfied with a point. Town had to be resolute in defence, and as good as the commitment was to see, if Forest had been more clinical they could’ve truly punished us tonight.
Football isn’t sentimental, it doesn’t care if you won the play-offs in an emotional final after a long exodus from the league, and after all the reality is sinking in now, and we’ll have to start playing at a higher level ourselves as soon as possible. We didn’t see too many players of the quality that Forest had tonight in the last few years, and it becomes obvious that every team will have players with the ability to really hurt us.
Hopefully we will learn enough about the league in the last two games, and when it comes to Burnley on Saturday we will hopefully be able to step up and actually turn all the effort and endeavour into a victory. The longer we go without a victory the tougher this league will seem, and much as it’s early days we are certainly seeing a vast gulf in quality already.
However, on the plus side, we’ve not taken a hammering yet, and we look like we’ve got the stomach for a fight. The fear was we’d struggle to adapt, and thus far this certainly hasn’t been the case. Onwards and upwards.
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